Lawmakers detail their legislative game plan for upcoming session

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The 2022 Washington State Legislative Session is set to begin on Jan. 10. The 60-day “short” session will again be conducted with modifications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local lawmakers across the board expressed concerns over the modified procedure, which will now be in place for a second session.

The Reflector reached out to local legislators ahead of the session’s start to see what they would do to address the pandemic, as lawmakers also detailed their other priorities during a budgeting year.

Responses were edited for clarity. Reps. Paul Harris and Brandon Vick did not respond by the deadline, and due to a communications error, Rep. Larry Hoff’s responses were incomplete.

17th Legislative District

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver

Committees and leadership positions

Ways and Means committee, Business and Financial Services. Vice-chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee, Joint Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, State Building Code Council.

Key priorities in 2022

My priorities for this session revolve around tax relief. Most people don’t realize that my colleagues across the aisle have either increased or created 22 taxes in the past four years. Together, these taxes will make Washington less affordable, by taking another $40 billion or so out of people’s pockets in the next 10 years. They include the new income (capital gains) tax passed in 2021, while the people of our state were struggling with the pandemic, and the new long-term care payroll tax that just kicked in — from which no one can opt out, ever.  I’ll bet most people also don’t know the state government’s financial picture has improved by about $10 billion this past year alone. That means the Legislature can finally offer meaningful tax relief, without jeopardizing important services and programs.

My bipartisan proposal for property tax relief, Senate Bill 5463/House Bill 1579, would be particularly helpful to homeowners on the lower end of the income scale. I’m also looking to introduce other tax-relief legislation. It could cover a repeal of the controversial long-term care payroll tax, or end the B&O (business and occupation) tax on manufacturing, or propose a repeal of the income tax.

How has COVID-19 changed your procedure?

The pandemic has brought the people of our state face-to-face with the 1969 state law that grants a tremendous amount of power to the governor when a state of emergency is declared. For some reason, the majority seems afraid to take another look at reforming that law. I think “afraid” is a reasonable word because in 2019 — the year before

COVID-19 — the Democrats almost unanimously supported a Republican-sponsored change that ends some of the governor’s emergency orders after 30 days unless the Legislature extends them. My Senate Bill 5039 would simply make it all emergency orders, instead of some, but the majority ignored my bill in 2021. The Legislature is the branch of government closest to the people and it is past time for us to be back at the table representing our constituents. That’s how our government is designed to work.

Outside of COVID-19, what should be addressed by 2022 legislation?

There are needs involving public safety, homelessness, mental health, and transportation, which probably don’t need explaining. I like to think we can make some progress on those in 2022, because even though it’s a “short” session, these issues are well known — it’s a matter of having the political will. This past year, I successfully sponsored legislation that calls for a thorough, non-partisan study on the root causes of homelessness and a path to developing solutions. Washington has seen the second-largest increase in unsheltered homeless in the country (only behind California) over the past decade, even though the latest budget spent more than $2 billion toward addressing homelessness. We can do better. The needs related to public safety include the police “reform” bills passed in 2021 that are putting both our law enforcement and the public at greater risk.  It’s another area where we must do far better.

Legislative boundary redistricting

The redistricting creates a sort of “back to the future” situation for the 17th District. The new boundaries will be in effect before the 2022 election. They’ll take in all of Skamania County and part of Clark, which is approximately how the district looked from 1959 to 1965. But for the 2022 session, I’ll still be representing the people who have chosen me for one term in the House and twice to serve them in the Senate. My approach will be the same, allowing for the pandemic. Even though in-person meetings at my Olympia office will be limited by the Senate’s COVID-19 rules, at least I can meet with a few people at a time this year. Last year, no such meetings were allowed.

Addressing growth in Clark County

I’m not introducing any myself but I’ll be very interested in co-sponsoring any proposals to increase the supply of housing in Clark County, particularly those that would address the hindrance of building because of the requirements in the Growth Management Act.

Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver

Position 1

Committees and leadership positions

Capital Budget, Community and Economic Development, College and Workforce Development. Co-Chair of the Sex Trafficking Prevention Caucus in the House.

