Negotiations on the supplemental budget are the focus of our attention as we head into the final week of this year's 60-day regular legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 10.
Quite predictably, Democrats again want to raise taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars. My Republican colleagues and I are prepared to make reasonable budget adjustments to meet critical needs and responsible reductions for less government where possible. But I am also prepared to fight on your behalf against tax increases and wasteful spending.
Tomorrow is the last day opposite-house bills can be considered. After that, our time will be devoted exclusively to ironing out differences on legislation that has already passed both houses as we drive toward the session's scheduled last day of business next Thursday.
Thanks to your support, emails, letters and phone calls, we can also celebrate successful passage of several Freedom Agenda bills, many of which are heading to the governor to become law. Please read on for more information.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you. Together, we will continue to stand successful for lower taxes, less government and more freedom!
Freedom Agenda bills advance through Legislature
Your support and input makes a difference! It is why The Freedom Agenda has become the most successful slate of conservative legislation in Washington in more than 20 years. Here's the latest status on our 2016 Freedom Agenda bills:
- House Bill 1858 – Prohibiting the names of county auditors and the secretary of state from being included on ballot envelopes and in voters' pamphlets when running for re-election. Passed the House and Senate. Heading to the governor.
- House Bill 1918 – Modifying provisions applicable to off-road, non-highway, and wheeled all-terrain vehicles and their drivers. Passed the House and Senate Transportation Committee. Awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
- House Bill 2785 – Woodstove Protection Act. Read more about this great bill here. Passed the House and Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. Awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
- House Bill 1248 – Increasing jurisdictional limit for district courts to $100,000. Passed the House. Awaiting a vote in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Legalizing industrial hemp – Not the bill we wanted, but we'll take it.
As you know, I've been fighting for three years to get the Legislature to legalize the production and sale of industrial hemp in Washington.
Industrial hemp is used in many ways, from hemp milk to hempcrete, which is a mold and fire-resistant building material. Our founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew hemp. Benjamin Franklin even owned one of America's first paper mills, which processed hemp.
While I supported the Senate bill, I have concerns that it delays production for about a year-and-a-half. I worked feverishly to fix that delay, but to no avail.
I offered House Bill 1552 to legalize industrial hemp in Washington and create an entire new industry in Washington filled with jobs. Although the bill passed the House Commerce and Gaming Committee last year, it never gained traction this year. Instead, Senate Bill 6206 advanced and passed the House and Senate with a near unanimous vote, and is now heading to the governor. While not exactly what I was seeking, the Senate measure is a start in the right direction toward new jobs in Washington state.
This budget was passed off the House floor last Thursday on a narrow 50-47 vote — with one Democrat excused from voting. I voted no.
I remain concerned the operating budget continues to provide public funding for abortions. I supported Amendment 841, which would have prohibited the state Department of Health from paying for abortions not deemed medically necessary. It would have reduced funding for abortions by $5.5 million and redirected that money toward breast and cervical cancer screening. I also supported Amendment 842, which would have required the Department of Health to give a yearly report of state-funded abortions.
In addition, I offered Amendment 839, which would have prohibited the use of state funds to enforce the new Human Rights Commission rule that allows males who identify as transgendered individuals to use female bathrooms and locker rooms, and vise versa. Each of these amendments were rejected by House Democrats. In total, we offered 35 amendments, but only nine were accepted.
Due to the rejection of these amendments, the reliance on new tax increases, an overreliance on the Budget Stabilization Account and the use of an accounting gimmick to balance the four-year outlook, the House Democrats' flawed budget proposal becomes the BAD BILL of the week.
The good news is the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has proposed a more balanced, fiscally responsible alternative. It does not rely on new tax increases and does not raid the Budget Stabilization Account. You can find an overview here.
Act now to protect your right to keep warm with your woodstove!
A bill I authored that would allow people to use or install their woodstoves for heat during emergency power outages to protect lives, business and livestock, regardless of certification and whether a temporary burn ban has been issued, is awaiting action in the Senate. However, it needs your help!
Tomorrow, March 3 is the last day House Bill 2785 may be considered in the Senate, or it could be dead for the year. The measure would limit the authority of the Department of Ecology or local air authorities to restrict the installation or use of certain woodstoves during emergency power outages.
After the big storm in November left more than 250,000 homes in the Spokane/Inland Northwest area without power for several days, several people came to me afraid they might be penalized for installing a wood stove to protect their family, their health, or their business. We want to make sure it is very clear in the law that during an emergency, where there is a massive power outage like we experienced in Eastern Washington, people don't have to choose between their health and business or a fine.
Please contact Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler at (360) 786-7620. Ask him to bring the Woodstove Protection Act, House Bill 2785, to the Senate floor for a vote!
Watch my legislative video update
In this update, I talk about our successes, including passage of a couple of important bills that will allow manufacturing of short-barreled rifles in Washington state and a concealed weapons permit notification measure. Click here to watch.