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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Week five of the legislative session is underway and we have reached our first major deadlines of this year's legislative session. The policy committee cutoff date was Friday, Feb. 7. What that means is policy bills that did not make it out of their respective policy committees by the cutoff date are considered “dead” for the session. The fiscal committee cutoff is this Tuesday (Feb. 11). Like the policy cutoff, all fiscal-related bills must be passed by the fiscal committee cutoff date or they are or also considered “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the budgets – operating, capital, and transportation – are exempt from the cutoffs.

The majority Democrats continue to pass legislation that is detrimental to taxpayers, employers and the economic health of Washington state. This legislative update touches on a couple of those issues, some new bills I have introduced, as well as the details of our upcoming town hall meeting.

Town hall meeting

I will be hosting a town hall event with my seatmates, Sen. Keith Wagoner and Rep. Carolyn Eslick on Saturday, Feb. 22. It will give us the opportunity to provide you a brief legislative update, and then address any questions, concerns and comments you may have. I look forward to seeing you there. Here are the details:

What: 39th District Town Hall
When: Saturday, Feb. 2210 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Arlington Municipal Airport, Putnam Hall, 18204 59th Ave. NE, Arlington

The House Public Safety Committee convenes for public hearings, Feb. 3, 2020.

More taxes on employers, increasing costs for consumers

Last Thursday, Democrats in the Legislature fast-tracked Senate Bill 6492 through the legislative process and was signed into law today (Monday). The bill attempts to clean up a mess they created when they passed House Bill 2158 at the end of the 2019 legislative session.

Last year's legislation created an entitlement for workforce education through a new B&O tax surcharge on businesses providing certain services. However, because it was poorly written and difficult to administer (check out “Washington may have problems paying for new free and discounted college plan” from The Seattle Times), Democrats had to come back to the table with a new plan, seeking for more funding. 

The new legislation will bring the B&O tax rate for the smallest businesses back to where it was before the increase last year, but it is still a major tax increase that will impact our employers and increase costs on consumers. According to the Department of Revenue, the legislation will expand the tax increase to an estimated 4,000 new businesses. In total, an estimated 14,000 businesses that employ 886,000 people will see an increase.

The new law will collect around $234 million in additional taxes over a two-year period. It will raise taxes on professions, such as health care and home building — industries that are trying to address challenges within our state.

I need not remind you, we are seeing record tax collections in our state, yet Democrats continue to ask for more. The financial attack on you, the taxpayers and employers in Washington state must end. The bill passed by a vote of 52-45, with all Republicans and five Democrats voting against it.

Low-carbon fuel standard

The previous week House Democrats passed a low-carbon fuel standard bill, House Bill 1110, aimed at reducing carbon intensity of transportation fuels. This bill would not accomplish what it intends. Watch my floor speech by clicking here. You can also watch highlights of some of our other floor speeches here.

The bill passed by a final vote of 52-44, but House Republicans did a great job on the debate as witnessed by some of the floor speeches. It ended up splintering House Democrats and there was bipartisan opposition. Five Democrats ended up voting “no” with House Republicans. This may play a factor in what happens with the bill in the Senate. Last year, the legislation never made it out of its respective Senate committee.

You can learn more about the low-carbon fuel standard issue at this website.

Rep. Sutherland during floor debate on HB 1110 regarding reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuel.

Two more bills introduced

I did introduce two more bills before the committee cutoff deadlines. While they were not scheduled for a public hearing, it provides an opportunity to begin discussing the bills for next year.

House Bill 2877 would expand financial relief for some of our veterans in three areas. The bill would:

  • lower the threshold for the disabled veteran property tax exemption from 80% disabled to 50% disabled. Click here to learn more about the property tax exemption program for disabled veterans and senior citizens.
  • lower the threshold for the disabled veteran license plate from 100% disabled to 50% disabled. Click here to learn more about the Disabled American Veterans plates.
  • lower the cost of a fishing/hunting licenses to veterans with any service-connected disability who are over 65 or for those under 35 with 30-99% disability. And for those at 100%, it is free.

We can never do enough to pay back our veterans who have served our country and protected the freedoms we enjoy today. I am hopeful this legislation will provide them some financial relief and help show our appreciation.

House Bill 2845 relates to concealed pistol licenses. It would allow eligible individuals from the age of 18-20 to carry a concealed firearm. They must meet all the requirements anyone else must meet to carry a concealed firearm. This would address a vulnerable population like young domestic violence victims and young women who may not have the opportunity to exercise their Second Amendment rights for self-defense purposes. Under the bill, female applicants who are at least 18 and meet all requirements and provides written declaration that the person is in fear or danger or harm from another person may be eligible for a concealed pistol license and fee waiver.

Page Talen Dahlinger serves in Olympia

I had the privilege of hosting Page Talen Dahlinger early in the session. I am grateful for Talen's service in Olympia. I hope he enjoyed his time in Olympia and made lasting friendships with the other pages.

Rep. Robert Sutherland with Page Talen Dahlinger.

Each year, students from around the state apply to participate in the legislative page program. Students spent a week attending page school, learning the inner workings of state government and assisting legislators on the House floor. Pages earn $35 a day while serving in the program. To become a page, applicants must have a legislative sponsor, be between the ages of 14 and 16, and obtain written permission from their parents and school. We are no longer accepting page applications for this session, but click here to check out the Page Program for next year.


Robert J. Sutherland
WA State Representative, District 39

State Representative Robert J. Sutherland, 39th Legislative District
405 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7967 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000