The Legislative Tracker Blog is a forum for our local state Senators and Representatives to provide information about the work they are doing in the 2011 Legislative Session which began on Jan. 10, 2011.
OLYMPIA – A small registration fee for electric cars is necessary to keep the state’s transportation funds from eroding, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said Jan. 20 in a hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee.
“We all use the public roads, and here in Washington the major source of road funding is the gas tax,” Haugen said. “Electric vehicles don’t use gas, so they don’t contribute to the gas tax — but they still put wear and tear on our roads.”
Haugen’s Senate Bill 6377 would impose a $100 registration and annual renewal fee that would bring annual electric car fees in line with those paid by owners of hybrid and compact cars.
“While we want to continue to encourage the use of green vehicles, we also need to maintain our roads,” Haugen said. “This can maintain our funding without costing electric car owners any more than they’d pay in gas taxes. All we ask is that they pay their fair share to maintain the roads they use along with the rest of us.”
The $100 fee, on top of the $77 annual fees already paid by owners of electric cars, would result in an annual fee of $177. That compares to $197 for a compact car and $151 for a hybrid.
“Car dealers tell us these cars are selling faster than they can build them,” Haugen said. “That means we can expect to see more and more of them on the roads as production ramps up to meet demand, and it means we don’t have to worry that this small fee might discourage people from buying them. Nobody on a waiting list to buy a $30,000 vehicle is going to change their mind because of a $100 fee.”
Vote against bond bill was effort to save Washington taxpayers $63 million each year, $1.5 billion long-term
In a year that offers legislators and taxpayers a host of challenges, and when current tax revenue cannot pay for services promised to citizens, Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, was disappointed a bill to increase the state’s debt load by $861 million passed the House.
“This is not a jobs bill. This is a bill that would increase our debt obligation in the operating budget by more than $60 million annually,” Smith said. “It would add to our deficit and put education and other essential services at greater risk of additional cuts.”
House Bill 2561 would authorize the state to issue a 25-year, $861 million bond to retrofit public buildings for energy efficiency. With interest expenses, the total cost of this expanded debt proposal would be $1.5 billion over the life of the bond. The bond offering would require a public vote this November to go into effect.
Because adding the new bonding would cause the state to exceed its constitutional debt limit of 9 percent the Legislature is allowed to authorize, a public vote to issue the additional debt is required, Smith explained.
“This simply is not prudent,” said Smith. “We cannot borrow our way into prosperity any more than we can spend ourselves into it. Taxpayers would be on the hook for the payments on the bonds, which will cost them $63 million each year. How can we make such a massive financial commitment with other people’s money when we cannot even fund the current level of government services the majority party has promised? I support common-sense proposals that create sustained job growth in the private sector, but this bill does not do that. Future generations would be forced to pay for the decisions made today. That is not fair or responsible.”
Any financial savings from the energy efficiency measures the bill authorizes will stay with the school district. This means taxpayers would be paying the bonds directly through tax collections rather than using the savings from the upgrades to pay off the bonds, Smith explained.
Smith supports the House Republicans’ “Made in Washington” pro-jobs agenda, which focuses on government reforms and efficiencies to help retain and create private-sector jobs statewide.
“More spending is not the answer – more efficiency, smarter government and real reforms to workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance payroll taxes are the solutions that will put people back to work,” Smith said. “By creating a healthy employer environment, we will grow state revenue by putting some of the 334,000 people out of work back on the job, paying taxes and contributing to community growth and vitality.”
The annual debt service on the bonds would cost taxpayers $63 million for 25 years at 5 percent interest. Sixty-three million dollars is just shy of the governor’s suggested budget cut to school levy equalization. It is the same amount the governor’s budget would cut from all-day kindergarten, almost as much as the state pays for annual parks maintenance, and is equal to the amount the state would spend on family and child health and safety through the state Department of Health over two years.
The bill passed the House 57-41. It will now head to the Senate for consideration.
38,000 construction jobs to fix public schools and universities
OLYMPIA — The first bill to pass the House of Representatives will create 38,000 construction jobs in every corner of Washington state, says the bill’s author, Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish).
“There are 40,000 construction workers standing in the unemployment line in Washington state,” Dunshee said after the House voted 57-41 to pass the Jobs Act of 2010. “This bill is about putting those good people back to work. It’s about opportunity, hope and innovation, and the jobs we’ll create will make our public schools safer, more energy efficient and healthier for our kids.”
