Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are in the second week of the 2018 legislative session. The short, 60-day session is always fast and furious as it feels like we are trying to pack so much into a short session. There has already been plenty of committee meetings, public hearings and floor action.
In this legislative update I will provide you an update on the passage of a Hirst solution and the capital budget, overview of Gov. Inslee's carbon tax plan, talk about a few bills I am working on and tell you how you can keep an eye on Olympia from Whatcom County.
Legislature passes Hirst fix and capital budget – await governor's signature
After extensive negotiations during the interim and into the legislative session, a Hirst solution was finally agreed upon. We passed the Hirst solution, Senate Bill 6091 and the capital budget on Thursday night.
The Hirst fix addresses many of the concerns we had in Whatcom County after the court ruling. It provides some certainty and a long-term solution surrounding our state's water law. Those who have had their lives on hold because they could not access water can breathe a sigh of relief. The legislation grandfathers in existing wells and removes the burden the court put on the counties to find their own legal water.
A Hirst solution also means that many Whatcom County projects can move forward with the passage of the capital budget. Projects such as the Whatcom Community College Learning Commons, Lynden's Pepin Creek project, Ferndale Pioneer Park ADA walkway and the Ag Center at the NWWA Fairgrounds.
Both parties should be commended for their work. We are expecting the governor to sign the Hirst bill and the capital budget.
Rep. Van Werven and colleagues enter the House of Representative on opening day.
Gov. Inslee's carbon tax
In the governor's State of the State address on day two, he spent most of his time talking about climate change and his carbon tax plan. Under the governor's proposal, carbon emissions generated by transportation fuels and power plants would be taxed at $20 per metric ton beginning July, 2019. The tax would increase by 3.5 percent each year, plus inflation.
It is projected to raise $1.5 billion over the first two years, and $3.3 billion over four years. While the tax is paid for by power plants and fuel importers, the citizens of Washington will end up paying for it. The governor's own staff indicated we could see a 4-5 percent increase in electricity bills, 10 percent increase on natural gas, and anywhere from a 6-9 percent increase on fuel prices, or approximately 18 cents more a gallon.
The tax would hit those who can least afford it. It will increase costs to keep homes warm, grocery prices will escalate as transportation costs go up, and paying more at the pump will affect our commuters who have travel to their job. I am also concerned it may impact the competitiveness for certain jobs and industries. I fear we could lose business to neighboring states. You may recall, a more modest carbon tax proposal failed at the ballot box in 2016 with 58 percent statewide opposing Initiative 732.
It may be difficult for the governor to get his proposal passed. He would need 100 percent support from legislators in his party and some do not sound very enthused to support his plan.
House Bill 2434 would freeze the 2018 state property tax levy for basic education at 2017 levels – $1.89 for each $1,000 of assessed value. This legislation would protect taxpayers from property tax increases as a result of levy reform passed by lawmakers last session. You can read the news release from Rep. Vincent Buys and I here.
House Bill 2324 would require higher education institutions to submit annual reports to the governor and Legislature about incidents involving freedom of expression on campus. We have a wealth of higher education opportunities in the 42nd District. We want to ensure those institutions, as well as institutions across the state, are providing students the opportunity of freedom of expression, and protection their First Amendment rights.
I have three other bills that are making their way through the legislative process. These issues have been brought to me by constituents or as a result of my outreach around the state.
- House Bill 2307 – fish and wildlife data
- House Bill 2306 – veterans/concealed pistols
- House Bill 2305 – B&O self-employed due date
I will keep you updated as the bills progress.
Reps. Van Werven and Buys drop their property tax reduction bill.
Rules Committee appointment
I have recently been appointed to the House Rules Committee. I am honored to receive this appointment. The committee considers bills that make it out of the policy and fiscal committees and determines whether or not to schedule their consideration on the floor of the House. The Rules Committee also reviews, adopts and schedules consideration of floor resolutions.
Following the legislative session
I often get asked 'what is the best way to follow what is happening in Olympia?' Below are some links and websites to follow my work for our district, as well as keep up on what the Legislature is doing.
- Capitol Buzz: It is a daily electronic clip service with headlines and stories from media outlets around the state – newspaper, radio, television. Click here to subscribe – no cost.
- Check out my Website: http://luannevanwerven.houserepublicans.wa.gov/. Here you can find my news releases, email updates and bills I have sponsored.
- Photos: Access my photo gallery here.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-Span, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live: www.tvw.org
- Legislature's Website: You can get bill reports, track legislation, view committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature at: www.leg.wa.gov.
If you have any questions, thoughts or concerns or if you are going to be in Olympia, please don't hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at (360) 786-7980. I look forward to hearing from you!
Luanne Van Werven