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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
What a ride! The 60-day legislative session concluded last Thursday, March 10. As with most sessions, there are successes and disappointments.
Whether it was meeting virtually in committees from a computer, or later in the session, on the House floor after COVID rules were somewhat relaxed, I have spent the past two months fighting to protect your choices in energy, working to address forest health, drought resiliency, flood mitigation and restoring the Puget Sound, protecting our Snake River dams, keeping taxes low, ensuring affordable housing, and standing up for our Second Amendment rights.
Please take a few moments to read about the latest activities in the Legislature as this email update reflects on the completed 2022 session.
Temporary judge bill sent to the governor
A bill I sponsored that would allow the appointment of temporary judges to fill single judge court vacancies is on the governor's desk awaiting his signature.
House Bill 1825 would clarify that a presiding judge pro tempore may be predesignated by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court to step into the courtroom of a single judge court if the presiding judge becomes unavailable, incapacitated, ill, or dies.
There are more than 112 single judge courts in Washington state. Currently, when a vacancy arises, it could take weeks to months to fill that position. Justice delayed is justice denied. The courts take this very seriously! This bill ensures that gap is filled so cases can be heard in a timely manner and to reduce the possibility of a backlog on the court's docket.
Learn more about this bill here.
Remembering Sen. Elmer C. Huntley and prioritizing his bridge repair
One of the bridges in the state in most need of repair is the Elmer C. Huntley Bridge on State Route 127, also known as the Central Ferry Bridge, which spans the Snake River between Whitman and Garfield counties. It's under consideration for some of the federal funding approved earlier this year through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It's also on the Washington State Department of Transportation's “Bridges in Poor Condition” list.
There have been places in the bridge deck that you can see the water. However, a WSDOT crew worked late last summer to patch the holes. The bridge deck remains a concern because it receives a large amount of car and truck traffic during harvest season. It would only take about $2 million to properly fix the bridge deck. Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts, no money was included in the supplemental transportation budget or the partisan “Move Ahead Washington” package for the Huntley Bridge.
The bridge is named after Elmer C. “Bud” Huntley, who was a Republican legislator from Whitman County. He served first in the Legislature between 1957 and 1973. He was later the chairman of the state Highway Commission, and also served on the state Utilities and Transportation Commission for six years.
During the session, Pam Shaffer filled in as a temporary legislative assistant for me. She knew Sen. Huntley. I asked her to write a brief memory of this amazing Whitman County legislator, which you will find below.
From Pam Shaffer:
Elmer and Necia Huntley lived next to me in Olympia for 21 years. We were fortunate that when I moved to Olympia at age 16, the Huntley's were our next-door neighbors. Elmer was here because he was appointed to the Utilities and Transportation Commission by Gov. Dan Evans. Previous to that, Elmer came from Thornton and loved the Palouse region.
He represented the 9th Legislative District in the House of Representatives for just over eight years and then served in the Senate for six years. He attended Washington State University. That's how my dad, Doug Bohlke, and Elmer started their friendship.
I am third generation “Coug,” and my daughter was fourth generation. So, instantly, my father and Elmer had a world of opportunities to discuss and reminisce about the Palouse, WSU and the Legislature (Dad was a lobbyist).
While I was in high school, I saw Elmer and Necia walking the neighborhood daily. Once he heard I would attend WSU, his excitement grew knowing that I would experience living in the Palouse. Then, upon returning, I started my first job with the Senate Republican Caucus and he couldn't wait to hear about my experience. Elmer would stop me whenever I saw him to catch up on the “hot topic” on the Capitol Hill and ask about my growth, enjoyment and passion for the Legislature.
Elmer was a kind, “salt of the earth” person. He cared deeply foremost for his wife and extended family. I was fortunate to be considered – in my own way – an extension of the Huntley's family. They would ask me over and I could enjoy the solitude of their beautiful home overlooking Budd Bay and Mt. Rainier.