Key priorities in 2022

Ending the governor’s abuse of emergency powers and restoring the proper constitutional functioning of the three branches of government: I introduced House Bill 1381 in 2021 to address this issue, and will continue to fight to rein in the governor’s powers.

Ending the COVID-19 mandates: I introduced House Bill 1305 in 2021 which would give people the right to refuse COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Clearly with thousands of people losing their jobs or careers as a result of not wanting to take the vaccine and students at risk of being given the vaccine at school against their parent’s will, this issue is still a priority for me in the upcoming session.

Improving election Integrity and security in our state: I will be introducing legislation to address this in the 2022 session. I’ve received several hundreds of emails on this issue and I’m still receiving emails from people concerned that our election system is broken. They feel it must be fixed to have confidence their vote is being properly counted. I completely agree.

School choice: Parents’ rights and voices regarding COVID-19 mandates and controversial curriculum have been disregarded by many educational leaders in this state. As a result, parents have been pulling their students out of public schools and finding better education options that fit their family’s values and their child’s learning needs such as private school or homeschooling. I introduced House Bill 1215 to provide $7,000 as an education scholarship for parents to use for private school or homeschool costs. I’ll continue to fight for the parents in our state to have access to the education they want and choose for their child.

Restoring law and order in our state and communities: We need to allow law enforcement officers to do their job effectively to keep the public safe. They used to be able to do that before the 2021 police reforms took place. Since then, I’ve heard many concerns from citizens and law enforcement officers that these new laws make the people and our communities less safe. This needs to change and I’ll continue to make this a priority. 

Ending the long term care insurance program: People are extremely upset at how this program and payroll tax were forced down their throats. Many people have made it very clear to me they have no interest in this program and don’t want to pay for it. Our state should have never passed this legislation.

Helping small businesses recover and thrive following the COVID-19 shutdowns over the past couple years: I’m introducing a bill in 2022 to give them relief from the B&O tax to help them be able to invest in and grow their business. Ultimately, this would improve our economy and create more jobs as well.

Sex trafficking prevention: I have been focused on this issue and will continue to work to protect children from this terrible crime.

How has COVID-19 changed your procedure?

We are still not functioning as a proper legislative body as we’re still not all able to meet in person to do the people’s business. The Democrats on the House Executive Rules Committee decided that committee meetings will be held virtually this session again and not in person. Also those who haven’t shown proof of getting the COVID-19 vaccine and won’t do testing three times a week aren’t allowed in the state Capitol building or even their offices. As a result, I will be splitting my time working from Vancouver virtually and seeing constituents locally, as well as traveling to Olympia for meetings and the session, which I will have to do offsite of the Capitol campus. I’m a duly elected official and should be able to access the state Capitol and my office just like any other legislator. This is not how our government was ever designed to operate, especially not for this long.

Outside of COVID-19, what should be addressed by 2022 legislation?

I outlined my priorities in my key priorities for 2022.

Legislative boundary redistricting

As a result, my decision to run for Congress in 2022 in the 3rd Congressional District was cemented and I made this announcement publicly two weeks later.

Addressing growth in Clark County

The $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill that recently passed could certainly help in providing funds to build an additional, third bridge in Southwest Washington between Washington and Oregon to relieve the continued growing traffic congestion problem on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. At the state, we have an $8 billion surplus over the next four years that could also potentially be put toward these efforts. I will continue to back efforts for an additional, third bridge in our region.

I’ll continue to support reducing government regulations — like the Growth Management Act and  permitting processes — and reducing fees which add to the cost of housing so that more housing can be built and it can be built more affordably. One of the reasons people are moving to other states is because they can buy much more house for their money. Most of the time, these are in states such as Idaho where they don’t have as much government regulation to impact the supply of land and housing, and therefore the cost.

18th Legislative District

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center

Committees and leadership positions 

Ways and Means, Health and Long-Term Care, Labor and Commerce.

