Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is the fourth week of the legislative session. Today is the policy committee cutoff date – meaning any bills not voted out of their policy committees by the end of that day are likely dead this session. Tuesday is the deadline to pass bills out of the fiscal committees.
It is hard to believe we are already upon our first cutoff date. I am pleased the cutoff is rapidly approaching. While I am very concerned about a number of proposals being pushed by the majority party in the House, particularly on our employers including:
- House Bill 1313 – would establish minimum standards for sick and safe leave for employers with more than four full-time equivalent employees.
- House Bill 2238 – would require paid vacation leave for employees who work an average of 20 or more hours per week for employers with 25 or more employees.
- House Bill 2672 – would increase the minimum wage rate to $12 per hour over the course of three years.
While these may seem like proposals to benefit employees, it could actually backfire as our economy remains fragile, especially outside the I-5 corridor. Employers will have to make up the cost of these proposals elsewhere if they are passed into law. To address the mandates employers could:
- reduce overall benefits to employees.
- postpone hiring any additional employees.
- decide against filling a job after an employee leaves.
- look to automation and have technology/machines do the work.
- increase the price of their product or service to cover increased costs.
These proposals would also place more competitive disadvantages on our state for businesses looking to locate in Washington. They are simply more mandates on our small businesses struggling in our state’s economy.
House Republicans and Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (SMCC) push jobs agenda
Jobs and economy leaders in our caucus and from the SMCC focused last week on improving our economy and creating jobs. We hosted a press conference to push our jobs agenda. You can watch the press conference here. If you are interested in the economic solutions of Washington House Republicans, click: Let’s Get Washington Working.
As someone who has owned and worked in small business for many years, I understand the policies that are good and bad for employers. We must work on policies that encourage investment and job creation.
Governor proposes tax increases – again
Gov. Inslee held a press conference last week to announce his plan to raise taxes to address the recent state Supreme Court January Order on the funding of education under the McCleary decision. The governor wants to:
- Increases the tax on sales tax for trade-ins valued over $10,000. A family purchasing a $35,000 vehicle, and trading in a $15,000 vehicle, would see an increase on the sales tax paid of $450.
- Impose a tax on interstate transportation. We run the risk of starting a mini-trade war with retaliatory taxing from adjacent states and it could drive up prices for consumers.
- Impose a tax on recycled fuel used on-site in manufacturing. This tax exemption incentivizes recycling of fuel and the most efficient use, namely re-use at the same plant.
- Impose a sales tax on nonresidents. This will hurt job creation in border counties.
- Place the tax back on bottled water. This ignores the will of the voters. In 2010, the people passed I-1107, which repealed the sales tax on bottled water.
- Impose a sales tax on janitorial services. Another cost driver on our small employers.
- Increase the business tax on prescription drugs. This could drive up the costs of prescription drugs, harming those who use prescription the most – the elderly and the sick, who are also the least likely to afford an increase.
The governor’s proposed tax increases amount to approximately $400 million. He has also discussed income inequality and the shrinking middle class, yet these taxes will likely exacerbate the problem. Need I remind you, he also stated during his campaign that “no-new-taxes” were needed.
Abortion mandate bill passes House
Another piece of legislation moving through the legislative process I find concerning is House Bill 2148. This measure, often referred to as the abortion mandate bill, was voted out of the House of Representatives this week by a vote of 54-44. The legislation would require health insurance plans to cover abortions whether people want it or not. There was a lot of compelling testimony in committee and a passionate debate on the House floor. I believe the president of the Washington Women’s Network may have summed it up best during committee testimony with the quote “This bill is not about access to abortion. This is a bullying bill. It’s not about choice. It’s about taking away choice.” The bill is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
Legislation I am working on
There has been an increasing problem with our youth using over-the-counter cough syrups to get high. House Bill 2163 would require a person to show proof of age if purchasing any products containing dextromethorphan – the substance that creates the high. The House Public Safety Committee passed it last week. It is now scheduled for a hearing before the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Information Technology.
I also have a bill moving, House Bill 2139, that would require the Medical Quality Assurance Commission to establish a pilot project to evaluate the efficiency of a quality improvement program for physicians and physician assistants. If this proves effective it may be expanded to other health care professions. The House Health Care and Wellness Committee has passed this bill and I expect the full House of Representatives to vote on it in the next couple weeks.
I have also been meeting with the governor on health care and mental health issues. At the state level we need to make sure we are providing the best available mental health services and treatment options. Those suffering mental illnesses need proper care and treatment before it is too late and we end up with tragedies because of failed mental health systems. Our caucus is also looking at options to address some of the Obamacare glitches.
Finally, after 37 years in existence the Seattle Seahawks brought home a championship. As Coach Pete Carroll pointed out this is for all the Seahawk fans in the Northwest. The 12th Man craze isn’t just limited to the Seattle area. Many of us have been watching this football team for years. We can officially call them the “Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.” If you have time click the link and watch what makes Russell Wilson and many of the Seahawks champions off the field as well as on it. Video: Thank you to Russell Wilson.
It is an honor to serve the 17th Legislative District. Please let me know if you have any questions or need any assistance with a state issue.