Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this email finds you and your family well! The 2022 legislative session concluded late in the night on Thursday, March 10. Although this year's session was only 60 days – as opposed to 105 days in odd-numbered years – it was intense.
There were many successes, but with Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, plus the governor's office, there were also many disappointments and missed opportunities. I was proud and honored to stand beside my Republican colleagues as we fought hard against harmful policies that will impact all Washingtonians while remaining united on the bipartisan policies that will benefit you, your families, and your businesses.
I will provide a session and budget recap, including some successes and disappointments, in this e-newsletter.
Before we dive into this update, please note my interim office hours: Monday – Thursdays from 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and closed on Fridays.
You're Invited | 8th District post-session IN-PERSON town hall
Finally! With the mask mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions lifting, my seatmate, Rep. Matt Boehnke, and I will be hosting a post-session in-person town hall!
When: Tuesday, March 29
Where: The Arc of Tri-Cities (1455 SE Fowler St., Richland)
Time: 7-8 p.m.
If you'd like to submit a question before the event or have any additional questions, please email my Legislative Assistant, LJ Rohrer.
I look forward to our conversation on March 29!
Supplemental capital budget | A success
The bipartisan supplemental capital budget funds K-12 school construction, higher educational facilities, mental and behavioral health, the Public Works Assistance Account, housing, and community projects.
I supported this $1.5 billion supplemental capital budget, making significant investments in housing, infrastructure, mental health facilities, broadband, and school seismic safety.
Local 8th District projects funded by this supplemental budget include:
- Three Rivers Behavioral Health Recovery Center
- Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic
- Columbia Basin Dive Rescue's new boat
Public safety | A success and a disappointment
I have talked at length about the devastating and life-threatening impacts the flawed police reform legislation enacted in 2021 has caused our law enforcement officers, communities, and the state. Alongside my Republican colleagues, public safety remains one of our top priorities. There were bills this session that made some modest changes to last year's aggressive police reform bills and will make minor impacts on our state's increase in crime. These bills do not go far enough to fix problems and hold criminals accountable for their actions. But we believe some good changes are better than no good changes.
- I supported House Bill 1719, revising the definition of military equipment to no longer include “firearms or ammunition of .50 caliber or greater,” and modifies the definition of a rifle. Gov. Jay Inslee has signed this bill into law. It went into effect immediately.
- I supported House Bill 1735 expanding authority for a law enforcement officer to use physical force, subject to the requirement to exercise reasonable care, with people experiencing a mental health crisis. Gov. Jay Inslee signed this bill into law. It went into effect immediately.
- I supported House Bill 1815 to create a workgroup to study catalytic converter theft and work with key stakeholders to find solutions.
- I supported House Bill 2037, which defines the use of force standards so law enforcement officers can better do their jobs. This bill passed the Legislature and was delivered to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. Once the governor signs this, it will become law and go into effect immediately.
During a time of increased crime and an attack on our public safety sector, the majority party once again chose to pass legislation to embolden criminal behavior and weaken our law enforcement officers' ability to protect public safety. I will repeat it: We should empower law enforcement professionals to keep our communities and families safe while holding criminals accountable for unacceptable and unlawful behavior. Our Law Enforcement: Officers and Agencies should have nothing less than 100% of our support!
- I supported Senate Bill 5919. This bill would provide more precise definitions of the use of force standards and incorporate reasonable suspicion back into law enforcement officers' abilities to perform vehicular pursuits. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 31-18. When it came to the House, we amended the bill, and it then passed with a vote of 86-12. Because we amended the bill, it was sent back to the Senate to concur or not concur with our changes. The Senate Majority Leader decided not to bring the bill forward for a final vote, thus killing the bill in the session's final hours. Thus, our law enforcement officers remain hamstrung in their abilities to perform vehicular pursuits and apprehend criminals.
My Republican colleagues offered amendments to the supplemental operating budget, hoping to allocate $100 million in unspent federal stimulus dollars to fund law enforcement. The majority party rejected our amendments. These amendments included:
- $5,000 signing and retention bonuses.
- $90,000 in grants for local law enforcement agencies for body camera costs.
- Funding for 10 additional Basic Law Enforcement Academy classes in each fiscal year, for a total of 25 classes per year.
