Greetings from Olympia,
The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to conclude March 12. Things are really picking up. We are now looking at legislation that the House has approved. Those bills will have to go through the committee process here in the Senate and then taken up on the floor. The process is really designed so that not a lot of legislation makes it to the governor’s desk, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your particular interest.
We’ve covered a lot of subjects from open government issues, to elections, to health care and gun rights. During all this, the budget is being worked on. We had some great news last week that should hopefully tamp down efforts to raise additional taxes. The revenue forecast projects the state will take in $1.4 billion more than we expected since adopting the budget last year!
I’m baffled at the way budgets are done in Olympia. There was simply no reason for the majority to ram through a billion-dollar tax bill on small business, including doctors, mental health providers and nursing homes.
Health care challenges
We have a big challenge in our state and country concerning rising health care costs and a lot of things we are doing in Olympia aren’t helping. I did vote for legislation that caps the out of pocket costs of insulin at $100 for a 30 day supply. We heard very compelling testimony in the Health Care Committee about the impacts that skyrocketing costs for this lifesaving drug are having and we needed to act. I did not support another somewhat related bill that would have created another government agency to “fix” our state’s problems. We need an honest accounting of what’s driving costs as opposed to rushing bills to put out fires.
You can watch an interview I did recently with the chair of the health care committee by clicking here. It’s a complex problem that we have a lot of bipartisan agreement on, the challenge is how we get there and are we actually just making the problem worse.
It’s all about balance
I was honest with you when I stepped up to represent you in the Senate that my job was to listen. I’m not an expert on every policy that comes before me, but I make every effort to learn, understand and vote my constituents and my conscience. The state absolutely needs to help those that can’t help themselves, but we also need to be pragmatic in our approaches. That’s something innate to me as farmer.
You may have heard about efforts to restore voting rights for felons. The debate in the Senate got fairly contentious. I did not support that legislation because I did not think it was fair. Let me be clear, if you’ve served your debt to society, I’m in favor of restoring of voting rights. But the bill we were considering allowed folks who had not completed all the terms of their sentences to have those restored – people out on parole or now called community custody or who haven’t made restitution. I’m tired of the slippery slope and we need to send a message about fairness for victims. Pay the full debt to society and rejoin the community – no sooner.
Another example of balancing the rights and privileges that government gets involved with concerns housing and property rights. It’s no secret that finding affordable housing is a challenge. Rents are growing often faster than incomes and sometimes people are facing evictions. The state does provide resources for people in that situation, but we took up legislation that tried to fix legal issues or imbalances that might exist that could lead to evictions and increased homelessness.
The challenge here is the need for people to be housed and the rights of property owners who provide rental housing. For big property companies, some of these rules and regulations aren’t that big a deal. I’m concerned about the impacts these laws have on small operations, people that have a few units they’re renting. People don’t often consider that a big reason why housing has become so unaffordable are the layers of costly rules government places on housing providers. This doesn’t even take into consideration the sheer lack of supply that drives up costs for everyone.
Town hall follow up
Thanks to everyone who took part in our two 10th District town halls this past weekend. The meetings were very well attended, and my House seatmates and I covered a lot of ground on issues ranging from government transparency, education, and homelessness, to Second Amendment rights and more. Listening is one of the most important things I can do when working to represent our district, so these meetings were particularly valuable.
As we near the end of the 2020 legislative session, don’t hesitate to reach out with your thoughts on legislation. I take your comments to heart and will do my best to represent your views.
It is an honor to serve you. Please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you may have about your state government.
Your 10th District State Senator