Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is the fifth week of the legislative session. We have passed the cutoff date for our policy committees and policy bills. That means any bills not voted out of those committees are likely dead for this year. Our fiscal and transportation committees have a little leniency from the first cutoff since bills with fiscal implications probably will be included in the budget. I do not have a “Week Ahead” update for you this week since we have reached the cutoff and have started “floor action” – meaning the full House of Representatives is voting on bills passed out of their respective committees.
Governor calls moratorium on the death penalty
Tuesday morning, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on death penalty executions while he is governor. I am concerned about this for two reasons. First, he is doing this through his executive powers, and didn't approach the Legislature or have request legislation introduced so we could go through the public hearing process and let the people's voice be heard. Second, what about the victims' families? A loved one has been taken from them in a violent crime, yet the governor is now telling them he will issue a reprieve to the guilty party if a death penalty case crosses his desk while he is in office. Here is a list of offenders sentenced to the death penalty in Washington:
1. Jonathan Lee Gentry convicted June 26, 1991 of fatally bludgeoning Cassie Holden, 12, on June 13, 1988 in Kitsap County.
2. Clark Richard Elmore convicted on July 6, 1995 of one count of aggravated first degree murder and one count of rape in the second degree for the rape and murder of Christy Onstad, 14, the daughter of his live-in girlfriend on April 17, 1995 in Whatcom County.
3. Dwayne A. Woods convicted on June 20, 1997 of two counts of aggravated first degree murder for the murders of Telisha Shaver, 22, and Jade Moore, 18, on April 27, 1996 in Spokane County.
4. Cecil Emile Davis convicted February 6, 1998 of one count of aggravated first degree murder for the suffocation/asphyxiation murder of Yoshiko Couch, 65, with a poisonous substance after burglarizing her home, robbing and then raping her January 25, 1997 in Pierce County.
5. Dayva Michael Cross convicted June 22, 2001 for the stabbing deaths of his wife Anouchka Baldwin, 37, and stepdaughters Amanda Baldwin, 15, and Salome Holle, 18 in King County on March 6, 1999.
6. Robert Lee Yates Jr. convicted September 19, 2002 of murdering Melinda Mercer, 24, in 1997 and Connie LaFontaine Ellis, 35, in 1998 in Pierce County.
7. Conner Michael Schierman convicted April 12, 2010 of four counts of aggravated first degree murder in the deaths of Olga Milkin, 28; her sons Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3; and her sister, Lyubov Botvina, 24, July 16, 2006 in King County.
8. Allen Eugene Gregory reconvicted May 15, 2012 of first-degree aggravated murder for the rape and murder of 43-year-old Geneine “Genie” Harshfield on July 26, 1996 in Pierce County. Originally convicted and sentenced to death on May 25, 2001, Gregory's case was overturned by the Washington Supreme Court on November 30, 2006. The original charge was upheld in a retrial and the death sentence was reissued on June 13, 2012.
9. Byron Scherf convicted May 9, 2013 of aggravated first-degree murder for the murder of Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl on Jan. 29, 2011 while she was on duty at the Washington State Reformatory Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County.
Governor proposes tax increases – again
Last week, Gov. Inslee held a press conference to announce his plan to raise taxes to address the state Supreme Court January Order on the funding of education under the McCleary decision. The governor wants to:
- Increases the sales tax for vehicle trade-ins valued over $10,000. A family purchasing a $35,000 vehicle, and trading in a $15,000 vehicle, would see an increase on the sales tax paid of approximately $450.
- Impose a tax on interstate transportation. We run the risk of starting a mini-trade war with retaliatory taxing from adjacent states and it could drive up prices for consumers.
- Impose a tax on recycled fuel used on-site in manufacturing. This tax exemption incentivizes recycling of fuel and the most efficient use, namely re-use at the same plant.
- Impose a sales tax on nonresidents. This will hurt job creation in border counties.
- Places the tax back on bottled water. This ignores the will of the voters. In 2010, the people passed I-1107, which repealed the sales tax on bottled water.
- Impose a sales tax on janitorial services. Another cost driver on our small employers.
- Increase the business tax on prescription drugs. This could drive up the costs of prescription drugs, harming those who use prescriptions the most – the elderly and the sick, who are also the least likely to afford an increase.
The governor's proposed tax increases amount to approximately $400 million. He has also discussed income inequality and the shrinking middle class, yet these taxes will likely exacerbate the problem under the current tax structure. Need I remind you, he also stated during his campaign that “no-new-taxes” were needed.
In the State of the State address, the governor said he supported raising the state minimum wage “in the range of $1.50 to $2.50 an hour.” Recently, House Democrats introduced House Bill 2672, which would increase the minimum wage rate to $12 per hour over the course of three years. This legislation could make us the highest ranked state in the nation for youth unemployment. Currently our unemployment rate for youth 16-19 is 7th highest in the nation at 28.6 percent.
The bill was passed by the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee by a 5-4 vote. The majority party is still considering whether or not to bring this to the House floor for a vote. It is very detrimental to agriculture and the small business owners in our state.
Legislation moving forward
I have a handful of bills still moving through the legislative process including:
House Bill 1492 – would provide school districts an opportunity to be more flexible in their schedule. Schools who have done this under the pilot project feel it is working well. Districts would voluntarily apply for waivers from the State Board of Education that gives them the ability to adjust their school schedule for efficiency purposes. Paterson and Bickleton School Districts have tried this with great success. This legislation will open it up for more school districts.
House Bill 2503 – references boating or operating a vessel under the influence.
House Bill 2420 – would allow registered owners who have been awarded the Medal of Honor to apply for Medal of Honor special license plates free for use on no more than three motor vehicles.
Last Friday, the state House of Representatives paused to honor the men and women of the National Guard through House Resolution 4667. I always enjoy paying tribute to the men and women of the Guard and their families who have dedicated their time, resources, and lives to ensure the future and well-being of the citizens of Washington state. Serving for more than 26 years in the Army National Guard and Reserve, I have seen firsthand the positive difference the Guard has made both nationally and internationally.
Seattle Seahawks – Super Bowl Champion
Many of us have waited along time to say “Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks” but we can now say it. Thank you to the Seahawks for bringing home a championship to the Pacific Northwest and all the 12th Man fans. If you have time click the link and watch what makes Russell Wilson, and many of the Seahawks, champions off the field as well as on it. Video: Thank you to Russell Wilson.