Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's over! The 2021 remote legislative session finished April 25 on time, 105 days after it began Jan. 11. For many of us, 105 days was too long as it gave Seattle progressives an unprecedented opportunity this year to pass some of the most damaging legislation in years — and maybe, ever.
This email update provides a look back at the 2021 session — the good and the bad. Also, details are provided on our 17th District Zoom Town Hall Meeting, which will be held Thursday, May 13, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I will be participating with Sen. Lynda Wilson and Rep. Paul Harris. You can register here.
I also invite you to watch my legislative video update in which I recap the 2021 legislative session. Click here to watch the video.
Much more like Seattle than Southwest Washington
Columnist Danny Westneat recently summarized the completed session in a Seattle Times article, unfortunately noting Seattle progressives had big wins, while the rest of the state was left behind. And now, it's going to feel even more like we are living in the state of Seattle.
Seattle-area Democrats passed a capital gains income tax that is likely unconstitutional. They adopted two complex climate change bills that Gov. Inslee has been seeking since he first entered office, which will be very expensive to middle- and lower-income families. They increased the size of the state operating budget by more than $7 billion — about $20 billion larger than the operating budget of six years ago. They banned open carry of guns at protests, gave ex-felons the right to vote, made it harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs, and made possession of drugs only a misdemeanor.
My Republican colleagues and I fought hard against many of these damaging progressive policies, but in the end, Democrats have the majority and they did what they wanted. And because we weren't in the same rooms with them at the Capitol, where we could pull them aside and have discussions and negotiations on bills of concern — and because the public was locked out of the Capitol, which continues to be surrounded by chain link fences and guarded by State Patrol officers — and because citizens couldn't bring full forces of rallies to the Capitol as we did last year against the sex education bill — Seattle majority Democrats plowed through with their Seattle agenda, passing it to the dismay of the rest of the state. Read on for more details.
Business as usual for Gov. Inslee
Now that the Legislature has adjourned, it's back to one-man, dictator emergency rule for Gov. Jay Inslee, despite repeated efforts to reform emergency powers.
As I noted in a previous email update, I am among several Republicans who authored legislation to rein in the governor's powers and give the government back to the people who have elected us to office. House Bill 1381 would have limited the governor's emergency powers to 14 days after a state of emergency proclamation, unless extended by the Legislature from a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. If the Legislature is not in session, a special session could be called to extend the state of emergency proclamation. Unfortunately, my bill and the other bills to limit the governor's powers, were not allowed to advance by the Democrat majority.
I pushed to hold the capital budget bond vote since it was the only tool we had as the minority to get the Democrats to the table to have a real conversation about a real solution to end the governor's emergency powers. It requires a 60% majority vote. Our state government was designed to run with proper checks and balances and the Legislature having real input on how our state government functions, especially during a time of emergency that has had such a severe impact on our constituents. Unfortunately my attempts did not prevail. This means currently, we are back to where we were one year ago when the Legislature had adjourned and the governor was calling all the shots.
We need to fully reopen Washington's economy now, but there are already rumblings that Inslee may roll back more counties to Phase 2, as he recently did with Cowlitz County to the north of the 17th District. Many small businesses teetering on the edge of closure may not survive another rollback. This should not be happening, especially as many other states have successfully re-opened and proven this can be done.
Unfortunately, single-party government in our state is protecting single-handed rule by Gov. Inslee. That's not good for anyone, and it needs to change now!
- Washington state lawmakers have little success in checking Gov. Inslee's COVID powers – The Seattle Times, April 14
- Lawmakers Kraft, Wilson say Inslee's emergency powers need a check – The Columbian, April 14
- In Our View: Legislature should act to balance government – The Columbian, April 14
- Opinion: Gov. Jay Inslee reacts to question about efforts to end his emergency order – Clark County Today, April 2
- Lawmakers ask for end to 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' order – The Columbian, April 2
- Rep. Kraft: Safeguards needed so Inslee can't 'single-handedly' shut down state – Jason Rantz Show, KTTH
- Commentary by Rep. Vicki Kraft: Governor's powers must be reined in before Legislature finishes session – The Reflector, March 29
Caution: New taxes, higher fuel prices may be coming your way
I'm very concerned about new taxes and policies majority Democrats passed this session that eventually could lead to a statewide income tax and higher fuel prices at the gas pumps.
