Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's the beginning of the fourth week of the 2021 legislative session, which began Jan. 11. Due to COVID-19, most lawmakers are working remotely. Committee hearings and floor sessions are all being done exclusively through virtual computer programs, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
A session like no other
It's very disappointing that the state Capitol campus is closed to visitors. A temporary chain link fence with yellow police caution tape is erected around the Legislative building and the House and Senate office buildings. And the National Guard is guarding the mostly empty building.
Only a handful of lawmakers are on the Capitol grounds and primarily sequestered to their offices, unable to meet personally with constituents and lobbyists. Thanks to the generosity of the Garfield County Hospital District, I am working from an office they have supplied me at the hospital in Pomeroy.
It truly is a session like no other. Republicans fought on the first day to safely reopen the Capitol and conduct business in the House chambers in a safe manner, distanced six feet apart. In fact, on the first day of session, all lawmakers were physically at the state Capitol and we voted from various locations within the chambers. I was in the gallery and we did voice voting.
We expressed our concerns that a virtual session could exclude minority votes and the voices of the public, because everything normally conducted in the open is now behind computer screens. Unfortunately, majority Democrats passed rules that created this “Zoom session.” Less than 24 hours after that vote, as lawmakers returned home, a large wind and snow storm spread across most of Washington state, creating widespread internet and power outages. Many members lost the ability to participate in committee hearings until their internet and power was restored. Our concerns came true.
- Read our 9th District article to the East Washingtonian: A very unusual legislative session.
You can participate remotely in the legislative session
If there is a silver lining to this Zoom session, it is that the public now has the ability to participate and testify on bills during committee hearings from the comfort of their homes. I highly encourage you to take advantage of this. Go to this website on the Legislature's home page: Participating in Committee Hearings.
Leading the Republicans on the House Environment and Energy Committee
As expected, the governor's climate change package, along with some very expensive and harmful bills, are coming through this committee. My fellow Republicans on this committee have joined with me to fight this legislation. The governor's proposals would implement policies costly for Washington families during this time of unemployment and rising uncertainty. Here are some examples of bills we are opposing:
- House Bill 1091 would create a new and costly low-carbon fuel standard mandate. It is expected this bill would increase the cost of gasoline at the pumps by as much as 57 cents per gallon and diesel by 63 cents per gallon. Read my press release on this low-carbon fuel standards bill. A public hearing is scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 4 at 3:30 p.m. in the House Appropriations Committee. I encourage you to sign in and testify on this bill.
- House Bill 1050 would create further restrictions on refrigerants used in food processing plants, ice rinks and air conditioning. The impact of refrigerants is on the cost of construction, needing specialized training to install highly volatile and more expensive equipment. Firemen also need additional training in case of fire as the new refrigerants are volatile. This measure passed the Environment and Energy Committee and has been referred to Appropriations.
- House Bill 1084 would prohibit a natural gas utility from offering new service to customers after July 1 of this year and limit further expansion of natural gas for residential and commercial space and water heating. A public hearing was held Jan. 22 in the Environment and Energy Committee, but no further action has been taken at this time.
- House Bill 1099 would, in part, require some local counties to begin planning for the vehicle-miles traveled program, which if enacted, would require motorists to pay a tax for every mile they drive in Washington state. This is transportation policy and the bill should have been referred to the House Transportation Committee. The bill passed last Friday from the House Environment and Energy Committee. I voted no. Watch my testimony against it.
Real solutions for a cleaner, affordable energy future
There is no need to enact unproven, expensive environmental and energy policies that do little to nothing to clean the environment, but do everything to clean out your pocketbook. I have introduced legislation that offers a fresh and different perspective on how to reduce atmospheric warming that doesn't punish Washingtonians with higher costs and tax increases.
- House Bill 1130 seeks to reduce electrical and natural gas costs to all Washington consumers by 50% by the year 2030. Also known as the Real Solutions for Consumer Affordability and Reliable Energy Supply (CARES), the bill would set a state goal to reduce all power outages in Washington by 50% by the year 2030. Read more about this bill in my news release.
