Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Rep. Brandon Vick and I are holding a town hall meeting this Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Battle Ground City Hall at 11 a.m. The meeting will take place on the second floor in the city council chambers. We are inviting all 17th and 18th District constituents to attend. We want to provide a wrap-up on the legislative sessions that ended in June, talk about what to expect in the upcoming session, and what may be on the horizon for a transportation tax plan as well as the future of the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). We hope you can join us – Saturday, 11 a.m. at the Battle Ground City Hall.
Transportation tax plan?
The Senate has scheduled bipartisan transportation forums in different regions of the state. The Southwest Washington forum will take place on Monday, Oct. 7 and it will feature a presentation from regional transportation officials. The goal of the Senate is to gather input from citizens on building a new package of transportation projects and specific reform proposals. Given the challenges we are facing in our region with transportation, specifically the CRC, and the amount of taxes and fees proposed in the transportation tax plans during session, I would urge you to attend to share your concerns, comments and ask any questions.
The meeting will be held at the Vancouver Community Library, Columbia Room, 901 C St., in Vancouver and will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
As many of you know, much of my legislative focus is on health care since I serve on the House Health Care & Wellness Committee and I am the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services. I was also recently appointed to the Joint Legislative-Executive Committee on Aging and Disability. Lately, the attention on health care has been on the implementation on Obamacare. On Oct. 1, the state’s comparison-shopping health-benefit exchange will be launched and the uninsured and underinsured can start trying to find a coverage plan that will take effect Jan. 1.
I don’t question the intent of trying to find insurance for all, but whether this was the right way to do it remains to be seen. As you can see by the news links below, it has also raised a number of concerns and other issues. I have seen a number of employers cutting employee hours to avoid paying additional health care costs or cutting staff to be able to pay the health care costs for their employees. There are many other issues at play as well. Here is a look at some of the headlines:
- Obama’s Affordable Care Act Looking a Bit Unaffordable
- Even in over-regulated Washington state, Obamacare will increase individual health insurance premiums by 34-80 percent
- Health exchange board delays vote on 31 plans
- Washington state to spend $26M on advertising its Healthplanfinder
- UPS to drop 15,000 spouses from medical plan, citing Obamacare
- Opinion piece: Falling short of Obamacare’s goals in Washington state (by Dr. Ricardo Jimenez, medical director of Sea Mar Community Health Centers)
- Obamcare fraud prevention program plagued with implementation problems
We will do our best at the state level to make sure it is a smooth transition. However, given some concerns and delays of certain elements of the law made at the federal level, we may be looking at further changes during the legislative session.
If it is good for Boeing, why not all employers?
You may have heard Boeing is considering a new 777X facility near Boeing Paine Field. A recent news article: “Quick permits promised for a Boeing 777X factory” reported that if the company chooses to build the facility here in Washington state and local officials have committed to issue permits for the new facility in four weeks! Yes, you read that correctly – four weeks. Under normal circumstances, the permits we are talking about would typically be issued in 12 to 18 months.
I have continuously talked about our state’s business climate and burdensome permitting and regulation process. Our caucus has repeatedly pushed regulatory reform/permitting legislation. However, now that our state’s largest employer needs assistance our state agencies decided to jump into action. What about all the other small businesses who need help with permitting, licensing or other bureaucratic regulatory hurdles? About 96 percent of our state’s employers are small businesses, those with fewer than 50 employees. Just over 1.1 million people work for small businesses in Washington and they employ 41 percent of the state’s private sector workforce.
State agencies need to consider small employers when there are regulation changes, permitting issues, licensing, etc. The Boeings and Microsofts have the staff and ability to handle those rule and regulation changes easier than our small employers. Our small businesses are the ones who will dictate when our economy bounces back. They will hire and invest when there is obvious certainty and stability in the business climate.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions, comments or concerns related to state issues. I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy their summer. I look forward to seeing you at the town hall on Saturday. If you cannot attend the town hall meeting this weekend, please feel free to send me an e-mail with your comments and concerns.
Thank you for the privilege and honor of serving the 17th Legislative District.