Dunshee said he studied what President Franklin D. Roosevelt did to lift America out of the Great Depression and what Republican Gov. Dan Evans did during the tough recession in the early 1970s.
“FDR and Dan Evans chose hope and courage over fear and despair,” Dunshee said. “Evans knew that the polls were bad for the jobs package he sent to the voters. But he wasn’t afraid, and voters approved five of the six measures Evans put on the ballot. FDR put America back to work. Evans put Washington state back to work — and that’s what this bill is about.”
Former secretary of state Ralph Munro, a Republican who worked for Gov. Evans during the 1970s, testified in front of the Capital Budget Committee in support of the idea. Munro said that before the hearing, he went to the state archives and re-read letter after letter that citizens wrote the governor, thanking him for putting them back to work.
“Washington state is home to the best workers in the world,” Dunshee said. “This bill will get people out of the unemployment line and let them put on their hard hats and pick up their hammers, to do what they are meant to do, what they love to do, and they’ll build a better Washington for us. Taxpayers will save $190 million a year in lower energy costs and they’ll build us a better Washington, with safer, healthier schools and universities.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, and Dunshee said that a short session means citizens who support the Jobs Act need to contact their senators right away.
“We’re only here for 60 days this year, and it’s easy to kill a bill,” Dunshee said. “If you care about this issue and want to create these 38,000 jobs to fix our public schools, talk to your lawmakers. Send them an e-mail or call the toll-free hotline at 800-562-6000.”
10th District lawmaker continues to work on behalf of law enforcement officers
Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, has been named 2009 Legislator of the Year by the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs. The 10th District lawmaker was recognized for her efforts on behalf of Washington state law enforcement officers in a ceremony last week.
“Public safety is a top priority for Representative Bailey. She has always been supportive of our issues and a friend of law enforcement,” said David Hayes, who holds Position #2 with the Council. “Representative Bailey listens intently, is receptive and gives us good feedback. She cares about people — that is always evident.”
The Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs is a professional organization that has protected the rights and quality of life for sworn Law Enforcement Officers before Washington state legislators for more than 35 years.
44th District lawmaker also serves as Seattle police officer
Law enforcement and corrections officials, a judge, family members and other officials testified before the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee Monday night, Jan. 18, reviewing the events which led up to four Lakewood police officers being murdered in late November. This morning, the same committee listened to testimony on bills reflecting lessons learned.
Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, testified in favor of a constitutional amendment he has sponsored to change bail allowances. He originally sponsored a bill to prevent bail only for those being charged with a third-strike felony offense. At the request of the governor, Hope sponsored a new constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 4220, that would prevent bail for a suspect if detention of the person before trial is the only way to “reasonably assure public safety.” Hope said the new bill heard today has broader protection for the public and he is grateful for the bipartisan work to make much-needed reforms in public safety.
“The judge in the Maurice Clemmons case didn’t have the opportunity to deny bail to Clemmons, a dangerous, repeat offender. This is our chance to do the right thing, to not just respond, but to act on what is required of us: to protect the public,” Hope said. “Many believe it is reasonable that someone who has committed multiple violent crimes should not be allowed on our streets while awaiting trial for another offense. We cannot give the same felons more chances to harm more police officers and the public. This is about putting our families before felons.”
Some concerns were raised in the hearing about limiting bail for individuals and the presumption of innocence for anyone charged with a crime. “Allowing a judge to have discretion to prevent bail to a suspect the judge perceives to be a major threat to the community doesn’t mean that person is automatically guilty of a crime,” Hope said. “Denying bail simply says that we aren’t willing to take the risk of allowing that individual to interact in our communities.”
Hope has also introduced House Bill 2931 regarding punishments for those who assist suspects sought in a first-degree murder. He had originally proposed changing punishments for those suspected in a police murder only. “Those who aid someone in a violent crime or hide them from law enforcement should face greater penalties just as the suspects they have helped will face greater penalties,” Hope said. “We have to send a message that you cannot assist someone who has murdered another person and get away with it.”Hope has also co-sponsored House Bill 1679 to address the story of Jason McKissack, a fellow Seattle police officer. While on duty two years ago, McKissack was beaten and sustained permanent injuries. As a result of current state law, McKissack cannot receive health insurance benefits because he cannot return to the line of duty. The McKissack bill would allow law enforcement officers and firefighters to receive health insurance benefits if they are permanently disabled in the line of duty.
