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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I continue to hear from many of you on the vaccine mandates, our declared state of emergency and more recently, the rising cost of insurance rates. I answer some of the questions I received on these issues in this update. I also provide details of an important virtual tax town hall coming up for our region as well as what we have been discussing on the Water Supply Task Force.
Below are responses to some of the questions I have received:
What authority does the governor have in the case of an emergency?
- RCW 43.06.220 acts as the primary source of the governor's powers during times of emergency. These powers are quite broad and allow him to declare emergencies and issue orders, such as mask and vaccine mandates. Specifically, subsections (1)(h) and (2)(g) are “catchalls” that grant the governor sweeping authority to prohibit actions in an effort to preserve life and health and to suspend laws that hinder emergency response.
Last Thursday, more than 45 elected officials in eastern Washington, including legislators, county commissioners, county prosecutors and sheriffs sent a letter to the governor requesting a meeting because of our concerns and frustrations with his mandated vaccination orders and the fact we have been left out of the decision-making process. I worked closely with Rep. Joe Schmick to make this happen. I am hopeful the governor will meet with us. Click here to read the letter.
Why does the governor have this authority? How long has it been in place?
- The state of emergency laws were first enacted in 1969 with Senate Bill 392. At that time, the Legislature granted the governor the authority to prohibit certain actions and behaviors (found in subsection (1) of RCW 43.06.220), but did not give him the power to suspend laws. This power came in 2008 when the Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 6950, which identified specific statutory obligations that could be suspended in an emergency. What Senate Bill 6950 did not include was the catchall power to suspend laws found in subsection (2)(g). The catchall power to suspend laws came about with Senate Bill 5260 in 2019. Senate Bill 5260 also removed the authority of the governor to prohibit the possession of firearms during an emergency.
Republicans in the House and Senate introduced bills in the last legislative session that would have changed the emergency laws to clarify the extent of the governor's authority and restored the balance of power by expanding the Legislature's oversight role in extended emergencies.
In fact, I had a bill ready to go the first day of the 2021 session, House Bill 1060, that would have required legislative approval to extend a gubernatorial proclamation of a state of emergency after 30 days. It was a simple, straightforward bill. I was hopeful it would at least get a public hearing. Unfortunately, it did not, and the majority party rejected all the other bills as well.
You can find more information on our emergency powers reform legislation and our efforts to address the one-person-rule at the following website: What are House Republicans doing to reform the governor's emergency powers? It provides a timeline, including bills sponsored, debates, letters, op-eds, media coverage and more.
Are my insurance rates going up?
It is possible. On June 20, Office of the Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency rule banning credit scoring. For three years, until after the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over, the insurance companies can no longer use credit scores to determine premiums for home, auto and renter's insurance policies.
This will likely penalize many people. According to Kreidler's office, approximately 1.3 million policyholders could see rate changes, but how many will be paying more versus those who will pay less is not known. The credit score is a very accurate tool to use for the rating process, but under this new rule the insurance industry expects to see rate increases of up to 5 – 10%. According to AAA, Washington senior citizens could pay 20% more.
For more on this issue check out a couple of op-eds penned by state lawmakers:
- OPINION: Your insurance premiums should not rise needlessly (Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet, chairs the Senate Business, Financial Services and Trade Committee/The Seattle Times)
- OPINION: Who is causing rate increases? (Republican Rep. Brandon Vick, ranking minority member on the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee/The Columbian)
Virtual Tax Town Halls
The Washington State Tax Structure Work Group (TSWG) has begun their virtual Tax Town Halls across the state. A 2017 budget proviso created the work group “to identify options to make the Washington state tax code more equitable, adequate, stable and transparent.”
To get input from citizens, businesses, organizations and others the TSWG is holding seven virtual town halls around the state. The first town hall was Sept. 22 in the eastern part of the state. The second town hall is in our region and there will be two sessions. Details and registration links below:
Central Region | Legislative Districts: 8, 12, 13, 14, 15
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
2:30 – 4:00 p.m. | Register here
6:30 – 8:00 p.m. | Register here
I would encourage you to participate. This is a great opportunity to make your voice heard about tax policy in our state and what you want to see in the future. In May, the work group released six tax scenarios, including a couple that would implement a personal income tax. We do not need a state income tax. Our tax revenue has held strong during the pandemic, and before it hit we were experiencing record tax collections. In fact, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council announced Friday the September revenue forecast continues a trend of incredibly strong tax revenue collections. With that being the case, maybe it is time to look at tax policy to help our working families and the taxpayers and put some of their tax dollars back in their pockets.
The majority party has passed new tax increases over the last three legislative sessions including a new income tax on capital gains. For a complete list of their recent tax increases click here.
The Washington State Redistricting Commission unveiled their four proposed maps for state legislative districts on Tuesday. There is a public outreach meeting coming up on Oct. 5 for those who wish to share their thoughts on the proposals. The details are below:
To register for the meeting click here. If you intend to provide public comment at the virtual meeting please review these step-by-step instructions.
Water supply – drought update
I am working with the Joint Legislative Committee on Water Supply During Drought. We have a meeting coming up on Sept. 29. We will be looking at the drought impacts on fish and wildlife, agriculture and irrigation concerns, and potential new reservoirs or changes to existing reservoirs. If you have any ideas, concerns or information related to water supply and drought please let me know. I would be interested in hearing from you.
I also serve on the Joint Legislative Task Force on Water Supply. It was created as part of the Hirst legislation that was passed. The Legislature has continued to fund the task force the last couple biennia given the challenges we are facing with water supply and the drought declaration this year.
Moses Lake Roundup Rodeo Man of the Year
I was recently named the Moses Lake Roundup Rodeo Man of the Year. I am grateful and humbled to receive such an honor. The roundup has been a special event in our region for a long time, drawing participants and fans from all over the country. To receive this honor for an event I hold near and dear to my heart is hard to describe. Thank you to all those who made this happen. I have worked tirelessly outside and inside the Legislature to do what I can to ensure this will always be an event our communities cherish. In 2018, 13th District lawmakers were able to get funding in the capital budget for new bleachers in the fairgrounds rodeo arena.
I continue to be impressed by how many of you are engaged in what is happening in our state. Keep it up. Everyone needs to make their voices heard if we want to get things going in the right direction. As always, please let me know if you have any questions, thoughts, or ideas on state government or legislative issues.
It is an honor to serve as your state representative.
437 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7932 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000