A Message from WA State Representative J. T. Wilcox, House Republican Leader:
February 24th was the fiscal committee cutoff, our second deadline of the legislative session. Our next deadline is house of origin cutoff on March 8, which means a lot of time voting on bills from now until then. I discuss both of these cutoffs in my video update.
In the middle of next week, we will hit the midway point of the 105-day legislative session. Below, I share my thoughts on some of the storylines, to date, and what to expect moving forward.
No meaningful tax relief
One legislative priority for House Republicans is making life more affordable for Washingtonians. We have introduced bills to provide sales tax (House Bill 1704) and property tax (House Bill 1483) relief and to expand the Working Families Tax Credit (House Bill 1000).
Like last year, Democrats are not open to providing meaningful tax relief — despite another budget surplus. Instead, they are considering legislation that would increase property taxes and create a new per-mile charge on vehicle usage. House Republicans oppose these measures and others that would make life more expensive.
No emergency powers reform
Despite bipartisan support in the past, the majority party has no interest in common-sense, balanced emergency powers reform. House Bill 1535, sponsored by Rep. Chris Corry, could not even get a public hearing.
The Legislature is attempting to address some of the consequences of the governor’s decisions, including student learning loss. I highlighted K-12 education back on February 10, including House Republican proposals for special education funding, dual credit programs, school safety and school choice.
It’s also time to end the vaccine mandate for state employees, something King County and Seattle announced earlier this month. This mandate should have never been imposed in the first place and has negatively impacted some state services.
Emergency powers reform is an issue House Republicans have been talking about since the summer of 2020. And we will continue to. You can learn more here.
Democrats are divided on public safety
The majority party passed disastrous policing policies in 2021 that made our communities less safe. Through bipartisan efforts, we were able to fix some of those mistakes last year. However, one big problem remains: law enforcement limits on vehicular pursuits.
Anyone looking at this objectively understands that limiting vehicular pursuits empowers criminals and endangers communities. It was nice to see editorial boards weigh in this week, including The Columbian and Tri-City Herald.
This experiment has clearly failed. At least 20 House Democrats understand this fact. That’s the number of co-sponsors for bipartisan legislation that would fix the problem: House Bill 1363. In its original form, this measure would have restored the initial threshold to begin a vehicle pursuit to reasonable suspicion.
Unfortunately, House Bill 1363 was amended and watered down before it passed out of the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee last week. From there, it was referred to the House Transportation Committee, where it received a public hearing on Monday. The measure passed out of that committee yesterday in its amended form.
The legislation is still alive and the debate continues. We need to convince more Democrats to support the original version. It’s not just Republicans who are pushing for this outcome. Concerned citizens, law enforcement, local elected officials and business groups know how important this is for public safety.
House Republican priorities
In addition to making life more affordable, House Republicans are focused on public safety, housing and empowering families. While some of our agenda bills have advanced this legislative session, many did not. Please visit this webpage to see a list of our priority bills and where they stand in the legislative process.
We recently updated our list of good and bad bills based on what happened in fiscal committees this week. You can find that list here.
Despite some disappointments and uncertainty, I also see bipartisan opportunities — especially in the areas of housing, mental health, workforce issues, salmon recovery and budget development. The next few weeks will reveal just how much we can accomplish.
On housing, House Republican bills to expedite housing permits (House Bill 1401) and split lots (House Bill 1245) are alive — as are other bipartisan measures. Unfortunately, our Homes for Heroes (House Bill 1633) legislation died in a fiscal committee.
As in years past, our ranking members on the House Transportation and Capital Budget committees — Reps. Andrew Barkis and Mike Steele — are involved with the development of their respective budgets. They will again influence these state spending plans. While the operating budget isn’t developed in the same bipartisan process, House Republicans will again offer real solutions and contrast in the upcoming weeks.
In closing, to sign up for The Week Ahead calendar we send out, please visit this link.
Rep. J.T. Wilcox
House Republican Leader