- $150,000 for a study and recommendations on police officer recruitment and retention efforts, police staffing levels, how those compare to recommended levels, how much is spent on policing in Washington state compared to other states, and how to address police recruitment and retention over the long term.
Emergency powers reform | A disappointment and missed opportunity
I want to thank everyone who contacted my office before and during the 2022 legislative session on the issues and policies that meant the most to you. Emergency powers reform and reining in the governor's one-person control of our state was the number one issue of concern for the 8th District.
As you will recall, Republicans have been calling for reform for more than two years and have presented several real solutions to restore the legislative voice into the decision-making process. Our pleas, concerns, and frustrations have gone mostly ignored.
This session had two opportunities to address emergency powers reform – House Bill 1772 and Senate Bill 5909 – which would have brought the balance of power and trust back to Olympia.
- House Bill 1772 was the more substantial bill that would terminate a state of emergency after 60 days unless extended by the Legislature, not the governor, if more time is needed. This bill was heard in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee but never advanced further.
- Senate Bill 5909 was known as “emergency powers light” but was better than nothing. It passed the Senate chamber with bipartisan support. It was brought to the House floor, where during the amendment process and my Republican colleagues trying to make the bill better, the Speaker of the House stopped the debate on the bill after about 20 minutes. The bill was never brought back up for a vote, thus dying on the House Floor.
Unfortunately, the session concluded without any emergency powers reform. We missed an opportunity, especially when the pandemic winds down and life returns to normal. There's absolutely no reason our state should still be under a “state of emergency” with the governor making many decisions by himself.
Supplemental operating budget | A disappointment and missed opportunity
The supplemental operating budget funds K-12 education, higher education, corrections, human services, and other government operations.
This year's supplemental budget is the largest in state history – a $6.1 billion increase over current 2021-23 spending – bringing total state spending to a record $65 billion. Under this budget, state spending will have increased by more than $34 billion – more than doubling in 10 years.
The state sits on a $15 billion surplus from your hard-earned money. The right thing to do would have been to provide some meaningful tax relief and give you back some of your hard-earned money. Republicans introduced a budget framework known as the SAFE Washington plan that would have made appropriations prioritizing: Safety, Affordability, Families, and the Economy. The majority party didn't consider one of our ideas and instead spent nearly every dollar of the $15 billion surplus.
During a time of the highest inflation in decades, the majority party voted to recklessly spend without giving any meaningful tax relief for working families. I couldn't support this budget and voted against it for these reasons.
Supplemental transportation budget and Move Ahead Washington transportation package | A disappointment and missed opportunity
The supplemental transportation budget was supported in a bipartisan manner. However, this year's budget negotiations were conducted mainly by the majority party. It's a disappointment because we usually tout the good bipartisan work done on this budget, just as we do with the capital budget.
The $11.6 billion supplemental transportation budget funds: capital projects, operating programs, and debt service. This budget does some good things for the transportation system throughout Washington state, but many reckless spending procedures in this budget meant I could not support it.
One of the reasons I couldn't support the overall Transportation Supplemental budget is because of the $17 billion, 16-year, Move Ahead Washington transportation package (Senate Bills 5974 and 5975) that was passed and necessary to implement the budget. The last three transportation packages have been bipartisan to ensure the unique transportation needs of every corner of the state were considered. There was no Republican input this time around. This package funds a few projects in our district; however, most of Eastern Washington's transportation needs aren't part of this package. It's very climate change-oriented and Puget Sound-centric in moving toward total “green” transportation.
This package relies on revenue for the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), passed in 2021. The cap-and-tax program is a component of the CCA and will raise the gas price later this year (when we definitely do not need a price increase in gas prices). Other fees and tax increases weaved into this package will impact every Washington.
I cannot support something that raises taxes and fees on the backs of every hard-working Washingtonian, especially when the inflation rate is the highest it's ever been, and the prices at the pump continue to hit all-time highs.
My Republican colleagues introduced a transportation plan that would've met the needs of every corner of the state without raising taxes on anyone or anything. I wish this were the plan instead of the Move Ahead Washington package.
Stay in touch!
Even though the session has ended, I am still your State Representative year-round. Please continue to reach out with any questions, concerns, or ideas you might have. I hope to see you around the great 8th District this interim!
Thank you for the opportunity and the honor to serve you, your family, and our communities as your State Representative.
May God richly bless you all!