Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2022 legislative session is now in the rearview mirror. This short, 60-day session was a whirlwind of many hours and long debates. We considered hundreds of the more than 1,500 bills that were introduced in both chambers. More than 300 of those bills made it to the governor's desk.
We started the session virtually, like last year, but fortunately, I was finally allowed to be there in-person and vote on numerous important bills. It was an honor to be in Olympia representing you.
Before I get into this recap, I want to thank you for all your help this session. Although it was my second session, I'm still considered a freshman legislator. It has been a strange and challenging two years living with COVID, but I'm happy to see us moving in the right direction. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do the work of the people, whether virtually or in-person. And I greatly appreciate your continued confidence, input, and support. I could not have done this without you.
Unfinished Police Reform
We had several pressing issues coming into this session and unfortunately many of those issues have not been resolved, including improving the police reform bills passed last year. While there were a couple minor fixes (House Bills 1735 and 2037), the biggest issue officers needed fixed was clarification on their ability to pursue bad actors. Republicans offered some great policy (House Bill 1788) that would have fixed the problem, but the majority party refused to act on it.
Unfortunately, officers are still required to meet the higher standard of probable cause in order to pursue suspects, even when they know a crime has been (or likely has been) committed. Unless they witness the crime, they cannot pursue. This will continue to hamper the efforts of law enforcement to detain and arrest criminals. And it will make our communities less safe.
Transportation Budget and Spending Package
The majority party passed their 16-year, $17 billion transportation spending package at the end of the legislative session. In an unprecedented move, this was a 100% partisan effort, as Republicans were not invited to the negotiating table. That is unfortunate because we had several good policies that would have provided real solutions to our state's biggest transportation issues.
This package does a lot of good things, but the people of Washington are going to pay for it via dozens of new taxes and fees, including rising fuel prices. Here are a few of the problems with this package:
- It raises taxes and fees on Washingtonians.
- It uses fees from policies that will further increase the cost of fuel.
- It focuses on the Puget Sound region but not other parts of the state.
- It does not invest enough in preservation and maintenance of existing infrastructure.
- It relies on $57 million annual transfers from the Public Works Assistance Account. Communities depend on this account for important upgrades and investments.
The Legislature also passed the state's supplemental transportation budget, which was more of a bipartisan effort. However, I did not support this bill, either. My biggest issue is the unfair spreading of the wealth, so to speak. While dozens of projects, primarily along the I-5 corridor in the Puget Sound area received funding, projects in Eastern Washington were largely left out, or pushed to the backburner. In other words, this is a Puget Sound/Seattle-centric budget, which hurts people in Eastern Washington.
It ignores many pressing transportation issues in rural areas, including several projects waiting to be completed for years. For example, no money was included in the transportation budget to complete the U.S. Highway 12 widening project from the Snake River to Walla Walla. For those reasons, I voted against the majority's transportation spending package.
House Republicans offered many real solutions in our REAL Act that would have addressed our state's transportation issues, without adding any new taxes or fees, or raiding our reserve funds. The majority never considered our plan.
No Emergency Powers Reform
We entered this session with emergency powers reform as one of our top priorities. Unfortunately, the majority party gave it little consideration. Republicans offered a logical resolution with House Bill 1772, which would increase legislative involvement in states of emergency proclaimed by the governor. While it did receive a public hearing and a lot of support from residents throughout the state, it never made it to the House floor for a vote.
The Senate did pass Senate Bill 5909, which was an emergency powers reform bill in name only. It would've essentially done nothing to stop the governor from continuing his one-person rule. This bill did reach the House floor, where Republicans offered several amendments to improve it. However, after 20 minutes of debate, the majority party stopped the discussion and pulled the bill. You can watch that debate here.
That means despite our best efforts, Washington is still under a state of emergency and the governor can continue to act with no checks or balances from the Legislature.
Energy Siting Facility Bill
I introduced House Bill 1871 this session, regarding equity in the clean energy facility siting process. This legislation would help create equity between Washington counties producing clean energy and the counties consuming that energy. It would also give communities and local stakeholders a voice before decisions are made. As the push for clean energy continues to grow in the state, little has been done to address equity in the siting process of this clean energy movement.
HB 1871 did receive a public hearing and a lot of attention and interest from both the public and media. However, it did not make it out of committee. But in a bipartisan move, about 90% of the policy in HB 1871 was added as an amendment to House Bill 1812. This bill, requested by the governor, was introduced by 34th Legislative District Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D), and has been sent to the governor, where it awaits his signature.
Although we did not get a short moratorium on siting new facilities, our amendment does require the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to consult with stakeholders from rural communities, agriculture, and forestry to gain a better understanding of the benefits and impacts of anticipated changes in the state's energy system. That includes the siting of facilities under the jurisdiction of the EFSEC and identify risks and opportunities for rural communities.
That means, before determining the locations of new clean energy facilities, by law the EFSEC must hold public comment sessions and ask for input from citizens, businesses, local leaders, and local environmental groups. This should create more equity in the siting process, which is a win for everyone involved. That is a bipartisan success and a win for rural counties in Washington.
Capital Budget Victories
We also passed the bipartisan supplemental capital budget. This budget is for projects such as schools and other public buildings, behavioral and mental health facilities, parks, low-income housing, water infrastructure, and habitat.
In addition to the more than $30 million our district received last year we added another $3.29 million in local projects this year, including:
- $1.25 million for community/technical college system minor works and infrastructure.
- $336,000 for serving the community through capital improvements.
- $98,000 for the Starbuck Rodeo Arena remodel in Dayton.
- $75,000 for the Walla Walla YMCA ECEAP.
For a complete list of our local projects, click on this link and select the 16th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button. The items listed with a $0 total were funded in last year's capital budget but are now getting funding from a different source.
Virtual Town Hall
I will be joining my fellow 16th District lawmakers, Sen. Perry Dozier and Rep. Skyler Rude, for a virtual town hall meeting, Monday, March 22, from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. This one-hour event will be a great opportunity to review the 2022 legislative session. It's also the perfect time for you to share your ideas and concerns and get your questions answered. You can sign up here.
We represent you in the legislative process and love hearing from our constituents. Your input is extremely valuable as we work to improve the lives of all those in Washington.
So, please join us on Tuesday, March 22 and share what's on your mind.
Thank You and Please Continue Reaching Out
As we enter the interim, please remember I represent you year-round. I hope you will continue reaching out to me by using the contact information below. I'm excited to get out and meet with you in the coming months to discuss the issues on your mind. It's truly an honor to represent everyone in the 16th District to the best of my ability and be your voice in the Legislature. Thank you for allowing me to serve you and I look forward to hearing from you during the interim.