When I found that the Central Ferry Bridge was named after Elmer C. Huntley, I was thrilled to know his legacy and commitment to the 9th Legislative District, his participation as chairman on the Highway Commission (dealing with the construction of Interstate 5 through Western Washington as well as Interstate 405 through Seattle's Eastside) and later, the Utilities and Transportation Commission, would forever honor him.
This past summer, going to Pullman for my daughter's wedding, my husband and I crossed the bridge and I walked it, thinking of what an amazing and caring man Elmer Huntley was to me and the state of Washington. I crossed the bridge which is located at the beautiful base of the canyon and Snake River – with admiration, fondness for Elmer, and a few tears.
It has been my honor and pleasure to work for three members of the 9th Legislative District for more than 10 years, including Reps. David Buri, Joe Schmick and Mary Dye.
Supplemental budgets – What you should know
Washington state has three budgets: operating, transportation and capital. During odd-numbered years, the state Legislature writes and passes these budgets on two-year fiscal cycles, which begin July 1. During even-numbered years, such as this one, we pass supplemental budgets that are meant to fill unexpected expenses or pay for one-time expenses.
This year was different because the state has an excessive amount of incoming revenue. Here's a look at how the Legislature handled the supplemental budgets this year.
Supplemental operating budget contains record spending, no tax relief
In February, the state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council gave a report that predicts Washington state will bring in surplus revenue of more than $15 billion over the next four years. With inflation high and working families struggling, Republicans called on Democrats to join them in passing tax relief. We proposed several means of tax relief, including reducing property taxes, cutting the state sales tax, providing business and occupation tax relief to manufacturers and other job creators, and expanding the Working Families Tax Credit.
It was disappointing that the final conference supplemental operating budget, in which Republicans were excluded, contained no tax relief, not even a sales tax holiday that some Democrats had proposed. Instead, majority Democrats expanded spending into the record territory by $6.1 billion over the current 2021-23 spending. Under the supplemental operating budget, state spending will increase by more than $34 billion — more than double in 10 years. State spending now has reached $65 billion under the 2021-23 supplemental operation budget – Senate Bill 5693. The budget leaves a paltry four-year balance of $348 million. I voted “no.”
Supplemental transportation budget provides local safety improvements
I supported the supplement transportation budget, which provides nearly $39 million for highway safety and other improvements across the 9th District. This includes just over $11 million for a climbing lane on SR 26 between Dusty and Colfax, nearly $12 million for a passing lane on U.S. 195 between Colfax and Spangle, and freight rail track improvements.
I did not, however, support the partisan Move Ahead Washington package that spends nearly $17 billion on mostly Puget Sound transit, ferries and bicycle trails. You can read more about this package below in my environmental article.
Supplemental capital budget brings millions of dollars home to the 9th District
As a member of the House Capital Budget Committee, I am proud of the bipartisan $1.5 billion supplemental capital construction budget we passed for the state. This is the budget that provides critical public works projects, infrastructure and jobs across Washington.
Here at home in the 9th Legislative District, this supplemental budget provides $5.5 million, including $2 million for a Phase 1 of the Pullman Student Success Center at Washington State University, and $1.5 million for dredging the Snake River to ensure barge and riverboat access to the Port of Clarkston.
Leading the fight for new ideas, real solutions for the state's environmental challenges
When I was appointed as ranking member of the House Environment and Energy Committee, I knew it would be an uphill “David vs. Goliath” battle to protect citizens from Gov. Jay Inslee's extreme climate agenda and the huge costs associated with it. He had made incremental gains several years before I was placed in this leadership position.
Last year, with the support of majority Democrats in the House and Senate, the governor was able to get his cap-and-trade auction scheme, known as the Climate Commitment Act, passed into law, along with a low-carbon fuel standard that is expected to boost the price of gasoline far beyond $5 a gallon.
During the 2021 session, with the help of trade unions, we stopped the governor's House Bill 1084, which would have prohibited the use of natural gas in newly constructed homes and buildings. But then the governor ordered his agency, the state Building Code Council, to enact similar restrictions in the state's building code. Read more about that here. The council just held its final public hearing on those proposals last Friday.
