Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2023 legislative session is almost half over and more than 1500 bills have been introduced so far this year. However, we have reached some significant dates and the number of bills that remain in play is about to drop significantly.
That's because Friday, Feb. 17, was policy cutoff, meaning that was the last day non-fiscal bills could be considered and passed out of their respective committees in the chamber in which they originated. Today, Feb. 24 is fiscal cutoff.
Beginning next week, we head to the House floor to vote on numerous bills till we reach the House of origin cutoff on Wednesday, March 8. After that, it will be much clearer which policies have a chance to become law.
Update on My Bills
Of the five bills I introduced this session, one is still alive. House Bill 1293 would require cities and counties planning under the Growth Management Act to ensure their design review process is clear and objective. This would remove a timely and costly obstacle for many developers whose projects are halted for months waiting for design approval for buildings that otherwise meet all other regulations.
This bill would require the review process to be expedited by limiting the number of public hearings during the design review process and integrating the consolidated review and design process to streamline and ease the approval process. HB 1293 has passed out of committee and is waiting for a vote on the House floor.
Update on Transportation Legislation
Speaking of transportation, I serve on this committee, and we have considered a lot of important legislation this session. Here's a recap of some of the good bills and a couple bad ones that are still alive.
House Bill 1363: This bill would authorize police to pursue criminal suspects based on “reasonable suspicion” rather than the much more stringent “probable cause” put into place with sweeping police reforms passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature in 2021. Unfortunately, despite the primary sponsor being a Democrat, this bill was amended and weakened before it passed out of the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee. We attempted to strengthening it with an amendment in the Transportation Committee, but it was not accepted. We will continue working on this bill as it moves forward by offering further amendments.
House Bill 1807: Highway work zones are some of the most hazardous locations construction workers have to be in. Unfortunately, many drivers ignore the traffic laws in these designated areas, putting our road workers at even greater risk. This bill would authorize law enforcement officers to issue a traffic infraction when it is detected through the use of a safety camera in highway work zones through June 30, 2030.
House Bill 1112: This bill would allow judges, at their discretion, to impose criminal penalties for negligent driving involving the death of a vulnerable victim. It would also allow for a person to be found guilty of an offense when he or she operates a vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers, or is likely to endanger, any person or property and causes the death of a vulnerable user of a public way. Right now, a person driving a car can get into an accident because they were swatting at a bug and be fined $250 whether they hit a mailbox or a human. This bill would give judges the ability to treat these cases differently.
House Bill 1832: This bill would establish a voluntary Road Usage Charge Program (RUC Program) beginning July 1, 2025, which places a 2.5 cent per mile fee on motor vehicle usage of public roadways in the state. It would also waive the electric and hybrid-electric vehicle registration renewal fees and the transportation electrification fees for vehicles participating in the voluntary RUC Program. However, despite being set up as a voluntary program starting in 2025, it would become mandatory for most vehicles in 2030. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and this bill could have many unintended consequences. One of the biggest issues is privacy. This is not a good bill, and we shouldn't be adding extra fees or taxes to drivers who are already paying enough.
House Bill 1736: This bill is a preparatory step for implementing the road usage charge created by HB 1832. It would direct the Department of Licensing to collect the odometer reading at the time of the original vehicle registration and renewal. Vehicle registrations will be denied if the reading is not listed. This is another overreach by state government to increase revenue from drivers. I oppose this bill as well.
Light Pollution and Mitigation Bill Update
I've also signed onto an important bill for people living in rural eastern Washington. The debate over alternative energy facilities, including the massive windmills that decorate this part of the state is nothing new. It's a debate that continues to stir emotions on both sides of the equation.
Citizens who live in rural areas are becoming frustrated and discouraged that their viewsheds are being disturbed and are concerned environmental damage is occurring. They are also becoming more frustrated with the light pollution emitted from these enormous windmills.
That's the focus of a new bill this year sponsored and driven by Rep. April Connors, R-Kennewick, which would help resolve this concern. I am cosponsoring the bill, along with my seatmate, Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla.
House Bill 1173 would require new and existing wind energy facilities to mitigate light pollution using aircraft detection lighting systems – or through alternative forms of light mitigation if federal requirements preclude the installation of an aircraft detection lighting system at a facility.
If passed, the legislation will help remedy this ongoing light pollution problem for both old and new windfarms. These aircraft detection lighting systems would turn the lights on when planes are detected nearby and shut them off when planes are a safe distance away.
The bill has already passed committee and is waiting for a vote on the House floor.
Thank You and Please Stay in Touch
Thank you again for allowing me to serve you. It's an honor to represent the 16th District. I will continue to work on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and real solutions for Washingtonians. I'm here to listen so please continue reaching out. I look forward to hearing from you.
It is my honor to serve,