The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Legislative Commentary


February 1, 2018

The legislative session in Olympia has reached the one-third mark already.

The dozen Senate policy committees have one more week to take action on bills, then those of us serving on budget committees (I’m continuing to serve on Ways and Means) will have four additional days to finish working through the legislation referred to us.

The bills we see will include proposals forwarded by the policy committees because they include costs that would affect the budget.

The Senate’s new Democrat majority continues to move heavy-handed legislation through to the House of Representatives. This past week’s example was a bill to outlaw the so-called “bump-stocks” like the one used by the deranged mass killer in Las Vegas this past year.

I would have considered supporting a policy requiring people to pass a background check before buying such an accessory.

Instead, Senate Bill 5992 would take anti-gun policies in our state to a new level, allowing law-enforcement officers to seize a device that (to my knowledge) has never been used in a crime in Washington. Voting to make bump-stock possession a felony won’t make people safer.

This past week was a good one for visitors from the Ninth District and surrounding area, with many of them taking part in session-related missions to the Capitol.

For me the list included members of the Adult Family Home Council, members of the Washington State Nurses Association, chiropractors from Pasco, dentists and dental students, and members of the Washington Federation of State Employees.

There were folks from the Pullman and Pasco and Rockford city councils, representatives from Big Bend Community College and Columbia Basin College, school superintendents from Freeman and Nine Mile Falls, fire district officials from Spokane and Franklin counties, and more.

The week also featured “Coug Day on the Hill,” which brought undergraduate/graduate/professional students and professors from WSU, and the annual Tri-Cities Day.

We started the week on a somber note as the Senate remembered a fallen law-enforcement officer, Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel McCartney, who was fatally wounded earlier this month while exchanging gunfire with robbery suspects.

The week ended with a visit from 4th District Congressman Dan Newhouse, of Sunnyside; he and I served together in the state House, and many Republican senators in Olympia have their offices in a building named after his late dad Irv, who was also a longtime lawmaker.

Follow-up to the Hirst ‘fix’

The Legislature’s approval of a compromise that addresses the situation caused by the Hirst court decision means questions about water availability should once again go to local governments. Rural landowners who want to know what the policies in Senate Bill 6091 mean for them should contact their local building department.

The new law doesn’t change regulations about water used for commercial or stock-water purposes. We made sure it is focused on domestic use and is clear about not restricting the withdrawal of groundwater for other exempt uses, such as exempt commercial, industrial, or stock water.

Round two: seeking tax fairness
 for Washington manufacturers

The budget package adopted in June 2017 included a bill that would have established a single business-and-occupation tax rate for Washington manufacturers. It would have brought the state’s tax on non-aerospace manufacturers into line with the lower tax on aerospace manufacturing, in phases over four years.

The tax reduction would have helped manufacturers across the state, especially in rural Washington, and it won overwhelming approval from the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and what was then the Republican-led Senate. Then several Democrat lawmakers, mostly a group from behind what I’ve referred to as the “Emerald City curtain”, complained to the governor, and he vetoed the bill.

This past week a bipartisan group of senators, led by my colleague Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane, filed Senate Bill 6542, which would reinstate the fairer tax rate approved this past year.

The latest edition of the “Economic Sense” policy paper from Senator John Braun of Centralia, our budget leader, goes into more detail about why this is so important.

My latest leadership blog post points out how the combination of Governor Inslee’s veto last year, and the energy tax he’s proposing now, amounts to doubling down on non-aerospace manufacturers in our state.

Manufacturing employment is the only sector in Washington to see job losses in the 21st century. Of the jobs lost, 47,200 have been outside of the aerospace sector. I hope the Legislature will be consistent and put this tax-fairness policy back on the governor’s desk.

New proposal would make major investment in mental health treatment

As someone who values our Second Amendment rights I am very cautious about bills that include the words “firearm rights” in the title.

But I voted this week for a carefully negotiated bill that would allow people to voluntarily waive their firearm rights in the interests of preventing suicide, and the debate we had served as a reminder that there is still much work to do on the mental health front.

The capital budget approved earlier this month will do much for mental-health treatment facilities. Legislation introduced by our budget leader, Senator Braun, would complement that by dramatically increasing the capacity of the community mental health treatment system.

His proposal, Senate Bill 6468, will come before our Senate budget committee this coming week; and is the subject of another of his “Economic Sense” policy papers.


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