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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We have finished the first two weeks of the 2022 legislative session. Like last year, the state House of Representatives is operating virtually. The plan is to review the operation guidelines every couple of weeks and make adjustments or changes if possible.

Currently, only two members from each caucus and a presiding officer are allowed on the House floor. Legislators and staff who are on the House floor must have proof of vaccination as well as a booster shot. The public is not allowed in the galleries and all committee meetings are online. I am concerned the House rules do not take into account special or different circumstances. I had a very serious case of COVID and have been vaccinated. I did not respond well to the vaccination shots and had very concerning reactions. I have had two doctors advise me not to have the booster. Unfortunately, under House rules, that means I cannot represent my constituents on the House floor and must do so virtually. I am proposing that we take a look at different or individual circumstances. Please don't take this statement as a reason to be or not to be vaccinated. Getting the vaccination is a personal decision. I chose to take the vaccine and I don't regret it, but again that has to be your decision!!

I plan to be in Olympia soon even though I cannot be on the House floor. There are opportunities to meet with people and legislators to discuss bills and issues before us. We can also attend our caucus meetings. The part of my job I love the most is meeting with folks. Sit down conversations and eye-to-eye contact make a big difference when you are working on issues important to your district and Washington state.

I would add that while COVID numbers are up, children are going to school and most people are going to work every day. The Legislature should be able to follow public health guidelines while meeting in person to conduct the people's business.

A look at the virtual House floor during the first week of the 2022 legislative session.

Improving accountability in DCYF

As the Ranking Republican on the House Children, Youth and Families Committee I continue to work on legislation related to our children, youth and the services provided by the state. Two bills I am working on:

House Bill 1945 would require the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to develop and implement a caregiver liaison program for the improving communication between the department and caregivers, primarily foster parents. The issue around the foster child Oakley Carlson has brought the lack of communication between the DCYF and foster parents to light. We have people in these positions so I think it is only prudent that we listen to them; they spend the most time with the kids and are closer to them than anyone. Putting a liaison in place to implement communication techniques and training for the agency and the caregivers will hopefully improve and avoid another situation like what happened with Oakley. For more on the Oakley Carlson case, click here.

House Bill 1936 would adjust the membership of the Oversight Board in the following manner:

One representative of an organization that advocates for the best interest of the child may be either a current or former representative of such an organization; and the 25-year-old age limit on both the current or former foster youth and the individual with current or previous experience with the juvenile justice system is removed.

The Oversight Board must convene two subcommittees: a foster youth subcommittee to gather testimony from individuals with lived experiences in the child welfare system, focusing primarily on children and youth; and a juvenile justice subcommittee to focus on hearing from current and former youth with lived experience in the juvenile justice system.

We have had an extremely hard time filling the youth positions on the board so I am hopeful this will help us to fill those important positions while keeping youth involved through the subcommittees. I am currently one of the co-chairs of the Oversight Board.

Rangeland fire protection associations

With Washington state seeing many catastrophic wildfires over the last decade, wildfire prevention and response continues to be a priority for me. My House Bill 1891 would direct the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to create a Rangeland Fire Protection Association (RFPA) pilot project to better assess the measures needed to ensure the safe and effective operation of RFPAs. The legislation would also:

  • require the DNR to operate the RFPA pilot project in three separate areas located east of the crest of the Cascade mountains;
  • establish criteria for the formation, operation, and membership of RFPAs; and
  • require the department to submit a report on the pilot project to the Legislature in November 2026.

This bill had a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 19. To comment on this bill, click here.

Meat and poultry labeling

My House Bill 1909 would allow retailers to provide their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods including muscle cuts and ground meat of lamb, goat, chicken, and fresh and frozen produce. Labeling of country of origin can be placed on a placard, sign, label, sticker, or any format that allows consumers to identify the country of origin of the product. This will also restrict mislabeling of meat. A product is considered misbranded under the Washington Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act if it is either a finfish analogue product or a meat or poultry analogue product that is not made from meat that has been born, raised, and harvested in a traditional manner; and the labeling uses an identifiable meat term and does not contain a disclaimer in the same font, style, and size indicating that the food is “imitation” consistent with federal labeling requirements. In other words, if it's not meat you can't say it is.

The intent of this legislation is to let the consumer know where their meat comes from and whether or not it is even meat!!

Aviation-related legislation

I am working on a few bills related to aviation and aerospace industries this session.

House Bill 1712 would change some operational aspects for municipal airport commissions, such as requiring reauthorization of a commission every two years and allowing municipalities to vest authority in a commission to apply for loans through the Public Use General Aviation Airport Loan program. There are 134 public airports in Washington. Many have a commission or board, some rely on port commissioners and others that have advisory boards are not operated under this statute. The bill has already had a public hearing.

Late last session, I introduced House Bill 1538 to create the Aviation and Aerospace Advisory Committee to strengthen the industry and help move the $108 billion-a-year industry forward in Washington state. Unfortunately, it was too late in the session to get a public hearing. However, the bill generated so much interest I was able to get it included in the budget as a proviso, but it only made the committee temporary. The bill still needs to pass to make the committee permanent. The committee could help provide significant potential benefits for the aviation and aerospace community through new industry and job creation in Washington state. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing on Jan. 25 and has much support from the industry and the Legislature.