Key priorities in 2022

I’m really disappointed by what the majority did this past year to the law enforcement agencies across our state. I understand why there was interest in looking at the rules about use of force, and the tactics police have been allowed to use. But when I’ve taken on a big issue, like bringing order to the state’s marijuana laws, I work to get all the stakeholders together so everyone can see what’s feasible and understand one another’s position. The majority clearly didn’t follow that path, and as a result they’ve made the pendulum swing too far the other way. Officers are unable to respond to 911 calls and other situations the way they could have just one year ago, and as a result, people are feeling less safe. It says a lot that even the state representatives who sponsored one of the major changes started backpedaling before those new restrictions took effect in July, so we’re now in the position of needing to reform the “reforms.” It’s a high priority for me and it should be for the Legislature.

I’ll also keep chipping away at the list of reforms I’d like to see in the health care arena, especially in the area of pharmaceuticals. The subject of “demographic representation in pharmaceutical trials” may not sound exciting, but let’s think about it another way. If the pharmaceutical trial has to do with a new COVID-19 vaccine, aren’t the demographics of the trial group important?

How has COVID-19 changed your procedure?

My usual approach to lawmaking is to gather stakeholders together, and to build relationships with legislators across the aisle and in the other chamber. That was hard to do with all the restrictions placed on us and on the public in 2021. When things aren’t being done in person, you lose the ability to have the sort of interactions that can help move a bill along and produce the best policy. The restrictions aren’t quite as tight for 2022, and I have a better sense of how to work within them, but it still doesn’t make sense that I can talk to four constituents in a grocery store aisle and yet I won’t be allowed to meet with those same four people in my Senate office, because it

would exceed the limit.

Outside of COVID-19, what should be addressed by 2022 legislation?

The law enforcement “reforms” of 2021 need to be addressed, for the reasons I mentioned.

Legislative boundary redistricting

As you might expect I’m most attentive to issues within my district but I’ve always been able to look at things more broadly from a Clark County and also a Southwest Washington perspective. The redistricting doesn’t change my approach.

Addressing growth in Clark County

It pains me that many of the people I represent have to live so far away from where they work, just so they can afford a house, but growth management is a hard nut to crack, and this is only a 60-day session. It’s going to take longer than two months to make progress on solutions, and before any solutions are possible, there needs to be recognition that reforming the Growth Management Act is not the same as repealing it. The GMA is more than 30 years old, and as is the case with many laws, its weaknesses have become more visible over time.

Rep. Larry Hoff, R-Vancouver

Position 2

Committees and leadership positions

Labor and Workplace Standards, ranking minority member, Appropriations, College and Workforce Development

Key priorities in 2022

With our state’s revenue at unprecedented levels, it’s imperative that we don’t entertain any new taxes. It’s also critical that the Legislature looks for ways to lower the tax burden on our citizens.

How has COVID-19 changed your procedure?

It is way past time to get the Legislature involved with the critical task of declaring emergencies and maintaining or adjusting the virus protocols. Keeping our citizens safe and, at the same time, making sure that our children receive a quality education and all businesses survive is a huge responsibility. To this point, our governor has forced the Legislature out of this process.  Your state senators and representatives are in Olympia on your behalf and should be an integral part of leading our state through this pandemic. Legislation has been drafted to right this obvious wrong.

Outside of COVID-19, what should be addressed by 2022 legislation?

Last year’s legislation that has handicapped our law enforcement officers needs to be corrected. The payroll tax on all working citizens associated with the Long Term Care Act should be repealed. Our insurance commissioner, under the guise of an “emergency,” removed the ability of insurance companies to utilize credit scores within their decision process. This resulted in auto and homeowner insurance rates increasing for most citizens. That is an obvious abuse of power which needs to be officially corrected.

20th Legislative District

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia

Committees and leadership positions

Senate Republican Leader, Ways and Means, Labor and Commerce.

Key priorities in 2022

What I’m hearing from people in Clark County generally matches the concerns of their neighbors in other parts of the 20th District, and it all mirrors what the members of the Senate Republican Caucus are being told by their constituents around the state. People feel less safe, and less able to keep up with the cost of living, and have less trust that state government truly cares about their interests. If you look at what came out of the 2021 legislative session and actions taken by the governor’s office and certain agencies in the past two years, it’s not hard to understand why our constituents feel like they do. That’s why the Senate Republican priorities are to reestablish public safety, restore affordability, and rebuild public trust. I don’t think anyone can argue with those goals.

