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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our state is facing a growing number of challenges, including:
- A homelessness crisis that has only gotten worse.
- A police officer recruitment and retention crisis.
- A bottom 10 ranking in housing affordability.
- Drug overdose deaths at an all-time high.
- Violent crime at a 25-year high.
- A child care affordability and accessibility crisis.
- Heartbreaking outcomes for children in our foster care system.
- An increase in data breaches, including a 500% increase last year.
- 2.7 million acres of unhealthy forests, which contribute to catastrophic wildfires.
- Significant cost overruns for transportation projects.
Despite all of these challenges, many of which have gotten worse due to bills passed in previous sessions, very little progress is being made to fix them. In my last update, I shared the bills House Republicans have sponsored this session to provide tax relief and make life more affordable, make our communities safer, hold state government accountable, and empower parents to help their children succeed in school and in life. Most of our bills have been ignored by the majority. Of those that have been given a public hearing, many will not survive cutoff.
Losing votes and seeing bills killed is part of being in the minority in the Legislature, but I would hope the majority's reason for killing them is because they believe they have more compelling solutions. That would make sense to me. However, I'm not seeing their compelling bills to fix the homelessness crisis, lower taxes, crack down on crime, make housing more affordable, improve accountability at our state agencies, and so on. I'm seeing a majority content to punt on major problems that are affecting people's lives and livelihoods.
Take the long-term care program and payroll tax, for example. One of the first actions the majority took was to delay the program and tax for 18 months. While that buys them some time, it's not a solution. As I mentioned in my last update, based on the 2020 actuarial analysis, the program will only be solvent until 2075. And that 2075 projection was based on a higher payroll tax rate and the assumption that 105,000 employees would opt out of the program. Instead, 450,000 employees have opted out and are now paying for private plans they likely never wanted. Meanwhile, those who stayed in the state program get to enjoy an 18-month delay. That's fundamentally unfair. The majority doesn't seem to have answer for that, or for those who are wondering how they're going to make this unpopular and inadequate program solvent in the next 18 months.
Let's talk about public safety. Earlier this year, Republicans unveiled the Safe Washington Plan, which contains a suite of bills focused on stopping crime, supporting law enforcement, and putting victims first. Of the following bills in the plan, only HB 1788 is still making its way through the legislative process.
- House Bill 1737 would roll back the harmful provisions in last year's police reform legislation that created confusion and made volatile situations more dangerous.
- House Bill 1788 would allow law enforcement to engage in vehicular pursuits when there is reasonable suspicion someone has committed, or is committing, a criminal offense.
- House Bill 1656, offered by my seatmate, Rep. Dan Griffey, would amend the definition of theft to include concealment. Last year, Washington lost $2.7 billion due to retail theft. This bill would make a major difference going forward.
- House Bill 1787 would provide funding for the recruitment, retention, and support of law enforcement. For the past 11 years, Washington has ranked dead last in terms of the number of police officers per thousand people.
- House Bill 1873 would address the growing problem of catalytic converter theft.
Every one of these bills would make our communities safer, yet only one is alive. How is that possible? Our job as lawmakers is to fix problems, not punt them away to future Legislatures. Once session is adjourned, we're not going to be called back to address public safety in a special session. This is our chance to take action.
This is also our chance to pass emergency powers reform. Rep. Chris Corry has a bill that would limit the amount of time a governor can make emergency decisions without legislative oversight to 60 days at a time, starting from day one. Surprisingly, the majority party also has a bill on this issue, though it doesn't go nearly as far as Rep. Corry's. Even so, after blocking our efforts last year, I'm glad to see them express some interest in restoring the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.
Now, if we could just get them to join with us in tackling the rest of the problems we face.
Please continue reaching out to me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov, and my phone number is (360) 786-7902. I also encourage you to sign up for text alerts from our caucus, which will help keep you updated on major developments this session.
It is an honor to serve you.
427A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 868-6304 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000