Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn this Sunday, April 25. There are many major issues that are unresolved such as the operating budget, some of the police reform legislation, the low carbon fuel standard, cap and tax, the Blake decision and many other issues. I am concerned about many things still on the table, especially since we are still waiting on final details on high-profile issues. I look forward to providing you an end-of-session update.
In the meantime, I wanted to share with you our efforts to address the governor's emergency powers, and the latest on the capital gains income tax.
Majority votes down efforts to address emergency powers
Emergency powers reform has been a priority for our caucus since the beginning of session. It was an issue we talked about during the interim. In fact, I had a bill filed the first day of session, House Bill 1060, related to the governor's emergency proclamations. We had other bills filed as well. Only one bill received a public hearing and it was not moved out of the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.
With the end of session rapidly approaching, we made one last effort to bring the issue up for debate. Last Friday, House Republicans made a motion to place House Concurrent Resolution 4402 on the Second Reading Calendar.
This resolution, if passed would have allowed us to bring House Bill 1557 to the floor for a vote. It was another emergency powers bill, but one we viewed as very balanced. It would have established a greater role for the Legislature during a state of emergency – without taking away the governor's ability to respond quickly to emergencies.
The measure would cause a state of emergency to expire after 60 days unless renewed by the Legislature. It would also allow the Legislature to terminate a state of emergency on its own authority.
There needs to be limits on emergency powers or ruling by proclamations. Washington state has been governed that way for over a year now. Our state government was never intended to function that way.
Some states, Republican and Democrat, have amended their emergency powers laws during the pandemic. Currently, Washington state ranks near the bottom in terms of governmental balance of power.
This is disappointing. Even more disappointing is that our motion failed on a party-line vote 41-56. This shouldn't be a partisan issue or a rural/urban issue. Citizens deserve to have their voice heard and the lawmakers that represent them should be part of the decision-making process when it comes to emergency powers. Checks and balances, it's part of our constitutional Republic!
Now, we will be adjourning Sunday without addressing this issue.
Editorial boards across the state have been supportive of emergency powers reform. They have seen the impact on their communities and heard the concerns voiced by citizens across the state as you can see from the many different editorials:
- The Columbian: Legislature should act to balance government
- Tri-City Herald: Gov. Inslee's emergency powers over COVID have gone unchecked long enough
- The News Tribune: Curbing Inslee's emergency power all but dead. We should learn from Texas, New York
- The Seattle Times: A legislative check on the governor
- The News Tribune: It's time for Washington Legislature to check Gov. Inslee's pandemic superpowers
House passes capital gains income tax
The majority party's capital gains income tax proposal, Senate Bill 5096, is one step closer to becoming law. This is very concerning.
House Republicans fought against it for about five hours on Tuesday night and offered 19 amendments. The debate finished Wednesday afternoon, but it passed by a vote of 52-46, with no Republicans voting in favor.
We argued the bill is unnecessary, unpopular, unreliable and likely unconstitutional. I also believe this is a step toward a state income tax. We also argued it should go to a vote of the people.
Unfortunately, all but one of our amendments were voted down (two Democrat amendments were accepted). Because the bill was amended, it must go back to the Senate, where it passed by the slim margin of 25-24. I am not sure if the changes in the House will change any votes in the Senate and stop this bad bill. I am hopeful I can report after session this bill did NOT pass.
Today (Thursday) is day 102 of the session. As I mentioned above, there are many major issues undecided. That is concerning as they will impact our state and communities for years to come. I am hopeful we will not be pushing these through at the last minute just to finish and get some of these policies into law.
I will be sending an end-of-session wrap up and I look forward to seeing you around the district when we adjourn.
It is an honor to serve the great folks of the 13th Legislative District!