Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session began yesterday. During opening ceremonies, only legislators and a handful of staff were allowed in the chambers because of COVID-19. It was hard not seeing families in the wings and constituents in the gallery like we saw in years past.
During a debate on the House floor, I joined my Republican colleagues in voting against the proposed rules for this year's session. We fought for a more open and transparent plan, but could not convince Democrats to go along with it. I will keep you updated throughout the session with email updates like this one since the Capitol is closed to the public, contrary to my vote.
We also voted to elect a Speaker of the House during yesterday's proceedings. I cast my vote for House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, but the final count didn't end in his favor. Democrats again elected Rep. Laurie Jinkins to the position. However, I was proud of the speech Rep. Wilcox gave. It was refreshing to hear him say exactly what my constituents have been wanting to hear for months. You can watch his speech here.
How you can be involved
Unless something changes, yesterday was the only day of the 105-day legislative session that will be conducted in-person this year. House floor action and committee hearings will be held via Zoom and can be viewed on TVW. Only 15 members from each caucus and a limited amount of staff will be allowed on the Capitol grounds.
However, there are several ways for you to be involved and influence the legislative process. This link is a good guide for your involvement: Accessing the Legislature Remotely. You can find information on how to: understand the process; watch and participate; track legislation; and contact your legislator. Here are some other helpful links:
- Washington State Legislature
- How to comment on a bill
- Committee schedules, agendas, and documents
- The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator
Compare and contrast
With Republicans calling for a special session since May, we entered this legislative session more prepared than ever before to put solutions on the table. As we consider proposals to address our ongoing health and economic crisis, I invite you to review some of the ideas being put forward.
One of the first orders of business for Democrats was proposing a 9% income tax on capital gains as small as $25,000. Senate Bill 5096 will be heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday at 4 p.m. Imagine this scenario: A restaurant owner is forced out of business due to the governor's extended shutdown orders and — if this bill is passed — would face a new income tax when they try to sell the property.
I encourage you to attend the hearing and let the committee members know your thoughts on the proposal. Click this link to sign-up to testify: https://app.leg.wa.gov/CSIRemote/Senate. Under the committee drop-down tab, select “Ways & Means.” Then, under the meetings drop-down tab, select Thursday's meeting (1/14). Here are detailed instructions for how to testify while the committee is underway.
In contrast to such measures, Republicans have filed bills that would provide unemployment insurance tax relief, suspend B&O tax collections, and offer a credit for businesses on their B&O tax liability. We are also crafting proposals that would provide direct financial relief to the many Washington citizens struggling economically. Our state has the resources to do this, but it is a matter of setting priorities.
Raising taxes on individuals, families, and employers is never a good idea, especially as our fragile economy attempts to recover. Along with an income tax on capital gains, the governor has also proposed regressive ideas that would make gas, energy and even healthcare more expensive. According to this recent Crosscut/Elway Poll, most of these ideas are unpopular in our state. Republicans have been able to stop some of these proposals in the past, but they keep coming back. Our opposition will continue.
I will provide you with more updates as the legislative session moves forward and the majority party's agenda is revealed. I welcome your emails, calls, and letters as I work on behalf of our great communities. It is an honor to serve you.