House majority party passes radical energy bill, then kills vital public safety legislation
We recently hit an important date in the 2023 legislative session. Wednesday, March 8 was house of origin cutoff, meaning it was the last opportunity for bills introduced in the House to be passed to the Senate and vice versa.
We debated and voted on hundreds of bills over the last several weeks and more than 300 made it out of the House and moved over to the Senate.
One of those bills is House Bill 1589. This is a radical policy that had opposition from both sides, including every Republican, yet it still passed 52-44.
The bill would prohibit any large gas company that serves more than 500,000 retail natural gas customers in Washington – only Puget Sound Energy fits that description – from providing natural gas service to any new commercial or residential location starting in June of this year.
The bill, which is the first proposal of its kind in the country passed just a few days after a group of building industry members and tradesmen filed a lawsuit against the State Energy Code Council for a similar natural gas ban on a statewide level.
There's a reason it's the first proposal of its kind. It's expensive, poorly thought out, and it will delay construction and design. Even the bill's sponsor, Rep. Beth Doglio, D-Olympia, admitted energy rates would go up due to the transition from natural gas.
So, what can we expect to get in return? Unknown environmental impact. But we do know the stockholders will see the benefits, while customers will pay for it. Why pass a bill that's going to raise the cost for both residential and commercial customers, increase the costs of building, and slow new housing projects? This is bad policy.
Meanwhile, there was another extremely important bill that did not make it to the Senate because Democrat leaders decided not to bring it up for a vote. House Bill 1363, the vehicular pursuit law sponsored by Rep. Alicia Rule, D-Blaine, was intended to correct legislation passed in 2021. House Bill 1054 has given criminals a sense of freedom because they know getting to a vehicle means they can simply drive away from law enforcement.
The result is our communities have suffered. Instead of increasing public safety, this law has made things worse, by tying officers' hands and putting innocent people at greater risk. This experiment has failed and has had tragic consequences.
This year, a group of 40 legislators, 20 from each side of the aisle, offered a real solution. House Bill 1363 would've restored the initial pursuit threshold back to reasonable suspicion, instead of probable cause.
Despite being watered down, the bill made it out of both the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry and House Transportation committees. But that's as far as it got.
House Republicans used a procedural motion in attempt to bring the bill up for debate and a vote, but House Democrats blocked the motion, killing the bill. This is truly heartbreaking for our law enforcement partners and even more importantly, for neighborhoods and communities throughout Washington.
This legislation is critical and in some cases the results of the current law have been tragic. Recently, two children in Sunnyside were killed by a wrong-way drunk driver because police were not able to pursue him. State troopers attempted to go after the man about an hour before the accident, but current law doesn't allow it. This was a preventable tragedy that never should've happened.
Many of our communities are not safe. Law enforcement wants to help, but their hands are tied. They need this important tool restored so they can protect Washingtonians.
I know people have different opinions, but the fact is, both decisions by the majority party are going to hurt Washington. That's not good policy!
Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla represents Washington's 16th Legislative District.
As printed in the Prosser Record-Bulletin
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