Representatives review 2024 Legislative session

 

April 4, 2024

-East Washingtonian photo

Rep. Joe Schmick (R-9-Colfax) and Rep. Mary Dye (R-9-Pomeroy) paid a post-session visit to the newspaper last week, reviewing the successes and challenges of the recently completed legislative session. Both representatives counted a number of successes and disappointments.

DAYTON–Both Ninth District representatives, Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy) and Joe Schmick (R-Colfax), were delighted that three of six initiatives to the Legislature were passed, and both weren't unhappy that the three initiatives not addressed by the Washington State Legislature will be going before voters on the November General Election ballot.

"The people of Washington sent these initiatives to us," Dye and Schmick said in a joint news release. "We listened and responded."

Initiative I-2113 (restore vehicular police pursuits) was passed by the House and Senate and will become law June 6. I-2111 (prohibit state, counties, cities and local jurisdictions from imposing and collecting income tax) was passed by the House and Senate on March 4 and will become law June 6. I-2081 (Parents' Bill of Rights) was passed by both chambers March 4 and goes into effect June 6.

Three other initiatives were denied hearings by the Democratic majority, Dye and Schmick say, so will appear on the November ballot for voters to decide. I-2117 (repeal of the carbon tax), I-2124 (opt out of state Long Term Care (LTC) program/payroll tax), and I-2109 (repeal of the capital gains tax) were measures that Dye and Schmick believe can be repealed and funding for state priorities still be met. "House Republicans have shown how," they say.

The carbon tax (I-2117) is "regressive" and has increased the costs of food, fuel and energy. "It comes at a great cost to people living paycheck-to-paycheck and has made our state's affordability crisis worse," they said. "It hollows out the middle class."

The state's LTC program was created by a 2019 bill to provide a limited lifetime benefit of up to $36,000 for future long-term care costs, paid through a mandatory payroll tax. "You shouldn't be forced into this program," they said. "It is unfair, unpopular, inadequate and uncertain. The payroll tax is yet another financial burden for struggling Washingtonians."

The third initiative to be on the November ballot is I-2109, repeal of the capital gains tax. A 2021 Senate bill created a tax on capital gains income and called it an "excise tax" instead of income tax to get around constitutional restrictions, Dye and Schmick say. Voters will decide in November.

Dye and Schmick joined other Republican legislators in stopping a number of bad bills, such as:

-A bill which would have required the attorney general to approve healthcare provide acquisitions or mergers to ensure they do not result in affected communities having the same or greater access to quality, affordable care, including emergency care, primary care, reproductive care, end-of-life care, and gender-affirming care. "This would have devastated rural health care," Dye and Schmick assert.

-A bill that would have tripled the growth rate of state and local property taxes, a proposed increase from 1% to 3% of the property-tax cap.

-A bill regarding rent control did not get out of committee after passing the House on party lines.

-A bill that would have allowed striking workers to collect unemployment.

-A bill that would have allowed judges to reduce sentences of convicted criminals.

A few bad bills did pass, Dye and Schmick lament. One will give Puget Sound Energy "unique regulatory treatment and incentives to switch customers from natural gas service to electric-only service and direct them to blend the gas line of business and the electric line of business into one rate base, meaning electric-only customers will start subsidizing decommissioning of gas infrastructure even if they were served by it," the representatives said.

Senate Bill 6058, which links Washington's cap-and-invest carbon market with California's and Quebec's was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee and will take effect June 6.

And firearm aficionados have new requirements. Anyone who loses a firearm or if it is stolen, is required to report the loss or theft to local law enforcement within 24 hours. Firearms dealers are now required to adopt specific security measures, alarm systems, record-keeping, etc., thanks to House Bill 2118.

Both Dye and Schmick are pleased that at the end of session, there were no tax increased. Rep. Dye sponsored HB 1752 which improves the use of state water resources for farming, and permits utilization of conserved water within the Columbia Basin Project. Schmick sponsored a bill that would have allowed small school districts to let a licensed driver training business use school property. The bill didn't advance but Schmick was contacted by AAA, which is working on an online Traffic Safety program that will be home based and at a fraction of the cost. "It's a win without even getting a bill heard," Schmick said.

A disappointment for Dye was a resubmission of a bill for wild horse training at Dept. of Corrections facilities. I passed in 2020, but was victim of 147 COVID-19 vetoes. Schmick promoted HB 2307 which would have limited vexatious public records claims while protecting the ability of citizens and the news media to access public records. It received a hearing but wasn't voted out of the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.

 
 

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