“We must make sure his benefits stay the same until he can be covered by long-term disability,” Hope said. “He was out there risking his life to save another person, and now he and his family should be completely taken care of.”
With more than 320,000 people out of work (including 7,720 within the 39th District), I believe one of the top priorities of the 2010 legislative session should be to address the unemployment issue and pass legislation that helps to stimulate job creation in the private sector.
Putting people back to work will not only help their families, but it is also the responsible way for the Legislature to address our state’s budget challenges. A strong economy makes people less reliant on government services and at the same time generates the revenue that helps us carry out the core functions of government. Simply raising taxes to cover the state’s $2.6 billion budget shortfall, as the governor has suggested, has the opposite effect. It puts a greater burden on our economy and on employers and families who are already struggling.
My House Republican colleagues and I have created a jobs agenda for the 2010 session. We call it the “Made in Washington Plan” out of respect to the hard-working people in our state who produce quality goods and services. The following is an outline of that plan:
1. Protect jobs by revitalizing Washington’s economy and attracting new investment.
* Reform the state’s costly and complex workers’ compensation system.
* Protect unemployment insurance improvements passed into law during the 2009 session.
2. Provide regulatory relief by reforming government services to ease burdensome and costly regulations.
* Require agencies to issue permit decisions within 90 days or the permit is automatically granted.
* Require new state agency rules be reviewed by the Legislature before being adopted.
* Put burden of proof in agency rule disputes on the agency instead of the citizens.
* Give employers 48 hours to correct mistakes before an agency can issue a fine or penalty.
3. Increase affordable, renewable energy supply.
* Adopt policies that will lower energy costs for employers and families, and increase our energy supply to give job providers a competitive advantage.
* Recognize hydropower as a renewable resource.
* Reduce red tape and provide incentives for constructing new energy cogeneration facilities that provide clean, low-cost power.
4. Protect workers’ health care with reforms that reduce costs and protect consumer choice.
* Create a flexible “core benefit” plan for employees.
* Allow consumers to choose health insurance plans across state lines.
* Prevent lawsuit abuse.
* Create an affordable “core benefit” plan for young adults ages 19 to 34.
We believe our leaders should be exhausting all resources and making every effort to attract jobs and retain the precious family-wage jobs we already have. It won’t happen if the state continues to add costs to employers, such as higher taxes, increased workers’ compensation rates and higher unemployment insurance premiums.
The legislative session is scheduled to continue until March 11. Please join with us in supporting this plan so that the words “Made in Washington” will mean something again. More information about our plan can be found on our Web site at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov.
EDITOR’S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.
OLYMPIA – Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen is approaching this year’s legislation session with a three-pronged focus — fixing the state revenue shortfall, addressing the needs of constituents, and doing it without spending money.
“I think everyone understands the economic crunch we’re in. We have nearly $3 billion to make up in lost revenues, and that’s going to be extremely difficult,” Haugen said. “But at the same time, that doesn’t mean our local problems just go away. There are issues we need to fix, and many of them we can fix without spending money.”
In Haugen’s farm-friendly 10th District, those things often translate into agricultural issues that need to be addressed — as demonstrated by three of her early bills this session. All three came in response to direct requests from constituents.
Senate Bill 6208 would give farms the right to post temporary directional signs along the road for fruit, berries and other seasonal produce regularly sold by local farms. Though this practice is commonplace, the signs are actually illegal under state law.
“Our farmers have relied on these signs to sell fruit and vegetables for as long as I can remember. It is part of our way of life,” Haugen said. “It’s good for our farms, it’s good for all of us who want fresh produce, and it’s good for our community — and I want to make sure it continues.”
SB 6211 would designate an area of Snohomish County between Starbird Road and Bow Hill Road as an agricultural scenic corridor — an area that showcases the state’s agriculture and promotes the maintenance of agricultural areas.
“Our farmlands are what give our region its character and beauty, and we can never do too much to preserve these things,” Haugen said. “I’m always looking for more ways to protect our farmlands.”