How has COVID-19 changed your procedure?

The people of Washington have been living under a state of emergency longer than anyone else in our country. It’ll be past 680 days by the time the 2022 session starts, with no end in sight. State law doesn’t allow the Legislature to end the state of emergency, but during the upcoming session, we will have opportunities to respond to the pandemic through legislation, as we did in 2021 with bills to help businesses reopen and get children back into school.

The “usual” approach to lawmaking is some distance off because the Senate administration is restricting the public’s access to the legislative process again in 2022, almost as severely as it did in 2021. It’s amazing that people can shop and gather elsewhere in Olympia but will again be locked out of Senate and House committee hearings, even though we all know about taking precautions, and in spite of so many people being vaccinated and boosted. This is one of the most obvious examples of how government has broken the public’s trust and the place to start rebuilding that trust is by reforming the state emergency powers law.

Outside of COVID-19, what should be addressed by 2022 legislation?

The first thing the Legislature should do is repeal the big new payroll tax tied to the controversial long term care program. That should have happened before the new tax kicked in Jan. 1, but the governor and the majority side have been slow to even admit the program is seriously flawed. Republicans wanted to hit “pause” before the tax collection began, but we were alone on that.

Dealing with the payroll tax is only one example of how Republicans want to restore affordability. We’re also looking at property tax relief and addressing the cost of energy. I and other Republican senators have also proposed a way to afford new transportation projects without new taxes, but our colleagues in the majority seem stuck in old thinking.

Another priority is reform of the majority’s new restrictions on law enforcement that have clearly backfired. Those errors need to be addressed, along with the efforts to decriminalize hard drugs. This is what it means when Republicans say we want to reestablish public safety.

Legislative boundary redistricting

The new boundaries of the 20th District will take in more of Clark County. I’m looking forward to engaging with more people in this area.

Addressing growth in Clark County

The state has a role in the transportation part of the infrastructure question. I and other Republicans have a proposal on the table for funding new road projects without raising the gas tax. I’m well aware of the housing situation in Clark County, but it’s less obvious to the average prospective home buyer how state regulations and fees are exacerbating that. Did you know the fee for recording many building-related documents at the county auditor’s office went up by $100 this past summer, because of a bill passed by the majority? The Legislature can’t control the cost of lumber but there are so many fees and regulations that inflate the cost of new construction. The Legislature can control those costs. It took more than a year to get to this point, and it’ll take time to turn things around, but the Republican priority on restoring affordability certainly includes housing costs.

Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia

Position 1

Committees and leadership positions

Assistant Ranking Member for Capital Budget, Civil Rights and Judiciary, Environment and Energy, House Republican Caucus representative on the Office of Civil Legal Aid Oversight Committee and Statute Law Committee.

Key priorities in 2022

Several 2022 priorities for legislation include repealing the long term care payroll tax with House Bill 1594, helping military families and businesses with House Bill 1677 that expands B&O tax credits for businesses hiring military members and their spouses, raising awareness for cold water shock drownings with “Zack’s

Law” through House Bill 1595, and several bills that address infrastructure improvements. A good portion of the legislative session will also be spent on the capital budget bill that invests in many communities throughout Southwest Washington.

How has COVID-19 changed your procedure?

COVID-19 and the state’s response has magnified many issues in our community, including lack of housing inventory, inadequate behavioral health investments, disparity in education funding, poverty, etc. My focus for the upcoming session remains the same as the last session, which is to help my colleagues understand that the best solutions are local. One-size fits all, cookie cutter programs don’t work. My focus will remain on working with local leaders on solutions for their unique issues that also reflect their values.

Last year was my first year in the Legislature serving the 20th Legislative District. The 2021 Legislative Session was virtual despite my first vote last year in opposition to a virtual session. The 2022 session will again be virtual. I still believe the session can be conducted safely with all members present and I will continue to support a more open and transparent process with all members present.

