Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I have started my twelfth term in the Legislature. Each year is different from the last, with its own unique set of challenges. This session's challenges will be unlike any others as we work through unprecedented times and a distressing pandemic.
We are now in our second week of session. Lawmakers were in Olympia on opening day, January 11, to debate the rules for this year's session. The rules passed on a party-line vote, 55-39, requiring the 2021 session be conducted remotely through computer teleconferencing programs such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, rather than lawmakers being in Olympia in some capacity.
My colleagues and I are concerned about technological glitches with the virtual format, as well as accessibility and transparency. When conducting the peoples' business the Legislature should be open. Unfortunately, at this time, we are moving forward with the “virtual” legislative session.
Governor's inaugural address and Republicans response
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the governor gave his inaugural address.
My colleague Rep. Drew Stokesbary provided the Republican response, which you can watch or read here. His response focused on “real solutions” Republicans will be working on this session to help citizens and businesses recover including:
- Safely getting Washingtonians back to work, school, and a more normal life.
- Standing up for Washington families by opposing tax increases, including any form of an income tax, and working to make life more affordable.
- Holding Democrats accountable for mismanagement at all levels, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Protecting our communities by fully funding law enforcement, providing vital mental health services, and working to end the homelessness crisis.
- Reining in the governor's unilateral emergency powers.
I urge you to watch both speeches. It will give you opportunity to compare and contrast ideas and priorities as we focus on the legislative session.
Governor's proclamation powers
On Friday, the House debated Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402 which packages 26 of the governor's emergency proclamations and extends them until the end of the state of emergency or until the resolution is rescinded by the Legislature or the governor.
House Republicans agree with many of the policies contained in the proclamations but we are concerned about surrendering our legislative authority. The governor has been making decisions regarding the pandemic on his own since April. We are in session, where we can provide input, and be part of the decision-making process on the pandemic issues and proclamations. Our constituents elect us to be part of that decision-making process.
I would add there have been bills introduced this session to reign in the emergency powers including House Bill 1029.
I will be working on critical agriculture and water issues this session as the lead Republican on the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The committee reviews issues related to agricultural production, forest practices, forest fire protection, fisheries, wildlife, water and rural development.
I will also continue to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which I served on for a number of years, and was our lead budget writer. The committee considers the operating budget bill and related legislation, along with pension policy and compensation.
My third committee assignment is the College and Workforce Development Committee.
Follow the Legislature
While I am concerned about a virtual session, it does provide a great opportunity for those who want or need to testify remotely. The House has opened up remote testimony to all committees and all legislation.
To testify remotely, or submit written testimony, in the House of Representatives, click here.
To testify remotely, or submit written testimony, for bills being heard in the Senate, click here.
I also suggest checking out this website. It describes in detail how to remotely access the Legislative process in Olympia and contains many helpful links.
With the 2021 legislation session being “virtual” it is important you stay engaged in the legislative process. Here are some helpful websites to keep track of what is happening:
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process. Check it out!
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online. This will be an important tool with the session being “virtual.”
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any ideas, concerns or questions. It is an honor and privilege to represent the 15th District!