The third bill, SB 6210, directs the state to analyze factors that have led to declines in the amount and use of agricultural lands as well as factors that affect retention and economic viability in the future, including pressures to convert farmland to non-agricultural use. The bill further directs the Department of Ecology to better identify potential impacts to agricultural resources. The department would adopt a checklist that addresses:
* whether new proposals would affect agricultural land;
* how much agricultural land would be converted to non-agricultural use as a result of a proposal;
* whether a proposal would affect the ability of adjacent agricultural landowners to continue farming;
* whether a proposal would affect agricultural drainage;
* whether a proposal would affect or interfere with normal agricultural operations; and
* whether a proposal would result in placing or removing agricultural soils from the site.
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen represents the 10th District.
Several days ago, I received the following messages from local business owners:
Dear Rep. Kristiansen,
My company is already challenged without the increased proposed taxes to compensate for budget deficits that weren’t made by my company. These tactics only make me NOT want to become an employer, but subcontract out my overflow work. Because my cash flow is not where it needs to be, I am without health insurance myself. The American people need jobs!
Dear Rep. Kristiansen,
I recently received the 2010 Employment Security Tax rate notice to find that my company rate was increased by 271 percent. Our company has an extremely good record of not laying off any employees for the past 10 years. It is unconscionable to expect that small business can accept anything near a 271 percent increase in any taxes. If the governor and the Legislature expects to keep small business in this state they must relieve the small business person from this kind of increase.
This is a sampling of what employers in Washington face every day. The recession has made it difficult, but when government adds more taxes and costs to employers on razor’s edge, it’s little wonder that employees are laid off and more than 320,000 people are out of work. Here in the 39th District, 7,720 people filed for unemployment in November. That’s nearly the size of the populations of Concrete, Granite Falls and Sultan combined.
My House Republican colleagues and I believe job creation in the private sector should be the highest priority of the 2010 legislative session. That’s why we have introduced our “Made in Washington” agenda, which focuses on preserving employees’ existing jobs and creating new ones to get people in Washington working again.
Our plan’s first component is: “Put people back to work by reducing employer costs.”
We propose to accomplish this goal making reforms to improve the state’s costly and complex workers’ compensation system and reducing unemployment insurance costs.
Washington is one of only four states with a workers’ compensation insurance system that is a state-run monopoly. When rates are being lowered in other states, the Department of Labor and Industries in Washington just raised workers’ compensation rates by an average of 7.6 percent. This comes at the worst time for employers and employees, both of whom pay into the system.
Employers have made workplaces safer. In fact, the number of workers’ compensation claims has dropped 55 percent since 1990. Yet, premiums have increased by more than 40 percent over the last five years. This suggests an inefficient system.
Our proposed reforms include:
1. Freezing premiums immediately. This would give employers some financial certainty in the coming year.
2. Eliminate the state-run monopoly on workers’ compensation insurance by allowing private insurers to compete and offer a product to employers at a better rate with more choices as is already being done in 46 other states.
When West Virginia privatized its workers’ compensation system, premiums dropped by 30.3 percent. Other states enacting similar reforms have experienced lower costs. Washington is one of the last states that has not provided comprehensive reforms.
When we reduce employers’ costs, it frees up money so they can hire again. When people are working, they become less reliant on government services, and at the same time, they generate the revenue that helps us carry out the core functions of government. It’s a winning solution for all.
To see more of our solutions in the Made in Washington plan, go to my Web site.
EDITOR’S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at 360-786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.
Measure would offer safe harbor for minors, steep penalties for violators
OLYMPIA — In association with Human Trafficking Awareness Month initiatives at the Capitol, Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, is introducing a bill to help stop the sexual exploitation of children and severely punish those who take their innocence.
“Thanks in part to the explosion of child pornography on the Internet, the demand for child prostitutes is skyrocketing,” Stevens said. “This has resulted in the recruitment and coercion of countless minor children and teens into prostitution. It’s happening in every major city worldwide, including cities in Washington. Buyers will pay hundreds–sometimes thousands–of dollars for a young child. If passed, Senate Bill 6476 would dramatically increase penalties for recruiting, selling, transporting or purchasing underage children for sexual purposes.”
SB 6476 would raise the promotion of commercial sex abuse of a minor (“pimping”) to a Class A felony, carrying a 7- to 26-year prison sentence and a maximum $5,000 fine. Now it’s a Class B Felony, which carries a minimum sentence of just 1.75 years. The bill would elevate commercial sex abuse of a minor (buying) from a Class C felony with a $550 fine to a Class B felony, with a 1.75- to 12-year sentence and an additional $5,000 fine.
