Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There is a new way to connect with me. I have a new, official legislative Facebook page. Like and follow to stay updated on what is happening during the legislative session and the interim. I look forward to keep you updated on the Legislature, state government and the 39th Legislative District.
We have completed five weeks of the legislative session. In my last email update, I mentioned the numerous tax proposals the Democrats in Olympia are pushing. However, Republicans are focusing on getting people back to work, businesses back open and kids back to school. Below you see a different approach from the two sides on recent COVID relief plans. I also discuss some proposed gun bills that threaten our 2nd Amendment rights, information on the recent data breach and a brief overview of bills I have introduced this session.
COVID relief bill – House Bill 1368
On Feb. 1, the House passed House Bill 1368 that would allocate $2.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding. I voted “no” because it was too little, too late. We had a chance to do so much more for those in need, and we could have done it much sooner. You can watch my floor speech here. House Republicans offered six amendments that focused on:
- safely reopening schools;
- assisting students who have fallen behind;
- providing rental and utility assistance;
- easing financial burdens on working families;
- helping child care providers; and
- supporting small businesses.
Only one amendment was accepted by the majority party. The plan Republicans have offered would provide about $4 billion in relief, while the Democrats' plan provides about $2.2 billion. Check out our REAL Recovery for Washington Act. For a comparison of the two plans check out the chart below.
The bill has since passed the Senate and awaits the governor's signature.
Legislation impacting 2nd Amendment rights
This session, Olympia Democrats have introduced some troubling legislation regarding dangerous gun restrictions. House Bill 1164 would prohibit the sale, transfer and possession of pistol or rifle “large capacity magazines” which are defined as storing more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Democrats claim this is in the interest of “increasing public safety” but this would actually make our neighborhoods more dangerous because we know criminals will not adhere to this law. This would result in a major tactical disadvantage for law-abiding citizens who may need to defend themselves, like Chinese-American Chen Fengzhu.
Chen had her front door kicked down in the middle of the night by three armed men with pistols. Fortunately, Chen was armed with a pistol of her own, one equipped with a “large capacity magazine,” and she was able to successfully defend herself and her property as they repeatedly shot at her and tried to kill her. Without her “large capacity magazine” Chen would most likely have been killed because she needed every single bullet to fight off the three criminals. She was outgunned 3-1.
These bills illegally limit how some of our most vulnerable populations may choose to defend themselves at a time when we are seeing a lot of unrest in our communities, and at a time when there are discussions by Democrats to defund law enforcement.
House Bill 1283 attempts to illegally ban open carry in our state.
Discounted hunting licenses for seniors
Many states across the country have enacted legislation to create opportunities for our nation's senior citizens to hunt and/or fish at a discounted cost. Washington already provides a discount to our seniors for a fishing license. My legislation, House Bill (HB) 1185, would extend the discount to hunting licenses.
Seniors would pay about a fifth of regular license fee – depending on the type of hunting license. The bill has bipartisan support but has not been scheduled for a public hearing. If you would like to see the bill get a public hearing, I urge you to contact the House Appropriations Committee chair and committee members. Click here for a list of the committee members and their contact information.
Property tax relief
You may recall, last year I drafted legislation that would eliminate the state portion of property taxes over a 4-5 year time period. I have once again drafted legislation, House Bill 1371, that would use a phased approach to eliminate the state property taxes.
There is no better time to allow folks to keep some of their hard-earned tax money than a pandemic. We would be helping our seniors and those on fixed incomes stay in their homes, helping address our affordable housing crisis, and stimulate a struggling economy.
Covering the cost of this plan should not be difficult. We could look at eliminating a small portion of the billions of dollars in tax increases Democrats have passed the last few years. We could also look at the “rainy day” fund. A once in a century pandemic would qualify for a rainy day. Finally, I would add our state tax collections have remained resilient during the COVID pandemic. At the end of January, it was estimated our tax collections, or revenue, is up by about 10%. If this trend continues, it will pay for itself without any tax increases or budget cuts.
Two-thirds vote to raise taxes
The third bill I have sponsored this session is House Joint Resolution 4203. It would amend the Constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. It is not going anywhere given the current makeup of the Legislature, but it needs to be discussed. Click here to review all the tax increases the majority party has passed since 2019.
Since the pandemic hit in March, my office has helped hundreds of constituents work through issues and claims within the Employment Security Department (ESD). Last week the Washington State Auditor announced a security breach may have exposed sensitive, personal information of citizens, specifically those who made unemployment claims in 2020.
If you have filed a claim with ESD, contacted them for any reason in the last 11 months or have reason to believe your personal information may have been compromised, below are links that may be helpful. Do not hesitate to contact my office or the state auditor's office if you have any questions or concerns.
- About the Accellion data security breach | What you need to know
This is just another disappointment related to ESD. Former director, Suzi Levine, is now out. However, not before she allowed hundreds of millions of Washingtonian's tax dollars in a Nigerian scam to be lost. She also failed thousands of workers in Washington as they waited weeks, sometimes months for their benefits. Unfortunately, she was not held accountable, and in fact, she has received a promotion in the Biden Administration.
There are great opportunities for young people across the state to be part of the political process when the Legislature is in session. Unfortunately, our House Page Program was canceled this year with the legislative session being “virtual.” However, the Legislative Internship Program is operating. A number of interns are participating in the program this session. They do not get to be on campus, as only a select few are at the Capitol, but they are still doing work for legislators this session.
I am fortunate this session to have Kahler Kirk working with my office. She is a senior at Western Washington University, where she is pursuing a degree in political science and a minor in English. After graduation this spring, she plans to attend law school and specialize in business law.
Kahler has been responsible for constituent correspondence, bill research and attending and taking notes on committee meetings.
She loves to give back to her community by volunteering at her local emergency support shelter, police department, community action program, and youth sports programs. As she works towards a career in law, Kahler plans to continue serving people.
It has been great to have her working with my office this session and I know she has a bright future ahead of her.
As the “virtual” legislative session progresses, I urge you to stay engaged and follow the Legislature. Check out: How you can be involved in the legislative process. There are a variety of helpful links on this page ranging from contacting your elected officials, tracking legislation to testifying remotely.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments regarding the legislative session or our state government.
It is an honor to represent the 39th District!
Robert J. Sutherland
WA State Representative, District 39