Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank you for placing your trust in me and sending me back to Olympia for another term. I am honored and humbled by your support and look forward to serving as your voice in the Legislature as we face many challenges.
You are receiving this email because our election-year restrictions have ended. You may recall my colleagues and I in the Washington State House of Representatives were limited in the communications we could send out during an election year. With the restrictions removed, I look forward to communicating with you and others in the 39th Legislative District on the issues impacting our region and state.
The 2021 legislative session is fast approaching and will begin Jan. 11. I urge you to contact me with any questions, concerns, or legislative ideas you may have. Your feedback is important to me as my colleagues and I work to make our communities and state better for our families. We have many tough decisions ahead and it's important to me that your voice and values are heard.
COVID-19 shutdowns, no special session
As Washington state continues to experience an increase in the positive test results of COVID-19 many people are concerned. These are difficult times and while we must have compassion for those affected by the virus, we must not forget others are hurting as well. People have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, businesses have closed, domestic violence and suicides are up.
Gov. Jay Inslee has recently placed new statewide restrictions on businesses and gatherings. This will only further the struggles for families, employers and employees, and our communities. My office continues to receive thousands of calls and emails each week asking for assistance.
COVID-19 needs to be taken very seriously, but that does not mean the governor has the power to unilaterally take our God-given rights away, especially without legislative input. Using the government's own data, I have created a chart to educate us all with respect to the impact COVID-19 is having on Washingtonians. The results surprised even me and seems to indicate two things: 1) There does not appear to be any spike in deaths in Washington state in 2020 and 2) With no spike in deaths there appears to be little rationale for the governor to declare nor maintain a state of emergency.
Republicans have been calling for a special session dating back to last spring to provide some assistance and direction instead of relying on the governor's executive orders. It is extremely disappointing the governor has not called us back to Olympia so we could have a more collaborative approach on ideas to stop the increase in COVID-19 cases and consider other options to aid those struggling during the pandemic. The governor has yet to ask Republicans to the table to work with him and his state agencies.
It is frustrating to hear people asking for help when we could have had a special session to look at more funding for public health, property tax relief, assistance to our restaurants and small businesses, a break on unemployment taxes, more dollars from grant programs and other ideas. Republicans will be looking at several of these ideas or proposals in the upcoming session and much more. I will be working hard to address many of these issues for you during this difficult time. The media has also been critical of the governor and have suggested a special session is needed. Check out some of the recent articles below:
Employment Security Department
I have been disappointed in the response by the Employment Security Department (ESD) during the pandemic. I understand we are in unprecedented times. However, thousands of folks have had to wait many months for their benefits. The department was also hit with fraudulent claims that resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. This is absolutely unacceptable. The governor and his team needs to do better. People are counting on these benefits.
To add to this problem, this week we learned the ESD has been hindering our State Auditor's Office as they investigate what went wrong with the massive fraud that took place. For more information read:
2021 Legislative Session
I will be working on several issues in the upcoming session, some are listed below. As session approaches, I will share in more detail some of the bills or proposals I will be introducing.
Elections: Across the country we see many states dealing with election security and fraud. With elections having become so contentious, I want to look at our election system to be sure we are not susceptible to any similar problems in the future. Like you I want to make sure every legal vote counts and no illegal vote is counted.
$30 car tabs: On Oct. 15, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down Initiative 976 (I-976), which was approved by voters in November 2019 to lower annual vehicle registration fees to $30 per year. The state Supreme Court overturned I-976 on a unanimous vote, with the reasoning it violated the single-subject rule in the state constitution. I disagree with their ruling.
House Republicans introduced measures last session to fully implement I-976 because of the court challenge. With the recent court ruling I will once again sponsor and support any measures related to our $30 car tabs. Voters have repeatedly spoken on this issue, only to have the courts and majority Democrats in Olympia ignore the will of the voters.
Property taxes: Once again, I am drafting legislation to lower your property taxes. There is no better time to give back to the taxpayers than right now, when people are struggling. The governor's handling of coronavirus has done untold damage to our economy – as many thousands of our businesses are being forced to close their doors for good. What better way to help stimulate our economy, than allowing citizens to keep more of their hard-earned tax dollars.
I will also be looking at other issues related to 2nd Amendment rights, property rights, school choice and potential options to allow our smaller counties to have a greater voice in Olympia.
I urge you to follow the Legislature during the session, which begins on Jan. 11. Below are a few helpful links that can keep you informed and updated on what is happening in Olympia.
- RepresentativeRobertSutherland.com: You will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, videos, bills, and other information.
- www.leg.wa.gov: Here you can track legislation, get bill reports, view committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature.
- The Washington State Ledger: It is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
If you have any questions, thoughts or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at (360) 786-7967.
It is an honor to represent the 39th District!
Robert J. Sutherland
WA State Representative, District 39