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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Greetings from the wheat fields of the Palouse! I hope you were able to enjoy time with family and friends during Thanksgiving, which is always a special time in our family to reflect on our blessings.

Soon, Christmas will be upon us, followed by New Year's Day, and it won't be long until the 2022 legislative session begins in January. This coming year's session is a short one — only 60 days — but there is plenty of work to fit into those two months. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide this update — the last one of the year, since state ethics restrictions prevent further updates until the first day of session, Jan. 10.

Republican ORCA plan would invest billions in outdoor recreation and climate adaptation

As the ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee, I have been spending many hours during the interim developing a comprehensive climate policy for Washington state. We finalized and released the 20-page plan yesterday (Monday). We call it the ORCA Plan — ORCA for Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation.

Earlier this year, the governor's Climate Commitment Act (CCA), also known as “cap and trade,” passed the Legislature and was signed into law. The law puts a “price” on carbon emissions, beginning in 2023. The CCA is expected to raise $4 billion for the state over the next 10 years.

Under the Democrats' plan, 76% of these funds would go to non-highway transportation spending, such as electrification of ferries and installation of electric vehicle charging stations. Very little would be applied to address climate impacts.

The ORCA Plan is a better way. The first phase of the two-part plan would invest in outdoor recreation by eliminating the annual $30 Discover Pass and investing in new parks and playgrounds, recreational trails, lowering other recreational fees, and eliminating the $425 million maintenance backlog. This would provide a solid benefit for all Washingtonians to enjoy, along with making it more affordable to camp in our state parks, and would reduce the waiting time to secure a campsite.

The second part of this plan is climate adaptation. The ORCA Plan would meaningfully fund climate adaptation and a healthier environment, using CCA revenue to address such issues as forest health, drought resiliency, flood mitigation, and Puget Sound recreation.

Of special interest to our local agriculture industry is the issue of drought. Under our plan, CCA dollars would be used for projects that secure a sustainable water supply, and which can be used to leverage federal funding for water and irrigation.

I will pre-file legislation in the coming weeks for introduction in the 2022 session that would implement this comprehensive plan and the wise investment of these climate commitment dollars.

Learn more:

House of Representatives operation plan for 2022

While the fine details are still being worked out, the House Executive Rules Committee has approved a COVID-19 2022 Session Operations Plan. All four Democrats voted in favor and all three Republicans voted against it.

All committee hearings will continue to be conducted virtually, like this past year. More legislators will be allowed in the House chamber this year, but they must be fully vaccinated. Those legislators who are not vaccinated or have not provided proof of vaccination must commit to a minimum of three COVID-19 tests per week to access their offices on the Capitol Campus.

This past session, the public was kept out of the state Capitol building. It was locked and a six-foot chain-link fence surrounded the building. Fortunately, the fence is gone and some of the restrictions are being lifted, but not all. The public can access the House galleries to watch the proceedings, but they must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.

My House Republican colleagues and I have been fighting hard to protect citizen access and open transparency of government. We remain concerned the public could be shut out or limited in providing testimony and input because the proceedings will mostly be held virtually and not in the open. This happened repeatedly during the 2021 session.

We are also looking at options that may allow us to meet safely in person with constituents, but those details are still a work in progress. I will update you on this in my next email update in January.

Redistricting commission narrowly misses its deadline; map decision now goes to state Supreme Court

The Washington State Redistricting Commission narrowly missed its Nov. 15 deadline to redraw legislative and congressional maps. The commission voted on a final plan, but it came after the midnight deadline, which means the responsibility now goes to the state Supreme Court. According to state law, the high court has until April 30 to do the job.

According to the legislative maps approved by the commission, the 9th Legislative District could become one of the largest agricultural districts in the state, at about 10,000 square miles, second only to the 7th District in the north.

Currently, the 9th District contains Adams, Whitman, Garfield, and Asotin counties, as well as most of Franklin County and a portion of Spokane County. Under the new maps, the 9th District would incorporate the remainder of Franklin County and a larger portion of Spokane County, while the entirety of Lincoln and Columbia counties would also be added.

In a recent statement, Commission Chair Sarah Augustine urged the court to consider the maps already developed by the commission:

“These maps reflect the input of the thousands of people who took part in the process with us. It would be a shame to see these maps go unconsidered simply because the clock struck 12.

To review the maps the commission submitted to the state Supreme Court, click here: Final approved maps (Washington State Redistricting Commission)

Repeal the long-term care payroll tax

I share your concerns about the Democrats' new long-term care insurance program and payroll tax. As of Monday, Nov. 29, the Employment Security Department has received more than 394,556 applications for an exemption.

Unfortunately, many people were unable to obtain private long-term care insurance by the Nov. 1 deadline, because most insurance companies stopped selling it in Washington by September. Those who did not have private insurance plans in place by Nov. 1 were unable to opt-out. That means that beginning Jan. 1, you'll be paying this payroll tax of $0.58 per $100 to fund the program. Those who qualify can access the benefit – up to $36,500 – beginning in 2025.

There are several flaws in this program that are 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 to 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 to the system.
  • Most agree the tax will have to be increased at some point soon to ensure the program's funding sustainability.

Fortunately, my seatmate, Rep. Joe Schmick, ranking member on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, and Centralia Rep. Peter Abbarno have introduced legislation that would repeal this flawed long-term care tax program.

For more information on this issue, go here: FAQ: New long-term care insurance program and payroll tax.

Additional priorities for the 2022 session

As a ranking committee member, I have spent the interim interacting with constituents, meeting with stakeholders, and working with our House Republican leadership team to help craft real solutions to the problems facing our state. In the 2022 legislative session, House Republicans plan to:   

Information and resources for other important issues

Below are additional links to other issues we are currently facing in Washington state. I hope you will take the time to check them out.

Your voice is important to the legislative process!

Standing up for the public interest and ensuring state government works for the people takes effort. No elected official can do this work alone. Citizen participation is the key to success. If you are interested in learning how to be a citizen advocate, the links below can help you get started.

  • Learn about the process online at the Legislative Overview page;
  • Read about How a Bill Becomes a Law, and How to Read a Bill;
  • Use the member rosters to get legislative contact information to send emails, or write letters;
  • Call the toll-free Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a message on any issue;
  • Make your views known by testifying before a committee on an issue or bill;
  • Watch and listen to committee hearings live on TVW;
  • Need more information on how the Legislature works? Call the Legislative Information Center at (360) 786-7573.

Contact me anytime you need help with state government

As I noted above, because of certain restrictions, I cannot send any more email updates until the legislative session convenes on Jan. 10. However, if you have any questions about this update, the upcoming session, or state government matters, please contact my office. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you and the 9th Legislative District! Have a blessed holiday season and a Merry Christmas!


Mary Dye

State Representative Mary Dye, 9th Legislative District
432 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7942 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000