CAPITAL GAINS INCOME TAX
Senate Bill 5096 will enact a 7% percent tax on capital gains income exceeding $250,000 from the sale of long-term assets, beginning January of 2022. State revenue is up more than $4 billion, so a new tax is unnecessary. Washington voters who have rejected various forms of an income tax at least 10 times on the ballot, so it's unpopular. The measure is also likely unconstitutional. In fact, two lawsuits are being filed to challenge the measure. Public records show Democrat lawmakers want these suits so if a capital gains tax is upheld, they can seek to impose a broad-based statewide graduated income tax that everyone would pay.
Senate Bill 5126 will establish a new program to be implemented by Department of Ecology to artificially cap greenhouse gas emissions. This damaging regulation scheme will raise the price of gas, food, goods, and heating on those who can least afford it. It will also hurt small businesses and make our state's business climate less competitive. California is the only other state in the nation with a cap-and-tax policy. We do not need this program, and it will only harm Washingtonians.
LOW-CARBON FUEL STANDARD
Democrats also passed House Bill 1091, which requires the Department of Ecology to create a clean fuels program to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. A low-carbon fuel standard is a policy that will increase fuel prices and punish those who drive vehicles using gasoline or diesel. Combine this, along with the cap-and-tax bill, and likely a state gas tax increase to fund a new transportation revenue package, and you can expect to pay as much as additional 66 cents per gallon of gasoline or more. Many individuals, families, and small businesses simply cannot absorb these additional and burdensome costs.
After this past year, school choice is more important than ever
For the past two years, I've introduced school choice legislation that would give parents the ability to choose the learning environment that best meets their children's needs. House Bill 2933, I introduced last year, proposed the Education Choice Scholarship Program. This year, I introduced House Bill 1215, which would establish the K-12 Education Scholarship Program in Washington state. Under this legislation, up to $7,000 per student each school year would be awarded for parents to use for costs related to private school or homeschool instruction. I also made the case in December for school choice in this opinion article I wrote: Give parents options to decide the best education for their children.
Unfortunately, the Democratic chair of the House Education Committee where the bill was referred, declined my public hearing request and the bill never moved out of committee this year.
I was very pleased when the issue of school choice came up Wednesday night in the response to the President's address to Congress. This issue is one that will not go away and continues to gain momentum, getting the attention it deserves.
Our kids are failing school quite simply because we are failing in our ability to deliver the best education possible. In Washington, we are currently stuck with a failed policy that says you have no choice in your child's education. That is wrong. And I am committed to change it for parents, but most importantly, for our children.
Good bills that passed
Here's a quick bulleted list of good bills, both Republican and bipartisan, that passed the Legislature during the 2021 session. Click on the links to pull up bill information, including a summary description.
- Capital budget, including school construction, mental health, rural broadband, and local projects | House Bill 1080. More than $59 million was appropriated for 17th District projects. Go here to pull up project lists for legislative districts.
- Wildfire prevention and forest health | House Bill 1168
- Facilitating the coordinated installation of broadband along state highways | House Bill 1457
- Modifying the Washington Main Street Program tax incentive to respond to the economic impact of COVID | House Bill 1279
- Unemployment insurance reforms | Senate Bill 5193, Senate Bill 5478
- Protecting taxpayers from home foreclosure | House Bill 1410
- Building economic strength through manufacturing | House Bill 1170
- Encouraging utility mitigation of urban heat island effects | House Bill 1114
- Elevating road maintenance and preservation in transportation planning | House Bill 1137
- Establishing a law enforcement professional development outreach grant program | House Bill 1001
Join us for a virtual town hall, Thursday, May 13, 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Sen. Lynda Wilson, Rep. Paul Harris and I invite you to join us May 13 for a virtual town hall in which we will provide a recap of the unprecedented 2021 legislative session. The remote town hall meeting will be conducted using the Zoom platform and begins at 6 p.m. If you wish to participate in the 90-minute event, you must register in advance by clicking here. We hope to see you then.
I work for you throughout the year
Although the 2021 legislative session is now finished, I want you to know that I work for you throughout the year. I will be working on issues related to reducing sex trafficking in Washington and school choice, to name a few. My office has also been helping local citizens who have been having issues with receiving their unemployment. Feel free to reach out for help if you are having issues navigating state agencies. Please keep in touch. My contact information is below.
It is an honor to serve and represent you.