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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Our “virtual” legislative session began Monday, Jan. 11. The 105-day session will be one for the history books – as lawmakers will be conducting the people's business over computer screens and applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

I am very concerned about making sure our citizens are involved and included in debate, discussions and solutions during a virtual legislative session. I spoke out and voted against the proposed rules for this year's session when we were in Olympia on the first day.

I understand we want to keep people safe. However, I believe we can put health and safety protocols in place and conduct legislative business in Olympia. I certainly understand the dangers of COVID. I was in the Intensive Care Unit twice this fall. I truly believe with the right precautions and safety measures in place, we could have at least some type of modified legislative session in person at the Capitol.

Now with the session being “virtual” or remote, we must work hard to ensure there is government transparency and accountability with our legislative session. I urge you to stay engaged.

Rep. Dent speaks on opening day of the 2021 legislative session.

Committee assignments

I will once again be the lead Republican member of the House Children, Youth and Families Committee. The committee operated under the title of Early Learning and Human Services Committee the last two sessions. It will still review legislation and issues related to early learning, child care, child and youth development, child welfare services, children's mental health, at-risk and homeless youth and juvenile justice.

The pandemic has been difficult on our youth, negatively impacting early learning, child care and mental health. I love working on behalf of our young people, but we have a lot to do to ensure they are getting proper care, schooling and services during this pandemic.

I will once again be serving on the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (RDAN) and Transportation Committee.

I am the assistant ranking Republican on the RDAN committee. It allows me to be directly involved in addressing legislation related to agricultural production and lands, water rights and storage, forest practices and wildfires — issues that are extremely important to the 13th District.

My aviation background brings a unique perspective to the Transportation Committee as I am the only professional pilot in the Legislature. 

I will also be serving on the Rules Committee this year. This committee helps determine what bills may be considered for a vote on the House floor.

Governor's latest reopening plan

I am disappointed in the governor's most recent reopening plan. It ties rural counties with low COVID rates to other areas that may have high COVID numbers. This makes it difficult for those counties to hit the reopening goals, when they are tied to counties with high counts or transmission rates.

I led the effort to send the governor a letter signed by numerous legislators who represent rural counties expressing our concerns. You can read the letter below.

I will keep you posted if we hear anything. Unfortunately, the governor has ignored many of our letters and requests for action. Click here to see all the letters we have sent the governor since the pandemic began.

Prime-sponsored bills

House Bill 1060, governor's emergency powers: This bill would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate if the governor chooses to extend a state of emergency proclamation after 30 days. Our state has been under one-person rule since March. This would allow legislators to be involved in the decision-making during a state of emergency. That is why our constituents elected us.

House Bill 1278, suspending certain licensing requirements for child care providers: This would suspend or push out some of the licensing requirements being required by the state for child care providers. Our providers were already struggling before the pandemic. Any regulatory relief we can provide is helpful. Child care providers have been working with me closely on this legislation.

House Bill 1030, Community Airport Revitalization Board: This bill would put into statute the Community Airport Revitalization Board (CARB) loan program. The loan program is only temporary and has been run through the state capital budget the past two years because that is where the original $5 million came from for the program. We also have a budget request for an additional $5 million this year for the CARB loan program.

House Bill 1198, Community Airport Coordinating Commission: We passed a law in 2019 to establish a commission to study the feasibility of constructing a new commercial airport or modifying an existing airport to reduce the pressure on SEA-TAC. It is becoming inundated and overwhelmed with air traffic and travelers. In that 2019 legislation we established timelines for reports needed for the study. However, due to the coronavirus we have not been able to meet the timelines. This bill would extend the deadlines called out in the original legislation. We are also adding the recommended development of community benefit agreements.

House Bill 1290, Aircraft fuel tax distribution: This legislation is similar to a bill I ran last year that would change current distribution of the aircraft fuel retail tax, and reallocate some of the total tax revenue to the state aeronautics account.

The difference with this year's bill is that we are asking for half of a percent now and an additional half percent in two years – instead of a full 1% to be reallocated. This will be a work in progress and will probably not know the result until the session adjourns.

Opening day on the House floor. Jan. 11, 2021.

State of emergency proclamations

On Friday, House Republicans debated and voted against Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402. The resolution bundles 26 proclamations from the governor and extends them until the end of the state of emergency, or until he or the Legislature rescinds the resolution. We agree with many of the proclamations and the policies they cover. However, we believe this surrenders our legislative authority. The governor has managed the pandemic by himself. The Legislature is now in session and the legislators are in position to be part of the decision-making process. There needs to be proper balance between the executive and legislative branches of government. This resolution violates that balance.

Remote and written testimony

If there is a positive from this situation, it is that remote testimony becomes much more important and the Legislature and its technical staff have worked to improve and expand our remote testimony capabilities.

To testify remotely or submit written testimony in the House of Representatives, click here.

To testify remotely or submit written testimony for bills being heard in the Senate, click here.

Written testimony: Citizens have been able to submit written comment on a bill for quite some time. However, the testimony or comments were sent directly to the constituent's legislators. With the new protocols this year, the new written testimony system ensures that the proper committee members and staff can access and read it. It will also be placed in the committee file and archive where it will be maintained as part of the public record.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about legislative issues before us this year please do not hesitate to contact me.

It is an honor to serve the great folks of the 13th Legislative District!

Sincerely,


Tom Dent

State Representative Tom Dent, 13th Legislative District
RepresentativeTomDent.com
437 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
tom.dent@leg.wa.gov
(509) 941-2346 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000