Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As usual, we saw excellent turnout at the town hall meeting in Kent this past weekend. Rep. Sullivan, Sen. Fain and I covered a lot of topics, including education, transportation, school safety and Sound Transit 3. We also fielded questions about the two major tax increase proposals the majority party is pushing this year in the Legislature.
One of the proposals is an energy tax, which would impose a tax on carbon emissions from transportation fuels and power plants. The governor's own staff admits the tax would significantly increase the cost of gasoline, energy, and natural gas. It would also drive up the cost of groceries and other things families need on a daily basis.
In addition to an energy tax, the majority party is also pushing for a capital gains income tax. They say it's needed to address this year's property tax hike as a result of the McCleary solution we passed last year. However, with the substantial increase in revenue we're expected to see over the next four years, we could easily eliminate the property tax increase without either an energy or capital gains tax. And we could also provide meaningful car-tab relief beyond the small amount in House Bill 2201.
Although many legislators like to talk about how we're “One Washington,” the reality is the balance of legislation we've passed under one-party control this year doesn't reflect that sentiment. That's the topic of my latest video update, which you can watch by clicking on the image below.
Cutoff calendar and my bills
Last Wednesday, the Legislature passed its first major deadline of this 60-day session — House of Origin cutoff. All House bills that did not pass off the House floor are now considered “dead” for the year, unless deemed necessary to implement the budget. The same goes for Senate bills.
Both bills I introduced this year survived cutoff, and are now in the Senate.
House Bill 2419 would ease restrictions on how Washington-based microbreweries and wineries sell their products at farmers markets. The bill was heard in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee yesterday.
House Bill 2420 would require the state Board of Health (BOH) to adopt new rules surrounding the inspection or repair of private septic systems. These rules would address concerns I've heard from many private property owners regarding newly proposed regulations by the King County Department of Health. The bill was voted out of the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee today after receiving a public hearing yesterday.
A word on gun violence
In the wake of yet another school shooting, one of the main topics of discussion at our town hall was gun violence. Both here and around the country, a lot of people have been calling on lawmakers to “do something.” While that is completely understandable, it's not a policy solution.
When discussing school shootings and gun violence, I believe we must not only look at mental illness and depression, but also the degradation of family and religious values in our country.
The trends we're seeing are not encouraging.
There are fewer people attending church. Fewer children are being parented by both a mother and a father. More Americans are battling depression each year, with the biggest spike being seen among teenagers. And finally, vastly more people are taking antidepressants than ever before.
On top of all this, from 1974 to 2014, the nation's prison and jail population grew by nearly 500 percent. When the Justice Department conducted a survey of inmates in state and federal correction facilities in 2004, it found 57 percent of state inmates and 55 percent of federal inmates grew up in homes without both a mother and a father.
The sad fact is something has gone terribly awry in the United States, and a climate has been created where these mass shooters feel empowered to carry out their barbaric acts. There have been 90 mass shootings in the United States since 1996, which is five times more than any other country has seen in the same period of time.
But there's also too much gun violence as a whole. And while a lot of people want to ban guns or create sweeping new laws, I don't think guns themselves are the problem. I think we, as people, are the problem. And each of us need to look inward and reflect on how we can be better friends, better neighbors, and better citizens of this country we're blessed to call home.
Government, too, can play a role. We can enable our businesses to thrive so they hire more people and create economic prosperity in all areas of the state. We can eliminate barriers to building affordable housing, so families don't have to face the stress of not having a place to live. We can work harder to get foster children into permanent, stable and loving homes more quickly, preferably with their biological family. We can provide funding to school districts so they have the ability to hire more school resource officers. We can end the opioid crisis and fund mental health efforts.
There is a lot of good we can do.
But fixing the many problems we're seeing in our society is going to take a renewed focus from all of us. If family, church and community continues to take a back seat to broken homes, secularism and social isolation, I'm afraid we're going to continue to see devastating results.
Please feel free to contact me any time with comments, questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7918.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.