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Greetings from Olympia,
The short, 60-day, legislative session is now more than halfway over. We are spending much of this week working late into the evening voting on bills that originated in the Senate. That work must be completed by Feb. 14 at 5 p.m.
Some in the majority party have made note of the significant number of bills introduced and passed as a measure of success. However, the types of bills that we have been addressing are cause for real concern. We spent the latter part of last week trying to debate a bill that creates a special deal for one of the state’s unions in an effort to circumvent workers’ constitutional rights. The Senate Republicans obtained a confidential memo from the head of the union to the Governor specifically discussing how they could write a bill to prevent workers from exercising their rights to join or not join the union.
Don’t get me wrong, unions serve a valuable purpose, but I am skeptical when their motives are so plainly contrary to the rights of workers and this legislation. Senate Bill 6199 was jammed through the Senate in the dead of night. That’s right, a bill that closes off necessary transparency was debated at 1 a.m. The majority party refused to allow any amendments to ensure workers are protected and that the state has proper oversight over these closed-door negotiations. Here is a link to a recent article on the legislation.
Higher costs to heat your home and fill your gas tank
One of the other issues facing the Legislature is the desire by Democrats to raise taxes. Late last week they introduced an all-encompassing tax bill, which includes things like a sugar tax. There is also a great deal of pressure by the media and the Governor to pass an energy tax, which would increase the cost of gas at the pump by over 20 cents and increase costs for natural gas and electricity. The Governor was recently in our district meeting with industry and utilities to promote his proposal. I met with him and heard some of those discussions, but I am not convinced that his approach is right for our district or state, especially when our hard-working farmers would be unfairly impacted while hauling their products to market.
The reality is that it is just another tax. If you are concerned about climate, this bill won’t do anything to address that. The state’s largest polluters have been able to garner exemptions from the tax, and in some cases can increase costs for consumers while still getting a tax break. Working families and minority communities will get hit with higher prices for everything and it won’t reduce the state’s carbon emissions. Washington is already one of the greenest states in the country, our economy is growing, but implementing this tax will be a burden on our community.
Over the weekend, a bill that I have been working on for several years finally cleared the Senate. Senate Bill 5251 creates a public-private partnership to boost our state’s tourism. We are the only state in the nation without a coordinated tourism plan after the state’s tourism office was closed in 2011. Under this proposal, industry leaders have come together to partner with government to promote Washington as a destination. While Seattle has been able to market itself in other states, many of our smaller and rural communities struggle to draw vital tourism dollars. Tourism affects more than hotels, restaurants and destinations. It benefits retailers, outdoor recreation, state parks, ports and cities – and ultimately the taxpayers of Washington. More than $1.8 billion in local and state tax revenue is generated directly from tourism. It’s one of the largest employers of women and minorities and is responsible for more than 177,100 jobs.
Juvenile Justice Reform
Late Monday evening the Senate approved a measure, Senate Bill 6160 that makes changes to how our court systems deals with juvenile offenders. While I was not a sponsor of the legislation, I worked with the sponsor to accept an amendment that provides for a sentencing enhancement for crimes committed by offenders affiliated with gangs. I have been working on the issue of gang violence in our community for a number of years and I felt it was important to add this sentencing criteria in the discussion of juvenile justice reform.
It is an honor to serve as your state Senator. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your state government.
Your State Senator