Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has been a busy first few weeks of the legislative session. In this email update I touch on a couple of concerning issues that have come up recently – limiting the people's right to initiative or referendum, and the passage of the controversial low-carbon fuel standard.
I will also share some legislation Republicans are looking at to address the affordable housing crisis and a recent press conference we held to discuss our salmon hatchery plan for the Puget Sound.
Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments on the legislative issues in this email update or any other bills before us this session.
Suppressing voters' rights
House Democrats have sponsored legislation, House Bill (HB) 2529, that would ban initiatives and referendums in odd years while still allowing local government to run special elections to raise taxes every year. This an attempt to suppress our voting rights. This violates our state's constitution that gives voters the right to initiate or repeal legislation.
Additionally, last November voters defeated Referendum 88 after Democrats in Olympia passed a bill mandating affirmative action policies in the areas of public education, public employment and public contracting which overrode the voter-approved initiative from the 1990's. Under HB 2529, we would not have been able to vote on this referendum until Nov. 2020, a whole year later! Voters would also not have an opportunity to put any initiatives or referendums on the ballot after the Legislature's long session – when most of the tax increases are passed since odd-numbered years are when the two-year budgets are passed. Finally this would allow local tax increases to be on the ballot while denying Washingtonians their constitutional right of initiative and referendum in those same years — including options to push back tax increases. This legislation is blatantly anti-democratic. People hold the government accountable, not the other way around.
Homelessness is impacting our entire state – urban, suburban and rural areas. It is a complex issue varying person-to-person, including drug usage, lack of enforcement of current laws, and those who cannot afford a place to live. In addition to pushing for enforcement of current laws, we are working on affordable housing solutions. House Republicans have introduced a number of bills to address the affordable housing crisis:
- House Bill 2687 would plan for affordable housing under the Growth Management Act;
- House Bill 2452 would reduce the real estate excise tax (REET) for multiple-use housing;
- House Bill 1353 would modify zoning regulations related to accessory dwelling units;
- House Bill 1938 would create a local infrastructure investment program to support the development of affordable housing, workforce housing, and revitalization efforts;
- House Bill 2672 that would look at factors local governments may consider in determining the boundaries Limited Areas of More Intense Rural Development (LAMIRD); and
- House Bill 2673 concerns infill development under the state Environmental Policy Act.
House majority passes low-carbon fuel standard
On Wednesday night House Democrats passed a low-carbon fuel standard bill, House Bill 1110, aimed at reducing carbon intensity of transportation fuels. Unfortunately, this bill does almost nothing to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions and does not generate any new revenue for transportation.
We have two refineries in Whatcom County that provide great family-wage jobs and are a boon to our economy and communities. However, with this legislation it is becoming more apparent that this type of industry is no longer welcome in Washington state.
This will also negatively impact rural families and individuals who have to drive long distances to work and school as this legislation could increase the cost of gas by 57 cents per gallon and diesel by 63 cents per gallon. We already have one of the highest gas taxes in the nation and this tax puts an even greater financial burden on those who can least afford it. Click here to watch my floor speech.
The bill passed off the House floor by a vote of 52-44. The bill is now in the Senate.
Legislation for a new fish hatchery model
On Tuesday, I joined senators in a news conference to discuss my legislation, House Bill 2741 and the Senate companion bill SB 6509, that would increase hatchery production on Puget Sound. The bills would enhance the salmon population for Southern resident orcas, as well as our recreation, commercial and tribal fisheries. You can watch my remarks here. We have an incredible opportunity to restore our fisheries and leave a lasting legacy in our state with a self-sustaining fish hatchery plan. The pilot project would be launched at the Bellingham waterfront. We are working to get this plan through the Legislature.
If you plan to be in Olympia during the session, I encourage you to contact my office in advance to schedule a time to meet. It is always great to see the friendly faces from Whatcom Country during the session.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you!
Luanne Van Werven