Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have reached another cutoff date. Wednesday was the final day for us to pass House bills over to the Senate, and the Senate pass bills to us in the House. We had many late nights and some weekend work. The most interesting part of the House floor action occurred in the last couple days. On Tuesday we passed about eight bills before noon. Then, the wait began. House Democrats were adamant in getting a background check bill passed for firearms purchases. They had told the press for two days the bill was coming and it was going to pass. However, they didn't have the votes in their own caucus despite having a majority. They may have even had a few votes from Republicans. However, after almost nine hours Democrats informed us we were adjourning for the night. We sat, and we waited, and we did vote on one bill, but that was it. Gov. Jay Inslee and Vice President Joe Biden were calling members trying to use their influence on both sides of the aisle.
Once again, the majority said we are passing this bill and we are not voting on any other bills or addressing any other issues until we pass this measure. Keep in mind, the Senate has no intention of passing this bill anyway. The governor has talked about regulatory reform and bringing jobs to Washington. The majority has said this session was going to be about jobs and improving the economy. Well, where are the bills to help our economy, provide our employers some stability and help them put people back to work? Instead, we spend nine hours waiting for them to twist arms and come to some sort of resolution on a background check bill that won't get out of the Senate. If you have the votes, let's vote! If you don't let's move on. Unfortunately, being in the minority we do not control the floor agenda. Citizens need to take notice of how things are being run in the state House and the early actions by our governor. It's not very encouraging.
House Democrats' transportation tax plan
Since my last e-mail update majority Democrats in the House have announced a proposal to create a new, 10-cent per gallon gas tax. Washington drivers would pay the highest gas tax in the nation, more than doubling the state's gas tax since 2003 if they get their wish. When you include federal gas taxes, drivers in our state would pay 66 cents in combined state and federal taxes for every gallon of gasoline they purchase. The proposal isn't just about increasing the gas tax. Apparently they think taxpayers have money hidden all over the place. They also want to:
- override I-695 again and reinstate the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, or MVET, and are proposing a .7 percent tax which amounts to $140 increase in license fees for a $20,000 automobile;
- increase the weight fee by 15 percent for large vehicles. Cost to owners: $102 million;
- implement a fee of $25 for each bicycle purchased that is valued over $500. Cost to bicyclists: $1 million; and
- increase the hazardous substance tax increase 0.3 percent. Cost to farmers and taxpayers: $897 million.
House Republican transportation reforms
When it comes to our transportation system, I believe we need to “fix it, before we fund it.” We have a number of problems with our transportation system that we need to correct before we ask taxpayers for more money. There are pontoon problems with 520 floating bridge, mitigation for shoreline appeals on that project alone topped $160 million before the Legislature intervened, our ferry system is not getting the biggest bang for the buck, and we are paying sales tax on transportation projects that goes into the state general fund. Our caucus feels there are some reforms and accountability measures that need to be implemented before asking you, the taxpayers, to pay more. Are you willing to pay 10 cents more for a gallon of gas? Click here to take a survey and leave a comment for me if you'd like. Here is a summary of our reforms:
· House Bill 1236 – improve the permitting process.
· House Bill 1619 – suspend GMA requirements in counties with persistently high unemployment.
Making state gas tax dollars go further
· House Bill 1985 – eliminate state and local sales and use tax on new transportation projects.
· House Bill 1986 – require Washington State Department of Transportation to report engineering errors.
· House Bill 1984 – limit Washington State Department of Transportation's tort liability.
· House Bill 1989 – 15-year bond terms, instead of the current 30-year bonding practice.
I continue to fight on your behalf on issues that protect your freedoms, such as the freedom to keep and bear arms, the freedom to raise your children as you see fit, and the freedom to keep more of your own hard-earned money and claim your part of the American Dream.
Here are just a few examples of what we are working on:
- Stopping the infringement of our rights to keep and bear arms – House Bill 1588 is the very bill the House Democrats tried to pass for nine hours. It would require background checks on all gun sales, even private sales, and does nothing to address those who are already violating firearm laws. This bill goes against our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. It also goes against the Washington State Constitution, Article 1, Section 24: “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired.” This bill did NOT make it out of the House before the cutoff date.
- Preserving your freedom of privacy – We're not going to stand by and let government peer into your windows or backyard using drones with high optic lenses. That's why I jointly sponsored House Bill 1771, restricting the use of unmanned drones in Washington. The measure would require approval from the Legislature or local governing body for local law enforcement agencies before public agencies could use drones – and only with a search warrant, in an emergency, or forest fire. This bill sailed out of the House Public Safety Committee by a vote of 12-1 and had wide support in the House. We suspect a major lobby effort by those who build drones kept it from what would have been a successful vote. However, we have brought attention to the issue.
- Government accountability – House Bill 1093: State agencies frequently use your taxpayer dollars to lobby the Legislature for more of your taxpayer dollars. We passed a bill to stop government's abuse against taxpayers. This measure would impose a penalty of $100 per statement on a state agency director who knowingly fails to file lobbyist disclosure statements. It would also establish penalties against any state agency official, officer, or employee who is responsible for or knowingly spends public funds in violation of lobbyist restrictions. The bill passed the House on 97-1.
Telephone town hall
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, Rep. Brad Hawkins and I are having a telephone town hall meeting Wednesday, March 20. People who want to participate can join the conversation beginning at 7:05 p.m. by calling toll-free 1-877-229-8493 and then entering PIN number 15405. You will also be able to ask questions by pushing *3 on your telephone keypad. We are looking forward to talking with you and providing an update on the session.