|Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There has been so much legislative activity since my last update! We finished nonstop floor action in the Senate. As floor leader, I was intensely busy communicating with my Democratic colleagues and member requests on the floor, advocating for bills to be brought up for a vote and strategy on which bills to amend. Senate bills that passed off the floor have now been sent to House committees for hearings and House bills are now in the Senate for hearings. We are almost two-thirds through this legislative session at a time when operating budgets will consume the topics of discussion. Here’s what I’ve been up to since my last newsletter.
Opposition to Gov. Inslee’s clean energy bill
Gov. Jay Inslee’s 100 percent clean energy bill recently passed in the Senate. The entire caucus and I fought incredibly hard to offer amendments to protect your low cost-electricity, acknowledging that wind and solar need backup energy sources like hydropower, natural gas, nuclear and yes, even coal so you have power when you need it. Incentivizing energy efficiency was also a part of our solutions. Our efforts took place over a two-day debate. Unfortunately, nearly all of our amendments were defeated and the bill advanced to the House of Representatives, where a Democratic majority likely will pass it and send it to the governor. With the growth in our state’s population expected to continue, I am concerned that electricity may not be available for families and businesses when needed and at tremendously higher costs.
Even the Governor’s staff admitted during the bill hearing that if no further policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were undertaken, our state would reduce emissions down to 1990 levels! What it shows is that individuals and families have done well embracing energy efficiency on their own without government control. That is why I voted no on the bill.
Bill targeting hairstylists causes controversy
Senate Bill 5326 was one of several proposals introduced this session targeting independent contractors and sole business owners. I believe it unfairly targeted most female business owners, preventing hairstylists and barbers from renting space in a salon and preventing them from being self-employed as independent contractors.
When I met with hairstylists earlier this session, they told me stories about how, by owning their own business, they charge their own prices, set their own hours, and set time aside for their families. The good news is that after more than 1,000 cosmetologists showed up at the Capitol to protest, the bill’s sponsor decided not to pursue it. However, it is still ‘alive’ and it could be revived at any time during this session, though I don’t believe it will. Similar bills that might impact every hardworking small-business owner in our state are moving forward, so I am watching them very carefully to make sure they don’t undermine your American dream.
Bills targeting parental rights
If this wasn’t bad enough, several bills have been introduced this session that would have the state impose its will on parental rights. Senate bills 5841, 5889, and 5395 were put forth under the guise of assisting communities and individuals. When you look deeper into each bill, however, that is not the case.
SB 5841 would force children to be vaccinated except for religious or medical reasons. SB 5889 would enable minors to obtain medical treatment and procedures without their parent’s knowledge or consent–and still force parents to pay! And SB 5395 would make sex education mandatory from kindergarten to twelfth grade! Shockingly, both 5889 and 5395 passed. The latter was passed by our colleagues from the other side of the aisle under the guise of protecting young children so that they can recognize potential inappropriate behavior from adults or older kids. I can personally tell you with my experience as a 4-H leader that we received training to recognize warning signs of abuse. Further, our local schools have done tremendous work in creating an atmosphere where children can feel safe in coming forward. Sex education is not needed to continue this critical work. And, as is the case with all these other bills, these responsibilities belong with the parents. Not with Olympia.
Welcome to Washington Baby Act
One bill that we are glad will not move forward is Senate Bill 5683, known as the ‘Welcome to Washington Baby Act.’ It would put government in the middle of the special moments between you and your infant child at the beginning of their life. Even though there is already a visiting nurse program, this bill would expand the program to every baby born in Washington. It would automatically enroll you in the program unless you opted out. And aside from the extreme cost, the program would be so big that it would spend resources on outreach to families who may not need it, rather than concentrating on families who do.
It also would give government employees the right to come into your home and ask potentially intrusive questions about the manner in which you take care of your child. And these visits would be kept in files housed by the Department of Children, Youth and Family Services. By the way, parents would not be allowed access to the files! Our children deserve the best care — no doubt about it. But that doesn’t mean allowing government to subjectively judge where you may live, how you may heat your home, or whether you may have firearms in your home as examples. We should let organizations and programs that already exist to help families who need assistance instead of intrusively forcing everyone to participate.
Contracting-performance-based energy bill passes Senate
One of my most important tasks of this session was to sponsor Senate Bill 5308, which would provide much-needed checks and balances to a program that helps local governments increase their energy efficiency in its buildings. HVAC systems that are aging or have fallen into disrepair and other energy services would receive improvement and better construction practices under this proposal. It would create transparency for construction and monitoring of these projects.
Many of you have traveled across the state to speak on behalf of this bill and how it would help to improve our community. I am pleased to tell you that after much work and deliberation, SB 5308 was passed by the Senate! It is now in the House of Representatives for consideration.
Whitetail deer population bill passes Senate
My proposal, Senate Bill 5525, passed unanimously this month in the Senate.
Under this proposal, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is tasked with using consistent practices in how it counts whitetail deer populations. Although science certainly evolves, it is critical that long-term trends for management of whitetail are based upon consistent data collection and interpretation. If you live in Northeastern Washington or are a hunter, you’ve seen declining deer populations. Increasing predator populations have certainly had an impact. It is critical that DFW manage whitetail deer so the population can thrive and grow. SB 5525 is now in the House for consideration.
7th District telephone town hall
In February, Reps. Kretz and Maycumber and I got to hear from you and your neighbors during our telephone town hall! It was amazing to have nearly 1,500 people listen and participate during that one hour!
You can listen to my seatmates and me every Monday on KOMW AM 680 from 8 to 9 a.m. Each week, we give updates on the legislative session and answer any questions you may have.
Visits to Olympia!
Folks back home have made the long trip to see my seatmates and me all session long! I first had a wonderful visit from the Deer Park chapter of the National FFA Organization! We had nine young men and women who met with Rep. Kretz and me. The FFA is a nonprofit club that helps give future generations the skills necessary to feed our growing population. I’m so glad they were able to come!
This past month, the group “Know Your Government” from statewide 4-H Clubs, including our local clubs, came by to see us! The group met to learn about all facets of state government and media. Thirty students visited Rep. Kretz and me, and we thoroughly enjoyed speaking to those who aspire to be our future leaders!
As always, thank you so much for entrusting me to work on your behalf in Olympia. It is an honor and privilege to serve you.