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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Legislators will be under election year restrictions from Dec. 1 until Jan. 10, so I will not be able to send out email updates or newsletters during that timeframe. I will be able to send out updates again once the legislative session starts. I can still respond to any emails, mail, phone messages or other direct communications. So please do not hesitate to reach out. There are a number of important issues we want to address in the upcoming session.

Upcoming session operations plan

I felt last year's virtual session lacked transparency. Many feel that is one of the reasons we saw many contentious issues pass with bipartisan opposition.

Last week, we learned of the operation plans for the House of Representatives in the upcoming 2022 session. The rules were written by the Chief Clerk's Office, who is responsible for the activity in the House chamber. Below are some key points:

  • Only vaccinated legislators will be able to access the House chamber and floor, as well as some authorized legislative staff, credentialed press, and vendors who provide proof of their vaccination status. The number of legislators on the floor will be based on needs for social distancing.
  • Legislators who provide proof of their vaccination status or undergo regular testing may access their offices and authorized spaces.
  • Anyone who enters House spaces must screen for COVID-19 symptoms and adhere to public health guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks.
  • During floor sessions, the public will be provided access to House galleries. Individuals must screen for COVID symptoms and provide vaccination verification or proof of a negative COVID test taken within the prior 72 hours.
  • The John L. O'Brien and Legislative building offices will remain closed to the public and guests so we will not be able to meet with folks in our offices.
  • Committee hearings will remain remote.

We are looking into options to meet off campus, but that is a work in progress. It is disappointing we will not have more in-person meeting and committee hearing opportunities on campus. With the session mostly being remote again, I urge you to stay engaged. I have heard from so many people in the last year. It is essential you continue to make your voice heard. Below is a link on how you can testify remotely in the two chambers during committee meetings.

House remote testimony sign in

Senate remote testimony
sign in

Emergency powers reform

As our state continues to operate under a “state of emergency,” it creates a stronger case for emergency powers reform. You may recall we attempted to bring emergency powers reform legislation to the floor for a vote last session, but we could not get a majority of the legislative members to vote to bring it to the floor for a full vote.

As I have mentioned in previous email updates, I filed House Bill 1060 the first day of the 2021 legislative session. It 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 thought would get bipartisan support. Unfortunately, it did not even get a public hearing and all of our emergency powers bills were rejected. We are hoping for a more collaborative effort to address this issue in the upcoming session.

For more on our efforts to address emergency powers reform click here.

Long-term care tax

I have heard from many of you on the long-term care payroll tax that will go toward the WA Cares Fund. This session there will be proposals to amend or repeal this flawed law. Here are a few of the reasons this is the wrong approach to long-term care:

  • The lifetime benefit of only $36,500 is much less than what many people will pay into the program over the course of their lives, and it may only pay for a few months of services.
  • People who live outside of Washington but work in the state will have to pay into the program but will not be able to use it.
  • The plan is not portable, meaning if you choose to move from Washington after you retire, you cannot use it.
  • The opt-out window of just a couple months was way too short for many people to act.
  • Many people who wanted to purchase a private plan were not able to before the deadline.
  • Many high earners having already opted out and the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Commission has expressed concern whether the program is actuarily viable. That could mean higher taxes to fund the program.

To address the many inquiries House Republicans are receiving on this issue, we created a new web page to help answer some of your questions.

Police reform legislation

This interim law enforcement officials, mental health professionals and community members expressed concerns with the police reform legislation passed by the majority party last session. There are legitimate concerns as to why the police reform bills have made communities less safe.

We will be looking to amend or make changes to what was passed last session to ensure our law enforcement officers can do their jobs safely without tying their hands. We do not want to put our first responders and mental health professionals in harm's way. However, we still want to hold those accountable if they are not living up to the professional expectations of what is expected of our law enforcement.

Legislation I am working on

As the only professional pilot in the Legislature, I am once again taking the lead on some aviation-related legislation.

House Bill 1538 would create the Aviation and Aerospace Advisory Committee. I dropped this bill very late last session. However, we were able to create this committee through a budget proviso. We still need to pass the bill to make the committee permanent, otherwise it will only be for two years.

House Bill 1290 related to aircraft fuel tax distribution, a bill I have been working on for five years. Aviation/aerospace is a $108 billion per year industry for Washington. Supporting and investing in this industry is vital to the future of our state.

I am also looking into possible legislation for municipal airport commissions. I continue to work on legislation to assist our child care providers and provide parents more affordable and accessible child care opportunities. As co-chair of the Department of Children, Youth and Families Oversight Board, I am concerned our foster parent program is on a bumpy road. I am working on creating legislation to improve the livelihood and future of our foster kids.

And, I have met with cattlemen organizations to see if we can reach a solution on the livestock identification program that ensures the program is sustainable and transparent.

Redistricting Commission's work is not complete

The Washington State Redistricting Commission was not able to meet their midnight deadline on Nov. 15 to complete the redrawing of our legislative and congressional districts. The rules plainly state the commission must meet the deadline or the Washington State Supreme Court will be responsible to draw the district maps.

The commission did agree to a plan shortly after midnight and have asked the state Supreme Court to adopt the late plan. The court has asked for more information so stay tuned. This is a very important issue and will have an effect on everyone in the state.

To check the final maps agreed upon by the commission click here.

Staying informed

I have received more communications this year than ever before. Many of you want to know where you can find information or resources on high profile issues. Below are links to website sliders our staff has created on some of the more top issues facing Washington state.

Here are some additional links to some of our solutions and how to stay involved or updated on our state government:

  • My legislative website: You will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
  • How you can be involved in the legislative process: This includes a citizen's guide to effective legislative participation.
  • TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
  • The Ledger: A legislative news aggregator that is updated frequently.
  • Capitol Buzz: Sent out each weekday, featuring stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
  • The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session and every month during the interim.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this email update or the upcoming legislative session. Your input and feedback is appreciated.

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