Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are over one-third of the way through the legislative session. On Monday, we reached the first major policy cutoff date, the house of origin “policy cutoff.” That means policy bills that did not pass their respective committees in their house of origin by 5 p.m. Monday are likely “dead” for the remainder of the session.
Since my last email update there is plenty to update you on – South Central Region is in Phase 2, a proposed Republican budget, and COVID relief legislation.
All counties are in Phase 2
On Thursday, Feb. 11, Gov. Inslee moved all but the South Central Region (Kittitas, Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla and Columbia counties) in his “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan. This was frustrating and disappointing for the region as folks have been diligent in following the guidelines to advance to the next phase.
However, on Sunday the Department of Health announced some of the COVID admission numbers from a Walla Walla hospital had been misreported. Once the error was corrected the South Central Region was moved to Phase 2 with the rest of the state.
The concern now is how to get to Phase 3. Unfortunately, we don't know what Phase 3 entails. The governor was asked at his press conference on Tuesday how regions can get to Phase 3.
His response was: “We have not identified that,” Inslee said. “We just put the finishing touches on Phase 2.”
House Republican leadership has requested the governor to “clearly define Phase 3 in the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan.” Hopefully we hear soon, so communities, businesses and schools can continue to move forward, in a safe and responsible manner.
House Republicans release – real solutions budget
On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled a proposed 2021-23 operating budget. This is not something the minority party usually does, but it is important we show that an operating budget can be crafted without raising taxes and still fund existing needs and vital services. Click here to read Republican budget lead Rep. Drew Stokesbary's news release. Below is the framework for our budget proposal.
The majority party has introduced numerous tax proposals this session. The House Republican budget does not include any new taxes and actually reduces taxes by $445 million. This is a real solutions budget proposal that prioritizes working families, students, vulnerable people, and small businesses.
COVID relief legislation
On Feb. 1, the House passed House Bill 1368 that would allocate $2.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding. I voted “no.” The legislation didn't go nearly far enough as it could have, and House Republicans tried to improve the bill and provide more relief to struggling families, small businesses and schools. We offered six amendments to:
- safely reopening schools;
- assist students who have fallen behind;
- provide rental and utility assistance;
- ease financial burdens on working families;
- help child care providers; and
- support small businesses.
The majority party accepted just one amendment. The Republicans offered a different plan, the REAL Recovery for Washington Act. It would have provided approximately $4 billion in relief for working families, small businesses and public health – much more than the $2.2 billion offered by the majority party's plan. The chart below provides a comparison of the two plans.
The bill has passed the Senate and awaits the governor's signature. There will be more COVID relief legislation this session, but this is a missed opportunity to help those who truly need it and now. This is also something we could have done if the governor would have called the special session like we had requested the last 10 months.
The legislative session is just not the same without in-person meetings, hearings and floor action. With that I urge you to stay engaged. Click here to learn more about how you can stay involved. You can watch all committee and floor action on TVW here.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any ideas, concerns or questions. It is an honor and privilege to represent the 15th District!