The governor has monopolized government for too long. There is an inherent checks and balances built in the Washington State Constitution that has been ignored and abdicated by the legislative majority. In 2021, I voted several times, unsuccessfully, for the House and Senate to regain its authority granted by the constitution. I will again advocate and vote for the Legislature to end and reform the executive emergency powers.

Outside of COVID-19, what should be addressed by 2022 legislation?

I agree with 63% of Washington voters who opposed the long term payroll tax program when it was passed in 2019. I believe the long term care payroll tax and program must be repealed with HB 1594. “Fixes” to the program address concerns but do not address the program’s solvency.

In 2021, the legislative majorities passed numerous “police reform” bills that make our communities less safe. There appears to be more bills on the agenda, such as recently introduced House Bill 1692, that reduces the penalties for drive-by shooting murders. I believe we need to reverse the dangerous trend to defund and disarm police, support victims of crimes, invest in law enforcement, and bring back fairness and accountability to our judicial system.

The state of Washington needs greater investment in coordinated infrastructure. As a former Centralia city councilmember, I recognize the importance of a “dig once” philosophy to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life in communities. On the House Capital Budget Committee, I will again emphasize the need for our state to focus on water, wastewater, electrical grid security and stability, and broadband. Before the state can build above ground, it must plan better and ensure communities are prepared for smart and effective growth.

Legislative boundary redistricting

I was elected to serve my community in the 20th Legislative District. The movement of district lines has not changed my approach to issues and my commitment to the residents of Southwest Washington.

Addressing growth in Clark County

I believe my position on the House Capital Budget Committee gives Clark County a strong voice to address housing and infrastructure needs, as well as how they would like to see future growth supported. In 2021, I introduced House Bill 1263, a rural infrastructure bill to help increase investment and coordination of infrastructure projects. I will continue supporting counties and local governments’ plans for future growth with legislation and budget language that addresses their unique needs and projects.

 

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama

Position 2

Committees and leadership positions

Finance, ranking minority member, Transportation, Rural Economic Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee member, Executive Committee member

Key priorities in 2022

Tax relief, specifically, property tax relief. Restoring order, reversing poorly crafted legislation restricting police officers’ ability to apprehend those committing crimes in our communities. Also, to provide for the safety of first responders and crisis care teams when responding to those in crisis. Repealing tax increases such as capital gains income tax and the tax on employees’ income via the long term care insurance mandate. Protecting personal freedoms and constitutional rights. Protecting jobs and the employers who provide those jobs.

How has COVID-19 changed your procedure?

Most of my policy objectives are unchanged from previous years. I oppose tax increases, protect citizens’ rights, provide for public safety, and want to keep businesses open and employees working, quality and accountability in education, and working to make government accountable to the citizens.

The limits on in-person meetings with constituents and fellow legislators has had a negative effect on legislating and led to poorer policy outcomes for the citizens of our state. Changes in House procedures result in only a minor improvement over last year’s procedures and likely will still result in policy falling short of truly serving the citizens we represent.

We need to restore employment for those terminated by the governor’s mandates, finding or developing ways for them to participate in the workplace while keeping them, their co-workers, and the public safe from COVID-19.

Outside of COVID-19, what should be addressed by 2022 legislation?

Reducing property taxes, restoring order and community safety, repealing recently passed taxes, protecting personal freedoms and constitutional rights, protecting jobs and those who provide jobs.

Legislative boundary redistricting

There is no shift for me. I have remained engaged with officials in some of the areas which will again be part of my district. Ridgefield and La Center were in my district before I was redistricted out of the 18th in 2013. Furthermore, I have worked with legislative colleagues from Clark County to address a variety of issues affecting citizens in Clark County and I intend to continue that work.

Addressing growth in Clark County

I will continue to push for changes necessary to make housing affordable. Too many bills have passed that lead to shortages of housing and slow construction or add to the costs of housing. Many increases in taxes, fees, etc. have added to the cost and limited the supply of housing.

I will continue to support state shared revenues to help local governments provide necessary services within existing tax collections to prevent an increase in taxes on those we represent.

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