Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now on day 39 of the scheduled 105-day session. To date, nearly one thousand bills have been introduced in just over a month. All of the bills in policy committees have until tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 22, to be voted out. The pace is very fast and my days are filled with hearings, voting and meetings with groups and constituents. We also took our first votes on the House floor this week. I am happy to say that my bill to help our forestry industry, House Bill 1209, is scheduled for a floor vote tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 22.
So far only a handful of bills have been voted off the House floor and moved to the Senate. The bills we have passed are not controversial and had strong bipartisan support. This pattern is likely to continue for the remainder of the week with the exception of a few bills.
Universal Background Checks
One bill that is moving through the process is regarding universal background checks for firearms purchases. I have heard about this bill from many constituents and I appreciate your feedback. Rest assured I will vote “no” on this legislation.
House Bill 1588 mandates universal background checks for gun sales – even private sales. I believe Washington state already has strong gun laws. Criminals continue to break them and use guns for violence. However, guns are tools, not the cause. This bill does not address the root causes of gun violence – including mental health, gangs and economic despair. Additionally, this bill would be hard to enforce and unnecessarily burdensome on law-abiding citizens.
While this bill passed out of Judiciary Committee Tuesday, I believe that our solutions must consider the rights of the people first and foremost. If this bill comes to the floor for a vote, I will oppose it; in the meantime I will continue to actively support your rights.
At the start of this session, funding for the Belfair Bypass was a goal of mine. For too long we have had to deal with congestion that is easily fixable if the state would make it a priority. It is a key aspect of our community growth and one that impacts the quality of life in our district. However, yesterday the Democrat transportation budget was released. It has greatly reduced my belief that construction of the bypass is achievable this year. The budget proposed confirms the concerns of the people in our communities are not the priority of the majority party. You can see their project breakdown here.
This budget proposed a new 10-cent gas tax, which would unfairly burden people like us – people who live in rural communities. A large percentage of the citizens of the 35th District commute to work. Industry and businesses are so regulated that most people have no choice but to drive far distances for a job. Hardworking taxpayers should not be penalized for commutes created by previous mistakes of government.
While 10 cents might not sound like much, it would effectively make our gas tax the highest in the nation. When you add federal taxation to this proposed increase, Washington drivers will pay 66 cents for every gallon at the pump. I cannot support a transportation budget that unfairly burdens hardworking taxpayers. They cannot handle sending anymore money to Olympia or Washington, D.C. We can’t ask more from struggling families and employers without the assurance that help is on the way.
Additionally, our communities have already paid for failed projects and construction that only benefits citizens of urban areas. The last state gas tax increase built an off-ramp in the wrong place, a faulty ferry and flawed pontoons for the 520 Bridge replacement. The money we have spent on projects in Seattle could have paid for the Belfair Bypass many times over.
Before we even consider a new tax, of any kind, reforms are needed. And, not just transportation reforms, but an overhaul of the budget process that addresses out of control spending. House Republicans will talk more about reforms next week. I hope that, with the Senate as an example, Democrats will be willing to compromise for the betterment of all our communities – rural and urban.
I was proud to sponsor my son, Christian and high school sophomore, Alycia Gerou, as a pages from Feb. 10 through Feb. 15. Christian is 14 and Alycia is 15. I felt that both kids were great examples of the bright kids and potential leaders from our district. During their week at the State Capitol they were an asset to me and the entire legislature.Seeing Christian serving as a page reminds me of why my involvement in public service is so important. I encourage you to have your children participate in the House page program.
Students must apply to participate in the legislative page program, must have a legislative sponsor, be between the ages of 14 and 16, and obtain written permission from their parents and school. For more information about the program, you can visit: http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Pages/HousePageProgram.aspx.
If there is any element of state government that I can help you with, my door is always open. I am here to be a resource for you. If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (360) 786-7902, or e-mail me at Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your voice in Olympia.