Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We will give an update on the 2020 legislative session and then open up the meeting to questions. Here are the details:
What: 39th District Town Hall
When: Saturday, Feb. 22, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Arlington Municipal Airport, Putnam Hall, 18204 59th Ave. NE, Arlington
I look forward to seeing you there!
Economic revenue forecast
On Wednesday, the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council (ERFC) announced a surge of $1.1 billion in unexpected new revenue during the state's quarterly revenue forecast. In total, the state now has a $2.4 billion budget surplus.
With our revenues continuing to come in to state coffers at record levels, I believe it is time to give some of it back to Washington taxpayers. I am drafting legislation to eliminate the state portion of property taxes. It would be phased out over 4-5 years, but it is can be done given our state's tax revenue – your money. This would also help with the affordable housing crisis we are seeing in all parts of Washington state.
Bad bills moving through the Legislature
We have reached the House of origin cutoff in the state House of Representatives. That means House and Senate bills must be passed out of their respective chambers or they are considered “dead” for the session unless they are deemed necessary to implement the budget (NTIB).
There are still some bad bills moving through the legislative process that have me very concerned. Here is a breakdown of some of them.
More taxes on employers, increasing costs for consumers (Senate Bill 6492): was fast-tracked through the Legislature and signed by the governor in ten days.
The measure attempts to clean up the mess created by legislation the majority party passed at the end of the 2019 legislative session.
The bill from last year created the Washington College Grant – or the free college legislation – through a new B&O tax surcharge on businesses providing certain services. Because it was poorly written and difficult to administer a new bill was introduced this year.
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. This new change alone will collect around $234 million in additional taxes over a two-year period. This at a time when state revenues are at record levels. There is no reason to be passing new tax increases.
Low-carbon fuel standard (House Bill 1110): would authorize the state Department of Ecology to create a clean fuels program, by rule, to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels per unit. It would also eliminate the consumer protection provision in the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation plan that said if a low-carbon fuel standard is adopted, by rule, money would shift from other transportation accounts into the motor vehicle account. This program could also:
- raise the cost of gas by 57 cents a gallon;
- raise the cost of diesel by 63 cents a gallon;
- result in job losses; and
- reduce Gross Regional Product.
This bill passed the House by a vote of 52-44, but it had bipartisan opposition. It is now in the Senate.
Reducing penalties for intentionally infecting others with HIV (House Bill 1551): The House passed legislation that would reduce the punishment for those who intentionally infect another with the HIV virus from assault in the first degree to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, a similar penalty as stealing a candy bar. This is extremely concerning. There needs to be a higher penalty where someone knows the dangers of transmitting HIV and intends to transmit it.
I also have concerns that the legislation would allow a minor as young as 14 years of age to receive treatment to avoid HIV infection without a parent or guardian's consent. I cannot imagine a young person trying to go through something so critical without the support or notification of those closest to them.
The bill passed along party lines, 57-40, and is now in the Senate.
Protecting your 2nd Amendment rights
My colleagues and I were able to stop the dozens of gun bills this session that would have infringed upon your 2nd Amendment rights.
Unfortunately, the fight is not over. House Bill 2947 was just introduced yesterday (Thursday). It contains a title that makes the bill more difficult to amend. There is also a buy-back program included in the bill, so it could be considered a fiscal bill, making it necessary to implement the budget or (NTIB) so it won't be subject to normal cutoff rules.
Your engagement in the political process was helpful in defeating these bills the first time around. I urge you to stay engaged.
Other bills we were able to stop:
- HB 2529 – Move ballot measures and other elections to even years. Would limit initiative process.
- HB 1395 – Direct/general contractor liability for payment of wages and benefits or sub-contractors.
- HB 1965 – Qui Tam actions for labor laws. Would incentivize frivolous lawsuits against employers.
- HB 2520 – Landlord claims for damage. Would raise the cost of owning a rental property.
- HB 2586 – Electrification of homes and buildings. Would jeopardize the reliability of our state's power grid.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
It's an honor to serve you.
Robert J. Sutherland