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Dear Neighbor,

It was this past March that Zack Rager and his three friends were walking on the Willapa Hills Trail during a warm day when the 18-year-old man decided to do what he had done many times before during the summer — jump from the old railroad train trestle bridge into the Chehalis River. Only this time, Zach didn't know how cold the water was until he splashed into it. In fact, it was so frigid, he immediately began to suffer from cold-water shock and, tragically, drowned. An average of 200 people die each year because of cold-water immersion.

Many people, including Zack, have never heard of cold-water shock and the dangers it presents. I'm hoping to change that and save lives.

Last week, I held a news conference at the railroad bridge where Zack drowned to announce my plans to introduce legislation for the 2022 legislative session. Known as “Zack's Law,” the bill would require state government agencies and local governments to erect signs addressing drowning hazards when replacing signs or erecting signs near dangerous water hazards. It would also create a mechanism for the public to donate funds to the state for the specific purpose of erecting signs in locations known to attract people to what could be hazardous waterways.

I was joined at the news conference by Zack's family and local law enforcement officials who are supporting these efforts. The bill is not expected to have significant fiscal costs since most signs would be erected at the same time upgrades are made to bridges and other water-adjacent infrastructure. I plan to pre-file the measure in December, just a few weeks before the 2022 legislative session begins in January.

This is a small, but important effort, to ensure no other families lose a loved one to cold-water shock.

The new long-term care payroll tax: Now is the time to opt out — if you can.

Since the summer in my email updates, I have discussed the new long-term care payroll tax that kicks in on Jan. 1, 2022. Beginning on that date, all employees in Washington state will be forced to pay 58 cents per $100 earned from their paychecks to provide for the new state long-term care program, known as the WA Cares Fund.

You can opt out of the payroll tax and the program if you have a qualified long-term care insurance plan in place before Nov. 1, 2021.

Unfortunately, if you do not have not yet purchased a long-term care plan or made plans for one before Nov. 1, it will be nearly impossible to get long-term care insurance. That's because insurance companies, overloaded from the applications ahead of the Nov. 1 opt-out deadline, have stopped selling these policies.

Many people are just learning about this upcoming tax and have no ability to get out from under it. That's very concerning and why a bipartisan group of state senators recently sent a letter to the governor asking him to suspend the new tax.

I am also among several Republicans spearheading an effort of reforms on this program for the coming 2022 session. Unfortunately, the session begins AFTER the tax has taken effect. I will provide updates in this email newsletter when my legislation is ready for release.

For more information on this issue, check out this webpage, which includes frequently asked questions. It will be updated when more information becomes available, including legislation we are proposing related to the program.

Fighting the governor's vaccination mandates

Since August when the governor announced vaccination requirements for most state employees, teachers, private health care workers, and long-term care workers, I have been very outspoken in my opposition against these mandates. I joined with Sen. John Braun and Rep. Ed Orcutt in an opinion editorial calling for the governor to rescind these orders. We held a town hall meeting in Chehalis where this was the primary topic. I issued a statement against the educator vaccine mandate, saying “Choosing extreme ultimatums trample liberties and result in less teachers and less health care providers at a time when we need this most.”

My House Republican colleagues and I have. . .

We recognize that millions of Washington citizens have had no voice in state government as Gov. Inslee has shut out legislators from around the state and prevented us from weighing on key issues that impact us all.

The Legislature sued the governor over his misuse of veto power and won in Superior Court in June of 2020.  However, majority Democrats in the Legislature have shown no interest in challenging the governor's emergency powers in any way – whether it be through legislative action or the court system.

As the vaccination deadline of Oct. 18 nears and people are at risk of losing their jobs, I urge you to speak out now! Contact the governor here, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) here.  You can contact the Washington State Speaker of the House, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, here.  And Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig here.

I will continue working hard on your behalf. And I'm always willing to hear from you. However, I need your help. If you're tired of one-person rule in our state and you want to ensure your state elected officials are not shut out, I urge you to contact the individuals I've listed above, especially the governor, who needs to be made aware of how many of you are worried, concerned or frustrated with his decisions and how they impact you and your family.

You can read more here about our actions to rein in the governor's emergency powers.

Insurance rates going up?

In June, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler issued an emergency rule banning credit scoring for setting insurance rates after he was unable to get traction on his bill in the Legislature. Many citizens tell me that they are now seeing increases in their home, auto and renter's insurance rates.

Choosing to do this now during a pandemic when many people are suffering financial hardships is — in the words of Sen, Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah — “downright cruel.” In an opinion editorial to The Columbian, my 18th District colleague, Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, concluded: “If your rates went up, blame Commissioner Kriedler. If you want to do something about it, tell the commissioner how upset you are and then contact your legislators.”

Rather than address the root cause, Commissioner Kriedler wants to punish fiscally responsible Washingtonians. We should be educating our youth and students about fiscal responsibility and financial management, and help them build their credit scores. A good credit score is one of many reliable tools used by many businesses, including the insurance industry, to help them evaluate potential customers.

The Legislature, both Republicans and Democrats, did not approve this effort by Commissioner Kriedler. That is why it is very unfortunate that politicians, such as Gov. Inslee and Commissioner Kriedler, are taking advantage of the pandemic to bypass the Legislature and issue emergency orders against the wishes of Washington's citizens. This will needlessly cost families more at a time when they can least afford it.

Redistricting efforts under way

Every 10 years, after the federal government publishes updated census information, Washington redraws the boundaries of its congressional and state legislative electoral districts to ensure that each district represents an equal number of residents. Those efforts are now in progress.

The four members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission — two Democrats and two Republicans — recently submitted their first draft of legislative maps. You can find these maps and commissioner statements at this web pageDraft congressional district maps have also been released.

A statewide public outreach meeting on proposed legislative district maps was held Tuesday, October 5. Another statewide meeting — this one for congressional maps — is scheduled for this Saturday, October 9.

At least three of the commission members are supposed to agree on a final plan by Nov. 15. If they can't agree, the final decision will be left to the state Supreme Court.

To learn more about how you can be involved, click here.  

Stay in touch!

If you have any questions about the issues in this email update or other state government-related matters, please contact my office. I appreciate your feedback, questions and concerns. My contact information is below.

Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you and the great 20th Legislative District.


Peter Abbarno

State Representative Peter Abbarno, 20th Legislative District
411 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7896 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000