Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you to those who attended our town hall meeting on Saturday at the Port of Camas-Washougal. In fact, thank you to all those who have attended any one of the six town hall meetings we have held since the beginning of the year. Your questions and feedback are important to me.
In this addition of my legislative insight, you will find an overview of some very concerning pieces of legislation moving through the Legislature. This includes bills that would increase health care costs, raise transportation fees and taxes, and disenfranchise our state's independent voters. I have also included links to a couple of my floor speeches.
Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, comments or concerns regarding the legislation in this update.
Public health insurance
On Friday, March 8, the House passed a public health care option measure, House Bill 1523, along party lines. This bill is a big step toward government-run health care and socialized medicine.
If this legislation is signed into law, it would hurt the individual, small and large-group markets, and could be devastating to rural health care. I truly believe you will see health care costs increase and we would see fewer plan options become available. We are subsidizing more people at 60 percent of the actual costs of service, instead of working to keep health care costs down by reducing mandates, or allowing the purchase of cross-county plans. While HB 1523 does not implement single-payer health care, it is the legislation that would lead to the complete collapse of the private market. My floor speech on the bill can be found here.
Another bad bill we are keeping an eye on in the House, is House Bill 1395. It would exempt those responsible for not paying their employees from their responsibility, increasing the burden on general contractors for something out of their control. This legislation would increase the price of housing and construction in general, unnecessarily interfering in private contracts. We have not voted on this bill, but it could come up for debate at any time. As it stands today, it appears our hard work to stop this bill from moving has been successful. House Republicans offered more than 25 amendments to this legislation. Each amendment pointed out a fatal flaw in the bill, and a dramatic impediment to the private sector and cost of housing. The Legislature should prioritize those who seek to play by the rules, rather than protect those who don't. I will continue to keep my eye on this one over the next several weeks.
Senate transportation proposal
Senate Democrats recently unveiled a transportation package that is heavy on taxes and fees. A major part of the plan includes a carbon fee to be charged on $15 per metric ton of carbon pollution on the sale and use of fossil fuels in Washington, translating to around 15 cents per gallon for consumers, according to a spokesman for Senate Democrats. Utilities would pay $10 per metric ton. That does not include an additional 6 cents a gallon gas tax increase. The proposal would also raise vehicle weight fees, implement a sales and use tax on automobile parts and bicycles, increase the rental car tax, and includes a 50 cent per trip fee on taxis and ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.
Here is a breakdown. Keep in mind the numbers are in “millions.”
The transportation funding package is made up of three bills: Senate Bill 5970 would authorize the sale of the general obligation bonds for the transportation funding.Senate Bill 5971 outlines the sources of revenue, and Senate Bill 5972 details the specific projects that would be funded. My constituents continuously tell me that new taxes are not the answer, and voters very clearly opposed a carbon tax on the last ballot. I agree. I will continue to fight for the transportation needs of our community, and provide ideas for sustainable revenue that does not further dip into your bank account. Providing for infrastructure is one of the most basic responsibilities of your state government. It should be funded with those responsibilities in mind.
Low carbon fuel standard
The low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) legislation, House Bill 1110, passed off the House floor Tuesday, March 12. It would direct the Department of Ecology to adopt, by rule, standards to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions per unit of fuel energy in transportation fuels over time. This is modeled after California's LCFS.
The California Energy Commission reported that 16 cents has been added to a gallon of fuel due to its LCFS program. This number is expected to increase as the program is fully implemented — some estimate between 47 and 71 cents before 2030.
Washington's program would not fare any better. It lacks transparency, would not significantly improve the environment and does not generate any new funding for our transportation infrastructure. HB 1110 would not only increase the cost of your fuel, but would quite literally lead to cost increases on everything that a Washington family would consume. If the Legislature is truly concerned about those who are living on the edge, this is the type of bad policy that would break them. Please view my floor speech on the legislation here.
The voters have already spoken on this issue. The carbon tax, Initiative 1631, was easily defeated in November with 36 of 39 counties voting against it.
One of our more lively debates of the session has been on the presidential primary, Senate Bill 5273. The bill moves Washington's presidential primary vote to the second Tuesday in March from late May with the hope of Washington state being more relevant in the selection of the presidential candidates.
However, I believe the legislation disenfranchises the independent voters of Washington. Those who do not declare a party preference would not be able to participate in the primary. Legislators on my side of the aisle offered several amendments to allow voters to participate without declaring a party preference or casting a vote as an unaffiliated voter. Unfortunately all the amendments were defeated.
It should be noted that the votes and the party selection of those who do participate would be made public. Political parties would be able to use that information in preparation for future elections. For more information read the Seattle Times column: 'Highway robbery': How our presidential primary is also a marketing scheme, run through your ballot.
The bill passed the House 54-42, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting “no.” It had already passed the Senate and was signed into law by the governor on Thursday, March 14.