- House Bill 1114 – This bill would encourage municipal electrical utilities and public utility districts to assist retail electric customers in the acquisition and installation of materials and equipment that could be used as a part of a utility cool roof program. This would also include tree plantings. Look at the map above and you will see that much of the heat across the U.S. is generated in west coast cities, such as Seattle and those along the Puget Sound. Pavement and other materials in the cities is causing what is known as “urban heat island effects.” Seattle can be up to 17 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas in the summer. This legislation seeks to encourage tree planting programs and cool roof programs to cool urban areas and reduce atmospheric warming.
- House Bill 1211 – This is the other major legislation to address urban heat island effects. This measure would require Phase 1 municipal stormwater general permit holders (includes Clark, King, Pierce and Snohomish counties; and the cities and ports of Seattle and Tacoma) to report stream temperatures and what they could do to reduce the impact of urban heat island effects on water bodies that are critical habitat for salmon. The bill also provides that the Department of Ecology issue awards to permit holders that have demonstrated the best innovation to reduce heat island effect and stormwater runoff temperatures.
- House Bill 1327 would require electric utilities to provide an illustrative graphic on customer bills that compares the bill charges to an expected bill total if the utility used least-cost resources to provide electricity.
Learn more about these bills:
- Watch my video “A fresh and different perspective.”
- Listen to my weekly radio program, Capitol Report – “A new approach to climate change.”
- Listen to my interview on urban heat island effect mitigation on KONA Radio.
Governor moves Puget Sound to Phase 2, but leaves Eastern Washington behind
Many of us are very frustrated that Gov. Inslee has opened the most populous cities on the west side of the state to Phase 2, but left the rest of Washington behind. Seven counties moved to Phase 2 on Monday, including King, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Grays Harbor, Pacific and Lewis counties. His reopen plan is arbitrary and unfair, preventing rural communities from economic recovery by adding one large city hotspot in every district. This punishes our rural areas. My Republican colleagues and I want to safely reopen ALL of Washington state.
Our priorities to help struggling Washington citizens and employers
I share the concerns of people across the 9th District who have told me they want to get back to work. They want local businesses to reopen and they want kids back in school, all safely, of course. I'm very supportive of legislation introduced in the first three weeks of session by my Republican colleagues that would:
- Safely reopen all of Washington to Phase 2.
- Provide unemployment insurance tax relief.
- Suspend B&O tax collections.
- Offer a credit for businesses on their B&O tax liability.
- Rebuild our state's manufacturing sector (I co-sponsored this measure).
- I also support the REAL Recovery for Washington Act that would provide more than $1.5 billion in relief for working families and $834 million to help small businesses — all without having to raise taxes. Majority Democrats, however, passed a lesser relief package Monday evening, House Bill 1368 (Step One for Washington's Community and Economic Recovery). For a comparison of the two plans, go here.
You can read more about our priorities here.
A stark difference in priorities
While Republicans are offering real solutions to help our Main Street businesspeople and employers across Washington who are hurting, majority Democrats have proposed billions of dollars in new tax increases and hidden energy cost increases to make it more expensive to live, work and raise a family in Washington state. Here are some examples:
- A 9 percent income tax on capital gains as small as $25,000.
- An 18-cent gas tax increase to make Washington the state with the highest gas tax in the nation. This is in addition to carbon taxes and fees they want to implement.
- A new fuel standard to create a “clean fuels” program. This would increase the cost of gasoline at the pumps by as much as 57 cents per gallon and diesel by 63 cents per gallon.
When folks are not getting a paycheck or are waiting for their unemployment checks from the Employment Security Department, businesses are suffering from forced closure or reduced occupancy, and local businesspeople can't pay rent or property taxes, now is not the time to slap our job creators with a huge tax increase. I will vigorously oppose these tax increases.
Navigating the 2021 virtual session
Here are several helpful links to provide more information as the session continues through April 25.
- My legislative website | Here you will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, videos, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
- The Capitol Buzz | A weekday roundup of online news stories. Click on the link to subscribe.
- The Current | An online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans.
- TVW | The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
- The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator.
- Legislature's website | Bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature here.
It is my honor to serve and represent you. If you have any questions about state government or legislation, or if you are having difficulties with a state agency, please call my office and give us the ability to help you.