Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now past one of the major cutoff points of the legislative session. Here is an updated list of some of the more popular bills that are either dead or still moving through the process.
Universal Background Checks for Firearms Purchases
House Bill 1588, the bill that would mandate background checks on private firearms transactions, did not make it out of the House. There was a lot of media surrounding the efforts of this bill. Our new governor even gave out the private cell phone number of one of my House colleagues in order to lobby in support of the bill. After two days of arm twisting and heavy-handed politics, the majority party could not get enough votes to bring the bill up for a vote. As you know, I would have voted a resounding NO on this particular bill. If you want to read some of the media stories on the recent developments surrounding the bill, click on the stories below.
Supporters of this onerous legislation are already talking about turning this into an initiative this year. Stay engaged on this issue – you may have the final say at some point during the fall election season. Make sure you keep your friends and family updated. This attack on our 2nd Amendment rights is not going away anytime soon. If we snooze…well…you know how the saying goes: WE LOSE!
One of the bills heard this week in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was Senate Bill 5187. This bill would give people the right to protect their animals from wolf attacks. The bill simply authorizes the owners of livestock and domestic animals to kill a gray wolf without a permit or license if the predator is in the act of attacking or posing an immediate threat to livestock or pets. In my opinion, many livestock and pet owners in this state are being held hostage to an unrealistic standard when it comes to wolf predation. There are people and organizations behind the wolf recovery effort that are either ignorant of our rural lifestyle or simply don't care about the threat to animals and humans that wolves can pose.
If we're going to get this bill through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, we're going to need your help. If you are interested in this issue, I encourage you to contact committee members and urge the bill's passage so it can receive a final vote in the House and be sent to the governor's desk for signature. Committee member contact information can be located here: http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Committees/AGNR/Pages/MembersStaff.aspx. The toll-free hotline to contact committee members is 1-800-562-6000.
$10 Billion in new or increased taxes?
That's correct. If you added up all the tax bills introduced by the majority party in Olympia, it would amount to over $10 billion!! Of course we all know that not each and every one of these bills is going to pass – but the fact remains, there is still a strong desire in Olympia to raise your taxes. We've seen proposals to:
- Increase the state “death tax”
- Increase the state sales tax
- Introduce a state income tax
- Reinstate the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax
- Impose a 10 cent per gallon increase on fuel
- A new tax on ammunition and ammunition components
These are just a few of the proposals we've seen this year. And again, because the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for tax increases was struck down by the state Supreme Court after several Democrats and education organizations sued the state, any one of these new or increased taxes can be imposed with a simple majority vote.
Do we need new taxes? Hardly. The new state revenue forecast came out this week. Our state is expected to take in about $58 million more than previously forecasted for the remainder of the 2011-13 biennium. Because of “sequestration” impacts from the federal government, our revenues are expected to be down by about $19 million in the 2013-15 biennium and $48 million for the 2015-17 biennium. With a budget that hovers around $32 billion, and with the state expected to take in about $2 billion more in revenues during our next budget cycle, the argument for tax increases is a lame one.
Transportation GAS TAX? – Fix it before you fund it!
In my last e-newsletter, I told you about the House Democrat's proposal to increase the state gas tax by 10 cents, along with an assortment of other tax and fee increases. My House Republican colleagues and I say that before the Legislature takes one more tax dollar from your pocket, we need to address the problems and the waste in our state's transportation system. We say, “Fix it before you fund it!”
Last week, we released our plan of economic and transportation reforms that would help create jobs, make gas tax dollars go further, ensure accountability and protect taxpayers. Here's a quick look at our plan:
- House Bill 1236 would require state agencies to make a permit decision in 90 days or the permit is granted.
- House Bill 1619 would suspend Growth Management Act requirements in counties with persistent unemployment, where regulations often stand in the way of economic development.
Making gas tax dollars go further
- House Bill 1985 would exempt future state transportation projects from state and local sales and use tax.
- House Bill 1986 would require WSDOT to report to the Legislature on engineering errors and mistakes that exceed $500,000. The report would need to explain how it happened, who was responsible, what disciplinary steps were taken, and what actions the transportation secretary recommends to avoid similar errors in the future.
- House Bill 1984 would limit WSDOT's tort liability based on the amount of the department's actual fault, instead of allowing plaintiffs to recover the entire judgment from the deeper pockets of the state.
- House Bill 1989 would limit bond terms for transportation projects to 15 years.
Raising taxes and throwing more money at the state's transportation system without implementing reforms would only enable more of the same problems of waste and failure. We need to make sure that every dollar taken from the taxpayer is used wisely and efficiently BEFORE asking for more of your hard-earned money. For more information on our “Fix it before you fund it!” proposal, click here.
Many of you joined with others around the state to take our online survey question about the gas tax. As of today, 86.7% of you said you didn't want to see the gas tax raised by 10 cents a gallon. Not surprising to me at all. But I will keep those numbers in mind – and remind my colleagues – if this issue comes up for a vote in Olympia.
Several of you have contacted my office asking for an update on my drone bill (House Bill 1771). It's dead. Despite bipartisan support, support from several daily newspapers in the state and support from organizations like the ACLU, the King County Sheriff's Office and the Washington Farm Bureau, it looks like companies like Boeing (which produces millions of dollars in drones) were able to convince others that profit is more important than privacy and the people's rights.
Thanks again for reading my e-newsletter. It is a privilege and honor serving you in Olympia.