Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's only a few days before the governor's vaccination mandate kicks in. I'm hearing from many of you about your concerns and whether people will still have their jobs.
As I noted in my Aug. 27 email update, the governor announced vaccination requirements for most state employees, private health care workers, and long-term care workers. He also issued further vaccination requirements for employees working in K-12, most child care and early learning, and higher education, as well as an expansion of the statewide mask mandate to all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Under these mandates, most employees in Washington must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs.
I share your concerns and frustrations. The governor's vaccination requirement is heavy handed and extremely punitive against dedicated state workers, educators and health care workers. No one should lose their job and income because they make the personal health-care choice to not get vaccinated.
People are asking me and other lawmakers, “What are you doing about the governor's mandates and emergency powers?” My House Republican colleagues and I are fighting hard for you and the citizens we represent. Here are a few examples of actions we have taken:
- Made emergency powers reform one of our legislative priorities.
- Sponsored legislation, pushed to move it forward, and debated it on the House floor.
- Discussed the issue at several news conferences.
- Advocated for a more open Capitol Campus and inclusive 2021 legislative session.
- Shared news and our views on social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
- Shared news and our views in the Capitol Buzz and The Ledger.
- Featured the issue in member newsletters and email updates (including The Current).
- Produced and shared videos on the issue.
- Participated in radio programs and sent out radio releases.
- Written opinion pieces.
- Met with editorial boards and even won some over.
- Sent letters to the governor.
- Hosted Zoom and telephone town halls.
- Publicly opposed vaccine mandates.
- Called for special sessions.
Unfortunately, millions of Washington citizens have had no voice in state government as Gov. Inslee has shut out legislators from around the state and prevented us from weighing on key issues that impact us all.
While we have exhausted many of the options available to us as the minority party, I urge you to also make your voice known loud and clear. Please reach out now and contact the governor here, the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) here, the Washington State Speaker of the House, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, here, and Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig here. Let them know, especially the governor, of your worries, concerns and frustrations with these mandates and how they impact you and your family.
Now is the time to opt out of the long-term care payroll tax — if you can
During my email update in July, I told you about the new long-term care payroll tax that kicks in on Jan. 1, 2022. Beginning on that date, all employees in Washington state will be forced to pay 58 cents per $100 earned from their paychecks to provide for the new state long-term care program, known as the WA Cares Fund.
Unfortunately, if you have not yet purchased a long-term care plan or made plans for one before Nov. 1, it will be nearly impossible to get long-term care insurance. That's because insurance companies, overloaded from the applications ahead of the Nov. 1 opt-out deadline, have stopped selling these policies.
There are several flaws in this program that are very concerning:
- If you live outside of Washington (such as Oregon or Idaho), but work in Washington state, you will pay into this program but receive no benefit.
- If you plan to retire outside of Washington state, you will lose your entire contribution into the system.
- If you plan to retire within the next 10 years, you will not receive a benefit for your contribution because you must work 500 hours per year for 10 years to be vested. Therefore, if you retire in nine-and-a-half years, you will lose your entire contribution into the system.
- Most agree the tax will have to be increased at some point in the near future to ensure the program's funding sustainability.
This is unfair — in fact, it is taxation without representation!
Many people are just learning about this upcoming tax and have no ability to get out from under it. That's very concerning and why a bipartisan group of state senators recently sent a letter to the governor asking him to suspend the new tax.
My seatmate, Rep. Joe Schmick, ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, is working on legislation that would reform and/or repeal the program. We feel you should have the option of deciding for yourself whether to purchase a long-term care insurance plan that is right for you and your family. It should not be forced upon you through a government-run program that decides your coverage — if any — and requires you to pay a tax for it — even though you may never qualify for benefits.
For more information on this issue, check out this webpage, which includes frequently asked questions. It will be updated when more information becomes available, including legislation we are proposing related to the program.
Emergency order banning credit scoring on insurance rates overturned
In June, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency rule banning credit scoring for setting insurance rates after he was unable to get traction on his bill in the Legislature. As a result of his actions, many Washington citizens began seeing increases in their home, auto and renter's insurance rates. The Legislature, both Republicans and Democrats, did not approve of this effort by Commissioner Kriedler.
Fortunately, a few days ago, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson overturned the emergency rule, saying Commissioner Kreidler did not have “good cause” to file it as an emergency. Part of her reasoning was that Kreidler did not tell the Legislature this was an emergency while they were considering a bill that would have done the same thing.
Let's hope that ruling stands. Washington citizens are already struggling to make ends meet in this age of a pandemic. The state should not be doing anything to make our lives more expensive.
Redistricting commission draws new district lines
Every 10 years, after the federal government publishes updated census information, Washington redraws the boundaries of its congressional and state legislative electoral districts to ensure that each district represents an equal number of residents. Those efforts are now in progress.
The four members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission — two Democrats and two Republicans — recently submitted their first draft of legislative maps. You can find these maps and commissioner statements at this web page. Draft congressional district maps have also been released.
At least three of the commission members are supposed to agree on a final plan by Nov. 15. If they can't agree, the final decision will be left to the state Supreme Court.
To learn more about how you can be involved, click here.
It's an honor working for you!
I work for you throughout the year, not just when the Legislature is in session. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions, concerns, ideas or suggestions about legislation, state government and state issues that affect you and your family. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you and the citizens of the 9th Legislative District!