Greetings from Olympia,
The 60-day legislative session is just over halfway finished. As a member of the Senate budget committee (Ways and Means), we worked late into the evening getting public input on bills that will have financial implications. The full Senate has begun working on approving (or voting against) legislation that started here in the Senate. Our deadline is Feb. 19. After that point, we’ll be looking at bills coming over from the House and giving them an honest assessment.
I am amazed at the number of bills that we have taken up. It is a never-ending stream of policies, from dictating what kinds of drinks can be on a kid’s menu in a restaurant to giving 17-year-olds the ability to vote.
Usually, the bills that make it all the way through the process get signed by the governor after the legislative session. However, there was one bill that was so important the governor signed it just the other day. To no one’s surprise, it was a $1 billion tax bill. Senate Bill 6492 was a “fix” to legislation approved last year that was so convoluted the state Department of Revenue was not sure it could collect the taxes. So, the majority got a do-over. Unfortunately, some of the same bad policies in the original bill remained.
I serve our district on the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee. When we were holding public hearings on legislation, one thing was clear. We have a bit of a challenge on our hands keeping costs down, recruiting and retaining health-care providers and ensuring access across our state.
The tax “reform” bill, as they called it, does nothing to help the situation. In fact, it includes steep tax increases on nursing homes and health-care providers. Our state is legitimately facing a crisis when it comes to nursing-home closures because our state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates aren’t keeping up. Believe it or not, we are doing a worse job than Idaho and Oregon. Instead of having a frank conversation about where we are investing the extra $1 billion you sent Olympia to help keep nursing homes open, the majority has decided to tax them more.
The value of listening
When the session started, I authored an op-ed that appeared in the La Conner Weekly. It was titled “the value of listening.” Things like I discussed above are indicative of the problems we face here in Olympia. Please take a moment to read that by clicking here. Every day I see examples where we can do better for you by actually listening.
Here’s another good example. There has been a lot of discussion in transportation circles in your state Capitol about implementing what’s called a low carbon fuel standard. Sounds like a great idea to address climate change, but in practice it’s bad for our district and other rural parts of the state. It would add 57 cents to every gallon of gas and none of it would go back to improving roads. They tried this in California and the results have been clear. It is an expensive, regressive way to lower carbon emissions and one of the least effective.
Proponents are relegating fixing carbon onto the backs of the poor. Is that fair?
The first bill of my legislative career
Our district is heavily reliant on agriculture. We produce dozens of products that feed our state and the world. However, farms across the country and at home are facing challenges recruiting the next generation of farmers.
Under legislation I introduced that was approved unanimously just the other day by the state Senate, a pilot program would be revived to expose young workers to the agricultural industry through farm internships… read more.
Town Hall Weekend
We’ll have a bit of a break in the action down here in Olympia, and my seatmates and I will be hosting town halls in district. I encourage you to attend. See below for more information.
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020
Mount Vernon WSU Extension Center
10:00 – 11 a.m.
Oak Harbor High School Student Union Building
1:30– 2:30 p.m.
Working with me in Olympia
You may have seen a Facebook post I did recently about some of the young men and women who work with me in Olympia. Jerry Coleman, Hailey Sarber and Rozzy Ware traveled from their homes in Stanwood and Mount Vernon to spend a week paging for the Washington State Senate at the Capitol in Olympia. They were three of the 20 students who served as Senate pages for the third week of the 2020 legislative session.
It was awesome having the opportunity to sponsor a group of friends. I hope this experience they had together is something they’ll remember fondly. It seemed that they all had a great time and learned a lot about the legislative process.
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