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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It was a fast-paced 60-day session. The short sessions are intense as lawmakers try to pack the same amount of work into 60 days as they do the long, 105-day sessions.

We accomplished some good things this year. However, some disappointments and bills that made it through the legislative process are cause for concern.

Overall, the session went well. We still have a lot of work to do to address some of the crises facing Washington state.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about this update or what happened during the legislative session.

Session successes

I succeeded with some of the issues I worked on this session. Here is a brief overview:

Addressing agriculture pest and disease response: My House Bill 2147 that creates the Agricultural Pest and Disease Response Account was signed into law by Gov Jay Inslee on Monday. This will allow the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to quickly respond and prepare for infestations and diseases that impact agricultural industries, much like the state addresses drought preparedness.

Beef checkoff legislation: This bill came out of the Senate, but as the ranking member on the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, I worked with cattlemen’s groups before the 2024 session. It was a divisive issue, but we brought everyone to the table and reached an agreement. The bill passed unanimously. Click here, to the read the article in the Capital Press.

Mental health support for our agricultural industry: I worked to get $250,000 in the supplemental operating budget to form a work group that will provide recommendations on mental health and suicide prevention for agricultural producers, farm workers, and their families. The group will also consider establishing an agricultural mental health hotline. The agricultural industry has one of the highest suicide rates of any industry in the country.

Washington state aviation history: I secured an additional $186,000 for the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) to partner with statewide organizations to organize a centennial celebration of the first round-the-world flight. It is important Washington state preserve and celebrate our aviation history.

Operating budget

The operating budget passed on party lines in the House. I voted “no” for several reasons:

  • The budget has more than doubled since I was elected 10 years ago.
  • It does not fully reimburse the agricultural industry who were told they would not be impacted by the Climate Commitment Act.
  • It provides no tax relief for middle-class families despite being one of the least affordable states in the country. (#3 for gas prices, #4 for grocery prices, #4 for housing crisis.)
  • It spreads spending over 1,000 separate line items instead of focusing on key priorities.

Capital budget

My seatmates, Sen. Judy Warnick and Rep. Alex Ybarra, and I secured more than $26 million in the supplemental capital budget this year. I am especially pleased about the funding for the Columbia River Water Supply Development Program in Odessa. Click here to read our news release.

Initiatives passed by the Legislature

It was a historic session with the Legislature passing three of the six citizen-driven initiatives. Since Washington adopted the initiative and referendum process in 1912, citizens have attempted 1,728 initiatives to the Legislature, with only 38 getting certified and sent to the Legislature. And only six times has the Legislature adopted an initiative. We passed three this year!

Initiatives passed by the Legislature:

  • I-2113 will restore police authority to pursue fleeing suspects. Since 2021, when the majority party passed HB 1054, crime has skyrocketed. This misguided policy has directly contributed to our state’s public safety crisis.
  • I-2081 establishes parental rights in K-12 education. The Parents’ Bill of Rights will increase transparency and ensure that public schools share with parents any records relating to their child as well as instructional materials used in the classroom. 
  • I-2111 prohibits further efforts to impose an income tax. With our state’s affordability crisis, this will protect people from any future plans for the majority party to impose personal income taxes at any level. 

Our caucus worked hard to get public hearings on the other three initiatives. However, no hearings were scheduled, and no action was taken. That means those three initiatives advance to the November ballot. It will be up to Washington voters if they pass or not. The three on the ballot this fall are:

  • I-2117: Repealing the Climate Commitment Act, or carbon tax.
  • I-2124: Opting out of the state long-term care insurance program/payroll tax. 
  • I-2109: Repealing the capital gains tax.

Bipartisan legislation

Most of the work done in Olympia is done in a bipartisan manner. Working together, we were able to pass some good legislation this session, including:

  • House Bill 1899 helps qualifying property owners and local governments rebuild buildings damaged or destroyed by wildfires.
  • House Bill 2153 establishes new felony and gross misdemeanor crimes for trafficking in, possessing, selling, or offering to sell catalytic converters.
  • House Bill 1987 allows rural public facilities sales and use tax to be used for affordable workforce housing.
  • House Bill 1982 makes the Community Economic Revitalization Board’s (CERB) Rural Broadband Program permanent.
  • House Bill 2003 creates a leasehold excise tax exemption when public lands are used for affordable housing.

We were also able to succeed in stopping some bad legislation from passing, including a hospital consolidation measure that would have been devastating to rural health care, tripling of state and local property tax rates, convicted felons on juries and unemployment benefits for striking workers.

Rep. Dent honors retiring Rep. Joel Kretz on March 6.

Disappointments

There were pieces of legislation that passed which are very concerning. There were three bills passed that continue to chip away at citizens’ Second Amendment rights. House Bill 1903 makes it a civil infraction to fail to report a stolen or lost firearm within 24 hours, Senate Bill 5444 further restricts where you can legally carry, and House Bill 2118 puts onerous new regulations on firearm businesses. Additional bad bills that passed:

  • House Bill 1589 allows Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to blend the gas and electric line of business into one rate base. This is a move toward banning natural gas as an energy source. This will drive up energy costs and increase costs for ratepayers. It will have a ripple effect across the state. Keep in mind that PSE operates in Kittitas County.
  • Senate Bill 6058 amends the Climate Commitment Act to facilitate a linkage of carbon markets with California and Quebec. I am concerned this will also drive up our energy and fuel prices. We are linking with California which has higher fuel prices, higher housing costs, and higher electricity costs than we do.
  • House Bill 2331 restricts local control of school board authority regarding instructional materials and school library materials.

New legislative assistant

I have a new legislative assistant. Jennifer Hanna joins the 13th District team! She started at the end of February to get a little taste of the legislative session. I am pleased to have her and she is doing great work already!

You can contact her at 360-786-7932 or email her jennifer.hanna@leg.wa.gov as we welcome her aboard.

Legislative Assistant Jennifer Hanna.

Stay in touch

Please remember I work for you year-round. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating state government, want to schedule a meeting or would like me to tour a facility or speak to your association or organization.

I look forward to seeing you in the 13th District this interim. It is an honor and privilege to represent the great people of our region!

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