It's my pleasure to bring you our second email update for the 2021 legislative session. If you missed the first one from two weeks ago, I invite you to go back and read it as I introduce myself as your new 20th District state representative and provide a recount of the first week of session.
A fast pace on slow technology
We are at the end of our third week of the scheduled 105-day remote session. Conducting the session primarily in the virtual world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, has presented challenges. Committee hearings are awkward. Floor sessions are slow. And caucus meetings are very different as we try to communicate individually and as a group. However, it has not slowed the pace and volume of bills.
As of Thursday, 822 bills have been introduced in the House and Senate. Many of the really bad bills introduced by majority Democrats were introduced early, quickly received public hearings, and were voted out of committee. Some speculate it was to move those bills rapidly before the public became aware, especially since all legislative business normally conducted in the open, is now behind computer screens. That's been a concern of mine from day one. That's why I have strongly encouraged everyone to participate and testify in the legislative process remotely. Go to this page, log on and let your voice be heard!
Our priorities to help struggling Washington citizens and employers
I share the concerns of people across the 20th District who have told me they want to get back to work. They want local businesses to reopen and they want kids back in school, all safely, of course. I'm very supportive of legislation introduced in the first three weeks of session by my Republican colleagues that would:
- Provide unemployment insurance tax relief.
- Suspend B&O tax collections (I co-sponsored this measure.)
- Offer a credit for businesses on their B&O tax liability.
- Rebuild our state's manufacturing sector.
- I am also proud to support the REAL Recovery for Washington Act that includes more than $1.5 billion in relief for working families and $834 million to help small businesses — all without having to raise taxes.
These are all real solutions to help people and employers across Washington who are hurting. You can read more about our priorities here.
Reopening the economy
On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced changes to his reopening criteria, along with allowing two of the eight “Roadmap to Recovery” regions to move to Phase 2. This includes the Puget Sound region (King, Pierce and Snohomish counties) and the West region (Thurston, Lewis Pacific, and Grays Harbor counties.)
Afterward, I issued a statement that partially reads: “While this is very good news for Southwest Washington counties like Lewis, Thurston, and Grays Harbor, it reinforces the arbitrary and subjective basis for the governor's reopening plan. I'm disappointed our other counties, including Clark and Cowlitz, have been left behind.”
We need to move all of Washington to Phase 2. I am supporting House Bill 1321 that would safely reopen Washington. A similar measure by my seatmate, Sen. John Braun (Senate Bill 5114), received strong public support in a recent committee hearing.
Investing in rural infrastructure projects
Another way to help our communities is to provide a stable funding source to build local infrastructure. I have introduced House Bill 1263, which would create the Rural Infrastructure Assistance Account to provide grants to local governments in rural counties.
Rural communities in the 20th District need strong bones and updated infrastructure to be able to grow and prosper. The grants focus on larger projects up to $10 million that would help create economic growth, such as sewer, water, stormwater, recycling facilities, broadband, and other vital infrastructure.
We had good support for this bill during a public hearing Wednesday in the House Community and Economic Development Committee. A committee vote is scheduled for next Friday, Feb. 5.
Stark differences in priorities
As I noted above, legislation my Republican colleagues and I have introduced these first three weeks of the session seeks to provide real solutions for Washington citizens, I am nearly in disbelief at the direction our friends on the other side of the aisle are taking as their 2021 priorities. The differences are stark.
Majority Democrats have proposed billions of dollars in new tax increases to make it more expensive to live, work and raise a family in Washington state. Here are some examples:
- A 9 percent income tax on capital gains as small as $25,000.
- An 18-cent gas tax increase to make Washington the state with the highest gas tax in the nation. This is in addition to carbon taxes and fees they want to implement.
- A new fuel standard to create a “clean fuels” program. This would increase the cost of gasoline at the pumps by as much as 57 cents per gallon and diesel by 63 cents per gallon. Read my press release on this low-carbon fuel standards bill.
When folks are not getting a paycheck or are waiting for their unemployment checks from the Employment Security Department, businesses are struggling, and people can't pay rent or property taxes, now is not the time to slap citizens with a huge tax increase.
In addition, some bad policy bills are making their way through House and Senate committees. For example:
- House Bill 1018 would require $10 boater education licenses for kayakers and paddleboarders if they want to enjoy places like Mayfield Lake, Millersylvania, and Silver Lake here in Southwest Washington.
- House Bill 1050 would create further restrictions on refrigerants used in food processing plants, ice rinks and air conditioning. This could increase the price of frozen foods and put jobs at risk. See my committee testimony against this measure.
- House Bill 1084 would prohibit a natural gas utility from offering new service to customers after July 1 of this year and limit further expansion of natural gas for residential and commercial space and water heating.
We should be working together to help the people of Washington, not finding ways of taking more of their hard-earned money or making it harder to work and enjoy life. The people of Washington state deserve better. I have strongly opposed these measures in their committees and will fight them if they come to the House floor for a vote. Watch my video on the differences between Republican and Democratic session priorities.
Have you visited RepresentativePeterAbbarno.com lately?
My new website is filled with lots of useful and important information. I highly encourage you to visit it and share it with your friends and neighbors. Have them sign up for this e-newsletter.
Here's a sample of what you can read, watch and listen to:
- VIDEO: Rep. Peter Abbarno discusses his first week as the new 20th District state representative.
- VIDEO: This week in the Legislature.
- RADIO: Capitol Report – Remote session and rural infrastructure.
- RADIO: Rep. Abbarno on Town Hall with Mike Wallin – KEDO, Longview.
- RADIO: Rep. Peter Abbarno returns to his former KELA talk show to discuss the 2021 session.
- PODCAST: Rep. Abbarno talks about his new position, discusses legislative priorities
- NEWS RELEASE: Peter Abbarno begins term as new 20th District state representative
It is an honor to serve and represent you!
I encourage you to call, write or email my office with your questions, comments, or ideas about legislation. Some of the best legislation starts with you. I'm glad to discuss these issues with you on the phone or remotely via Zoom. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!