The Climate Commitment Act is expected to generate $4 billion over the next 10 years. Last summer, I worked with our policy staff to come up with a plan to put these dollars to work in ways that would address our state's most pressing environmental issues. In November, we proposed the Republican ORCA Plan (Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation). The governor himself has talked repeatedly about the most serious environmental issues in our state: wildfires, flooding, drought, and pollution of Puget Sound. Our ORCA Plan proposed to direct funding toward forest health to prevent wildfires, flood mitigation, drought resiliency, and stopping the wastewater discharges polluting the Sound.
In December, the governor released his plans for climate legislation: Electrify ferries, provide rebates to those who purchase electric vehicles, strengthen the building codes to eliminate natural gas. Interestingly, none of these proposals addressed wildfires, flooding, drought and Puget Sound pollution. Read my statement on Inslee's climate policy proposals.
During the 2022 legislative session, majority Democrats largely ignored our ORCA Plan legislation. They did allow a public hearing on House Bill 1822, the Puget Sound restoration bill, But the other two ORCA measures, House Bill 1823 and House Bill 1824, did not receive hearings and, in the end, all three bills died. That's because climate adaptation is not their priority.
Instead, they passed a 16-year, $16.8 billion Move Ahead Washington transportation package that uses Climate Commitment Act dollars to electrify ferries, expand Puget Sound transit, and create more bicycle and pedestrian pathways. Gov. Inslee calls it his “climate transportation package.” Unfortunately, it also does nothing to address forest health, floods, drought or Puget Sound cleanup. Most of the money will be directed to the Seattle area, while the rest of the state suffers from a $7 billion backlog of crumbling roads, structurally unsound bridges, and a lengthy list of maintenance needs, including here in the 9th District. I voted “no.”
Although ORCA did not advance, we will continue to work for these priorities because they offer real solutions to protect our state's environment, provide cleaner air and water, reduce carbon, and help people most impacted by our changing climate conditions.
Stopping bad legislation that could impact you
Being an effective state legislator is not just about passing bills. It's also about stopping bills that could have serious impacts to you, your family and your community. There were several bills in the House Environment and Energy Committee that would have impacted home affordability, your choice of energy, restricted the use of your land, and even would have told you which cosmetics you could purchase.
We were able to stop these bills:
- House Bill 1767 – Targeted electrification: This is another step toward eliminating your ability to use natural gas in your home. This bill would have authorized municipal electric utilities and public utility districts, upon the adoption of a targeted electrification plan, to offer incentives and programs to accelerate electrification of homes and buildings.
- House Bill 1099 – Adding climate change into GMA: This would have added climate change to the elements that must be included in comprehensive plans under the state's Growth Management Act (GMA). It also would have required the Department of Commerce to publish guidelines cities and counties should follow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce vehicle miles traveled. We stopped this bill just hours before the session ended Thursday.
- House Bill 1117 – Adding salmon habitat into GMA: This measure would have required comprehensive plans under GMA to include a strategy that achieves “net ecological gain of salmon habitat” in counties west of the Cascades.
- Senate Bill 5703 – Cosmetic product regulation: This would have authorized the Department of Ecology to implement, administer and enforce restrictions of the sale of cosmetic products, even those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- House Bill 1838 – Riparian management zones: Although this measure was not in the Environment and Energy Committee, I'm including it in the bills we stopped because of the serious impacts it would have had on our farms across Eastern Washington. This measure would have required riparian buffer zones, eliminating all agricultural uses within 150 to 250 feet of the edges of streams and floodplains. It also had fines up to $10,000 per day for those who do not comply. The agriculture community was never consulted on this legislation, which would have taken thousands of acres of farmland out of use.
I work for you year-round
Although the 2022 legislative session has ended, my work for you continues throughout the year. Please contact my office if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about state government, or if you have ideas for legislation.
It is my great honor to serve you and our neighbors across the 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