“With adult prostitution, law enforcement officers are trained to arrest and charge the prostitute, only marginally addressing the seller and buyer,” Stevens said. “Minors kidnapped or coerced into prostitution are victims. They had no choice. These children and young teens are so abused they don’t know who to trust. They have no safe place to go. To treat them as criminals simply adds another bad dream to an already nightmarish existence. My bill would provide these exploited children with a safe haven, where they can be helped out of bondage and into a new life.”
Stevens, who recommends visiting www.enddemand.org for additional information on this world-wide problem, said her bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee.
Sen. Stevens represents the 39th Legislative District, which includes part of rural King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
By Rep. Kirk Pearson
The 2010 legislative session began Jan. 11 and is scheduled to last 60 days. During the first week of session, here are some of the highlights of bills I am sponsoring and cosponsoring as well as other items of interest to our district:
House Bill 2427: I sponsored this bill as part of my work with the state Attorney General, Rob McKenna. This is a critical piece of public safety legislation that would create greater punishments for repeat domestic abusers. The measure received a public hearing, where folks came in with great support and stories that made it clear why we need to get the worst of the worst repeat abusers off the streets and away from their victims.
The bill was passed out of the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, on which I serve as the lead Republican on Jan. 13. It is now headed to the House Rules Committee where it will await a full vote of the House.
House Bill 2424: I cosponsored this measure to help strengthen our laws and punishment for adults who exploit children by viewing and downloading minor children in sexually explicit situations. I believe each time an image of abuse of a child in this horrific fashion is viewed, the child is victimized again. By outlining stricter laws that capture and convict repeat clients accessing this heinous material, we can start to get at those who use the Internet to repeatedly view child pornography.
It’s time to update our laws to reflect the technology used today – mostly electronic – to find photos and files with depictions of children being abused sexually. This is a good public safety step to finding and stopping the spread of this terrible underbelly of our society. The bill was passed out the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee on Jan. 13 and is now headed to the House Rules Committee where it will await a full vote of the House.
House Bill 2195: This consumer protection measure would revive Washington’s restrictions on credit card interest rates. Washington has had a Usury Rate law, which is 12 percent or 4 percent above the Treasury Bill Rate as calculated by the Federal Reserve, since statehood that already allows for this. I believe it’s the right thing to do.
This bill received a public hearing in the House Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee Jan. 12.
House Bill 2533: In December, I learned about a fellow wandering around Mount Vernon who was wanted back in Florida to fulfill a mental health treatment requirement as part of his release from authorities. However, since both Washington and Florida have not signing the Interstate Compact on Mental Health we could not send the fellow back to Florida for treatment. This bill will fix the oversight.
The measure would require the state to adopt the Interstate Compact on Mental Health, which would allow Washington to extradite a person of unsound mind who is wanted in another state for failing to meet the terms of their release from incarceration, specifically related to mental health treatment.
This bill will receive a public hearing on Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. in the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Changing gears: Jobs and the economy and the governor’s state of the state address
During the first week of session, House Republicans rolled out our “Made in Washington” agenda that is centered on jobs and the economy. We believe that private-sector job growth and retention will get us out of this recession. Our plan would:
* Cut the government red tape and cost of hiring folks so employers can put people back to work;
* Foster a quality education system for every child in the state;
* Create affordable and accessible, market-based health care for all;
* Support policies that create abundant, clean and renewable energy in ways that keep costs low for families and employers; and
* Construct a budget process that promotes fiscal responsibility and spends based solely on current revenue, not on new or higher taxes.
Finally, the governor gave her annual state of the state address Jan. 12. And, while I agreed with her on her point that jobs will lift our state out of the recession, I hope she is focused on helping the bulk of employers in the 39th District and statewide – small businesses.
Growing government jobs will only serve to commit state taxpayers to funding bigger government for years to come. It’s our private employers who generate wealth for families and fill state coffers with money that is used to pay for critical services like education, public safety and programs for our state’s most vulnerable.
My sleeves are rolled up! I welcome your thoughts on these and other issues. My door is always open and I can always be reached by phone at (360) 786-7816 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you.
Rep. Kirk Pearson is the Republican leader on the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee. He represents Western Washington’s 39th Legislative District.