Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are over halfway through the 60-day legislative session. We have reached the point where most of the bills are dead or no longer under consideration. There are a lot of them this year. In fact, in the House alone this session there have been 737 bills introduced (through Thursday). Keep in mind that was only day 33 of session.
This time of session is a good reminder that being an effective legislator is not always measured by how many bills get passed. It's also being effective at stopping bad legislation. This session there are a lot of bills to be worried about – this year there seems to be no end to bills that raise or create new taxes.
Taxes, taxes and more taxes
Senate Bill 6203 is the governor's carbon tax plan. It would hit those who can least afford it. It would increase the cost to heat our homes, increase the gas tax, and grocery prices would go up with transportation costs. This bill is all pain and no gain, and in the end will have no significant impact on climate temperatures.
House Bill 1550 would raise B&O taxes, hurting our small businesses.
House Bill 1730 is a proposed capital gains excise tax, or another form of income tax. A recent poll shows 70 percent of citizens in Washington state are opposed to an income tax.
House Bill 1975 is the sugar and sweetener tax, which is modeled after the city of Seattle's policy, but on a larger scale – higher tax and statewide. This would hit our mom and pop businesses.
House Bill 1210 and House Bill 1611 are taxes on energy companies and would hit our refineries in Whatcom County. These refineries employee thousands of people and bring good, family-wage jobs to our region.
These are just of few of the tax bills before us this session. Most of these would be detrimental to our economy in one form or another and hurt our working families.
What is frustrating, is there is no need for all these tax proposals. We have record tax revenues coming in. You, the hardworking taxpayers of Washington, have sent more and more money to Olympia the last few years. I can assure you I will continue the good fight for the taxpayers in Whatcom County and Washington state and work to stop these and other unnecessary tax proposals.
With Democrats controlling both chambers, I have been hearing from gun owners there is a lot of concern this session about legislation impacting our 2nd Amendment rights. Several bills were introduced. Only one is still moving as most of the bills went too far even for Democrats. Here is a breakdown:
- Enhanced background checks and licenses for anyone buying modern sporting semi-automatic rifle and large-capacity magazine.
- A ban on most magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
- Authority for local governments to have stricter gun control laws than the state as a whole.
- A law to require firearms to be kept in “safe storage” facilities in a home.
- A ban on certain trigger modifications like “bump stocks.” This bill passed the Senate and is in the House.
I am a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and an individual's right to own legal firearms. I will not support any legislation that may appear to infringe upon those rights.
Abortion mandate legislation
It is with grave concern I must share that Senate Bill 6219, referred to as the “abortion mandate,” passed the Senate a couple of weeks ago and has already had a public hearing in the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee. The legislation would require all insurance companies in Washington state to pay for abortion services. The bill has no exemption for right of conscience or religious convictions. If this bill comes to the House floor, expect a strong debate with multiple attempts to amend. Regardless, I cannot support this legislation and will strongly oppose it on the House floor.
Expanding opportunities for career and technical college students
Working closely with a Democratic colleague I successfully amended House Bill 2177, legislation that would assist community and technical college (CTC) students earning certificates, credentials and associate degrees for high demand jobs in rural communities. My amendment added Whatcom County as an eligible county to receive Washington State Opportunity Scholarships. The Opportunity Scholarship program is a unique public-private partnership for low and middle-income students. This is a great win for local CTC students and rural Whatcom County employers.
Town hall meetings
Last week, Sen. Ericksen, Rep. Buys and I hosted a telephone town hall for residents of Whatcom County. At one point we had more than 570 people on the call. Thank you to everyone who participated.
We will also be holding a traditional town hall on Saturday, Feb. 17 from 2-4 p.m. at the Blaine Senior Center (763 G St., Blaine, WA 98230). We will give you an update on the 2018 legislative session and answer your questions. We look forward to seeing you there.
Last week I had the honor of sponsoring Madeline Swaney, a student at Lynden High School, as a page in the state House of Representatives. It was great to have her working on the Capitol campus.
Madeline is the daughter of Elliot Swaney and Caroline Austin-Swaney. She likes swimming and reading. Pages work on a culminating project and write a piece of legislation, then present the bill in a mock committee hearing to fellow pages.
Rep. Van Werven with Page Madeline Swaney.
Madeline took on a difficult topic for her culminating project. It challenged her and it was a good experience as she collaborated with other students. She should be proud of her efforts.
Our page slots have been filled this year, but if your son or daughter is interested in paging next year, please do not hesitate to contact my office. It is great to see the future leaders of Whatcom County working in Olympia. For more information click: House page program.
Luanne Van Werven