Dear Friends and Neighbors,
While we have been out of session for a few months there is a lot happening in Whatcom County and Washington state. I wanted to give you an update on some things including the tax survey, information on my trip to an Alaska fish hatchery, legislation that recently become law, a possible state income tax and more!
We got an overwhelming response to the legislative survey sent out, thank you! The top issue on constituents' minds appears to be jobs and the economy. We also heard a good amount of feedback regarding taxes and our environment too. The most written about “other” concern was, by far, homelessness and the problems stemming from it. I will share more details once we get a thorough tabulation. I really appreciate your responses, they will help me better represent you!
Alaska fish hatchery
In mid-July, I went to Alaska with other elected officials, legislative staff and some of the business community from Whatcom County interested in locating a fish hatchery in our region. We toured the Douglas Island Pink and Chum, Inc. (DIPAC) hatchery.
The hatcheries in Alaska operate differently than in Washington. In 1972, when Alaska salmon runs were very low and threatened the commercial and recreation fishing industries, they started several nonprofit fish hatcheries. The hatcheries sell off the first portion of their salmon returns for cost recovery of their hatchery expenses. The DIPAC hatchery we toured produces over 100,000,000 million fish every year! The nonprofit hatcheries are not driven by profit, but increasing fish population. It has been wildly successful! We are hoping it is something we can model after in our state.
Laws going into effect
Last Sunday, my legislation that would streamline business and occupation tax filing dates for annual filers went into effect. The idea behind House Bill 1059 came from a mental health counselor in Whatcom County.
The filing deadline is moved to April 15 to coincide with the federal tax filing date
because many taxpayers do not receive 1099s until February or March and these annual filers end up having to filing extensions. It will alleviate the Department of Revenue from processing around 50,000 amendments or other requests for extensions.
The legislation applies to those who make $70,000 or less. It is expected to help an estimated 126,000 taxpayers.
Senate Bill 5579 also went into effect Sunday. This is the legislation that prevents North Dakota Bakken crude oil trains from being unloaded in Washington state when rail volume increases by 10%. Proponents of the bill claim it is because of its volatility. However, there is no reliable data to show Bakken crude oil is more volatile than other crude.
This legislation could end up costing our region good, family-wage jobs. We heard from many Cherry Point workers who are opposed to this legislation. Some visited us in Olympia. Click here to watch House Republicans speak against this debate against this legislation in an effort to preserve pro-union, family-wage jobs in Whatcom County.
The states of North Dakota and Montana have asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to overrule the Washington state law because it violates the interstate commerce clause. To learn more click 'Montana, North Dakota push against Washington state rail law.'
Putting an end to 'title-only' bills
In my end-of-session email update, I touched on the majority party's use of “title– only” bills. These are bills that are blank – and contain no language. Text is amended in later. The public is basically cut out of the legislative process not knowing exactly what is in the bill. While House Republicans are united in ending the use of title-only bills, Rep. Jim Walsh is taking the lead. He is drafting legislation that would:
- ensure a legislative committee cannot hold a public hearing on a bill unless it has been made public for 72 hours.
- require proposed substitute bills and striking amendments to be made public 72 hours before a vote in committee or either chamber.
- require bills to be voted on by a committee or the House and Senate must have had a public hearing in the same calendar year.
A state income tax?
On July 15, in a move that shocked the legal community, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled the city of Seattle has the authority to impose a local income tax. This nullified a 35-year-old ban enacted by the Legislature to prevent cities from taxing net income. The court determined the Legislature broke the constitutional rule that a bill should not address more than one subject.
While the court did rule the city's graduated income tax was unconstitutional because it is not applied uniformly, the ruling now giving them the leeway to pursue taxes on net income is very concerning. The city of Seattle is expected to take the issue to the Washington State Supreme Court requesting the court to overturn previous rulings on the unconstitutionality of income taxes.
House Republicans are working on legislation to prevent a local income tax once and for all. You have paid enough in taxes. Click here to learn more about our fight against state and local income taxes.
Interim activities around Whatcom County
Since session has adjourned, I have been traveling around Whatcom County meeting with constituents, touring local businesses, attending ribbon cuttings, speaking engagements and much more.
Please feel free to contact me with ideas or concerns you may have. I enjoy meeting with folks to discuss issues that matter to our region. I appreciate your input.
I am grateful to represent you, the people of Whatcom County!
Luanne Van Werven