Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature adjourned Sine Die on Thursday, March 8. It was only the second time since 2009 the Legislature has adjourned on time. It was a fast and furious session – starting with a Hirst solution and passage of the capital budget in the first two weeks. The last few weeks were action-packed included some very interesting twists in the legislative plot. There are a number of issues to apprise you of in this email update. Let's talk taxes first.
I am sure property owners have received their property tax statements by now, and there are likely some that are not happy or in a little bit of shock. Due to changes in state education funding, the McCleary fix, some are seeing substantial increases. The Legislature did pass property tax relief – but I am very disappointed on when and how much. Democrats decided to move the property tax relief to 2019. It may be difficult for many to even realize they are getting a property tax break by the time it kicks in. They also decided to use money that was supposed to go to our rainy day fund. Because they were not taking money out of the rainy day fund, they only needed a simple majority, rather than a super majority, to do it. Many of us question the constitutionality of the move.
I will remind you, I introduced House Bill 2303 at the beginning of session to reduce the property tax in 2018. We have been pushing for this since we arrived in January. With four years of record revenue increases we could have given some back this year! Since the operating budget was enacted last June, state revenue projections have increased by $2.7 billion. However, the majority party decided not to do that and instead played politics with a property tax break our taxpayers deserved, while increasing spending dramatically. I believe doing this will force a tax increase in 2019, very counterproductive to say the least.
You can watch comments I made to Q13 Fox TV in their story: Some lawmakers say property tax relief passed by lawmakers is not enough.
I voted against the operating budget, Senate Bill 6032. While we were able to defeat the carbon tax and a capital gains tax, the budget still increases spending substantially. Spending is up 16 percent over the last biennium. There was also no transparency in the budget process. Republicans were left out of the budget negotiations, and the budget was voted on before the ink was dry.
After a lot of hard work, we were finally able to get a tourism bill through the Legislature. We passed Senate Bill 5251, the companion bill to my House Bill 1123, which puts a tourism marketing plan in place for the first time since 2011, when the statewide tourism office was cut out of the budget.
The bill directs 0.2 percent of retail sales taxes collected on lodging, car rentals, and restaurants, up to $1.5 million in 2019, and up to $3 million per biennium after 2019, to fund the implementation of the statewide tourism marketing plan. The bill would also require the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to evaluate the work of the WTMA.
It is a great return on investment and it is efficient. The private industry must put up two dollars for each dollar the state invests. I don't need to tell anyone in the 12th District the importance tourism plays in our region with Lake Chelan, Leavenworth, Mission Ridge and the Methow Valley. This is a big win for our region and the tourism industry throughout Washington state.
Rep. Condotta with Mariachi Huenachi.
Pro-union legislation that hurts home care workers leads to historic vote in the House
On March 1, the Legislature may have made history. Staff members who have been in Olympia for over 30 years cannot recall anything happening like what happened with Senate Bill 6199. The bill passed the House by a vote of 50-0. It is important to note there are 98 members in the state House of Representatives.
The bill was being pushed by Democrats to circumvent a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating individual providers cannot be forced to be a union member. The legislation gets around the court's ruling by allowing DSHS to contract out for provider wages to a private third-party entity. In this case the third-party entity happens to be the Democrats' political ally the Service Employees International Union, or the SEIU.
Legislators heard from hundreds of home care providers from their districts asking for a “no” on the bill. House Republicans tried to read the emails from home care workers opposed to joining the union, but we were constantly gaveled down by the Speaker of the House. Since they would not let us have a true debate on the bill and share the messages from our constituents, we elected not to vote – thus the 50-0 final vote. Click here to watch my floor speech.
This may be the most blatant abuse of the majority I have ever seen.
The voting board in the House reads 50-0, with 48 not voting.
The bill has received media attention. KING TV highlighted a caregiver's opposition to the bill in this compelling story. This editorial from The Seattle Times also sheds light on the problems with the legislation, as well as this most recent article from The Chronicle. Although the bill has passed, I am hopeful this will continue to be discussed. This legislation takes wages from home care workers and puts them in the pockets of a union that writes checks in support of the very people who passed the bill. Not good at all.
Initiative 940, use of deadly force
The Legislature also passed legislation on the use of deadly force by police. Initiative 940 (I-940) was submitted to the Legislature for action. Lawmakers had the options of passing it, rejecting it and let the initiative go to the ballot, or pass an alternative proposal, where both initiatives would go to the ballot.
Instead, the Legislature passed I-940 as drafted, so it will not go to the ballot. The Legislature also passed House Bill 3003, which amends current law – the recently enacted I-940.
Tow truck operators
We were able to get an efficiency bill through the Legislature for our registered tow truck operators who have licenses to conduct other business with their tow truck. Under current law, tow truck operators may have up to four sets of license plates on the vehicle – one for vehicle registration and up to three other sets depending on the business. My House Bill 2612 would allow for one license plate with indicators tabs. It passed the House unanimously and with only one “no” vote in the Senate. The governor is expected to sign it.
I want to say a quick thank you to all the constituents, organizations and groups that came to Olympia during the legislative session. I know that there is a lot that goes into making the trip and spending the day at our state Capitol. However, it is always great to see people from district. We have a lot to be proud of in the 12th. As you can see by the photos, the Apple Blossom Royalty made their yearly trek and the Mariachi Huenachi performed again in Olympia.
Reps. Steele and Condotta with the Apple Blossom Festival Royal Court.
I am looking forward to being back in the 12th District. Please feel free to contact me during the interim. I am interested in ideas you may have for legislation, projects your organization or agency may be working on, and I am available to speak to groups and provide legislative updates.