I have been working on the 1% aircraft fuel tax distribution legislation, or House Bill 1290, for about five years. The legislation would change current distribution of the aircraft fuel retail tax, and reallocate some of the total tax revenue to the state aeronautics account. There are a number of factors that play into this legislation, and with it being a budget-related bill in a supplemental year it may be a heavy lift. We should know more in a couple of weeks.

Pesticide advisory board

My House Bill 1993 would create a pesticide advisory board and ensure there is significant community and stakeholder engagement. Our ag industry continually faces increased rules and regulations, so it is critical we have input and feedback from those who use and are impacted by pesticides. A formal and permanent advisory board to advise the department of agriculture on pesticide-related actions should result in more fair and consistent regulations rather than rely on agency officials who may not have as much knowledge on the issues as stakeholders. The public hearing for HB 1993 is scheduled for Jan. 26. at 10 a.m.

Behavioral/mental health

Mental and behavioral health is impacting just about every aspect of our communities. The pandemic shutdowns have exacerbated mental health issues. People have lost their jobs, our youth have missed significant time in school and socializing with their friends. Law enforcement is confronted with more behavioral health issues than ever before. It has been a difficult time for many.

With that in mind, I have introduced House Bill 2053 that would create a behavioral health work group to study the root causes of rising behavioral health issues in Washington communities. Mental health is not a partisan issue and this is a bipartisan bill. Finding the root causes would help us strengthen communities by providing appropriate resources for vital mental health services. We need to ensure services are accessible and operating efficiently and effectively now more than ever, but we need to ensure that we are on the right track and that all aspects of the mental health care system is working together and with similar goals.

Long-term care tax

I have heard from many of you over the interim regarding the long-term care payroll tax and program, or the WA Cares Fund. The majority party passed this legislation in 2019, but during the interim realized there were many flaws and most workers who were being required to participate wanted out. More than 443,000 workers tried to get out of the program through an exemption, while thousands more wanted to opt-out, but could not, because they were unable to secure a qualified policy before the deadline.

During floor debate Wednesday, Republicans made motions to bring House Bill 1594 to the floor which would fully repeal the program and payroll tax and House Bill 1913, which would repeal the long-term care mandate and replace it with an affordable and optional alternative. The majority party rejected both motions. Instead, they passed their own alternatives.

House Bill 1732 delays the tax and program until July 1, 2023. House Bill 1733 offers some exemptions. Unfortunately, neither of these bills address the concern that this program will eventually be insolvent. When that happens, the Legislature will either have to increase the payroll tax premium, lower the benefit, or both. For more information on the Long-Term Care Act, click here.

Reforming the police reforms

In the 2021 session, the majority party passed a package of law enforcement bills that have made our communities less safe. I heard from law enforcement officials in our region, and across the state, that the new laws had placed unrealistic standards on law enforcement officials for arrests and pursuits, taken away too many tools related to de-escalation tactics and assisting with mental health calls. Our caucus has introduced legislation that would:

Check out our Safe Washington Plan.

Emergency powers reform

Emergency powers reform continues to be a high priority. Washington state has been under a “state of emergency” and one-person rule for almost two years. Our state government was never intended for this governor, or any other governor, to have that much power.

The first day of the legislative session in 2021 I introduced House Bill 1060 that would simply require legislative approval to extend a gubernatorial proclamation of a state of emergency. It did not get a public hearing.

We have another bill this year, House Bill 1772, that would increase the Legislature's involvement in gubernatorial proclamations relating to a state of emergency. Our leadership has sent a letter to House Speaker Laurie Jinkins requesting passage of this legislation. This is a reasonable piece of legislation, just as my HB 1060, that would address the disparity between the executive and legislative branches of our state government we have experienced during the pandemic. For more on our efforts to address emergency powers, click here

The concern with any emergency powers reform legislation is that even if we pass it, the governor will most likely veto it unless we have a supermajority.

Governor's salmon recovery billDevastating to farmers

Last week in the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, a public hearing was held for the governor's request legislation, House Bill 1838, related to protecting, restoring, and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery. The hearing was spread out over two days because of the amount of people signed up to testify.

If you farm or own land with natural resources the mandatory riparian buffers under the governor's plan would be devastating. Farmers and agricultural organizations or associations were not invited to the table to discuss the potential impacts or offer input or solutions.

Under the legislation, buffers could be as wide as 250 feet in some areas. Landowners would have to pay up to 30% of the costs to plant trees to be in compliance with the riparian buffer zones. Property owners could be fined $10,000 a day if they don't comply with the planting of trees. Many farmers indicated their farm would no longer be able to operate under the proposed buffers and legislation.

The committee has not voted on the bill, and I am not sure if we will. I can assure you, we will be keeping a close eye on this legislation.

Following the Legislature and staying informed

Even though it is the short, 60-day legislative session, we are expected to debate, vote and decide on many contentious and priority pieces of legislation. It is important you stay engaged and follow the Legislature as best you can. Below are some links to follow my work and priority issues, as well as stay engaged and participate in the virtual legislative session.

  • 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.
  • How to comment on a bill: You can send legislators comments on legislation.
  • Committee Sign-In – Remote Testimony: Testify on legislation during public hearings.
  • 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, comments or concerns about this email update or the 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