Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are more than one-third of the way through the 2019 legislative session. Two important deadlines are rapidly approaching: the House policy committee cutoff (Feb. 22); and the House fiscal committee cutoff (Feb. 28).
The legislative committee calendars have been full of public hearings the last few weeks as the committee deadlines approach. Any bills that have not been passed by their respective committees by the cutoff dates are considered “dead” unless they are deemed “necessary to implement the budget” or (NTIB).
Some of us welcome the cutoff dates as it considerably reduces the number of bills we are dealing with, while also killing a lot of bad legislation. As of Wednesday, 2,164 bills had been introduced (1,150 in the House and 1,014 in the Senate). That averages out to more than 56 bills introduced a day since the session started on Monday, Jan. 14.
Legislation I am working on
If you have been to one of town hall meetings, participated in a telephone town hall or attended one of my legislative coffee hours you have likely heard me say, the best ideas for bills come from constituents. The folks in Whatcom County bring great suggestions, thoughts and concerns to the table. This session is a prime example of truly working on behalf of the district as many of my bill ideas have come from constituents.
House Bill 1059 was brought to me by a mental health counselor. This legislation would extend the business and occupation tax filing deadline for annual filers to April 15. These taxpayers are often self-employed and rely on other businesses to send them their 1099s in a timely manner. Currently, the annual filing deadline is January 31. However, due to federal deadlines, many taxpayers do not receive their 1099s until February or March.
House Bills 1701 and 1702 come from college students in Whatcom County. These bills begin to address the soaring cost of textbooks over the last 20 years. HB 1702 requires community and technical colleges to let students know whether “low-cost” materials are available during registration. “Low-cost” means $50 or less. HB 1701 is the same bill but pertains to our four-year state universities including Western Washington University, University of Washington, Washington State University, and the other regional schools. In addition to notifying students if low-cost textbooks are available they will also be notified when free online textbooks are used in college courses.
Rep. Van Werven with students from Meridian High School.
House Bill 1609 comes from a Bellingham resource and assessment center for foster care called Skookum Kids. The bill would direct the Washington State Institute of Public Policy (WSIPP) to study outcomes created by resource and assessment centers (RACs). These centers serve children in their first few days in foster care processing the trauma they have experienced and provides a soft landing for foster youth. RACs are some of the only services like this in the country, and there is a belief that foster youth served by these centers have higher successful outcomes. Without looking at the outcomes of the children served by resource and assessment centers, the impact of these centers is not known. The WSIPP is the appropriate entity to assess these programs.
House Bill 1962 comes from constituents concerned about the election process. It would require ballots be received by the county auditor or other designated elections officials no later than 8 p.m. on election day. Elections in Washington state tend to drag on for weeks. We all know when election day is. There is no reason we cannot submit our ballots in plenty of time to be counted. Oregon and Colorado already require this of their voters.
House Bill 1526 comes from constituents who are concerned about abortion after the stage of viability and the point when science has determined that pain can be felt, except in the case of a medical emergency.
Bad business bills
House Bill 1515, Senate Bill 5513, Senate Bill 5326 – The entrepreneurship of our state's self-employed and independent contractors has been under attack in the Washington State Legislature this session. I have been contacted by hundreds of hairstylists about legislation threatening their livelihood. There have been bills that would have done away with booth rental agreements for hairdressers and stylists, forcing them to go work for bigger employers and allowing the state to collect more business taxes. These folks are hard-working entrepreneurs, women and mothers who may be pursuing their dreams or need the flexibility of setting their schedules.
There are other bills aimed at making independent contractors and the self-employed obsolete. More than 1,000 hairstylists came to the Capitol Campus and did a fantastic job of organizing, but the bills we are seeing impact all kinds of self-employed and independent contractors, and threaten the livelihood of many who work at our Cherry Point industries. Let me be clear, we are talking about home care workers, the hospitality industry, custodial services, delivery workers, contractors, subcontractors, and many other occupations. Some of the proposals appear dead, but we must stay vigilant. Nothing is officially dead until the gavel falls on the last day of session. I can assure you I will strongly oppose any legislation that erodes our freedoms, especially when it is affecting jobs, livelihoods, and communities.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about this legislative update or the issues before us. I encourage you to stay in touch with my office. Your feedback is important to me.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you!
Luanne Van Werven