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Dear Neighbor,

As we prepare for the fourth week of the 60-day legislative session, which began Jan. 10, I wanted to provide this update, along with an invitation to our 20th District virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday.

Mark your calendar and join us for a virtual town hall meeting, Feb. 1

Join me, Sen. John Braun and Rep. Ed Orcutt for a virtual “Zoom” town hall meeting this coming Tuesday, Feb. 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. online.

We will provide an update of the 2022 legislative session and then take questions from participants. Questions may also be submitted in advance during the registration process.

Please go here to register for the event: https://tinyurl.com/LD20-town-hall. Space is limited, so I encourage you to register now.

State's new controversial long-term care insurance program and payroll tax is delayed, but NOT fixed

The state's controversial long-term care insurance program and payroll tax has been delayed for 18 months, following the governor's signature on House Bill 1732 yesterday (Thursday). Under the bill, the tax, which was supposed to be imposed on Washington workers this month, is now delayed until July of 2023. Benefits will also be delayed until July 2026.

I would have preferred to sack the WA Cares payroll tax program completely and start from scratch. In fact, I sponsored House Bill 1594 to fully repeal the program. When the bill had no movement in the House Appropriations Committee, I made a motion on Jan. 19 to bring it directly to the House floor for a vote. Democrats rejected that motion, along with another by Republican Rep. Drew Stokesbary to vote on his repeal and replace measure, House Bill 1913.

Instead, Democrats brought two of their own bills to the House floor for a vote. Along with the delay measure, House Bill 1732 (described above), House Bill 1733 would create four new voluntary exemptions from the program. They passed both of the measures and sent them to the Senate. Read more about that here.

Once the Senate passed both bills, the governor signed them on Thursday and then declared “it's been fixed” during a news conference afterward.

But let's be very clear here. The long-term care insurance program and payroll tax is far from fixed. In fact, the governor's declaration ignores the insolvency of the program, marginalizes working families experiencing hardships, and disregards all those families that purchased and continue paying for private plans merely to escape this unpopular program and regressive payroll tax. The mission is NOT accomplished, despite the governor's comments.

We still have a long road ahead. That's why I voted for the delay after my repeal bill was rejected, so we can work to either get it scrapped or get it right. Working families deserve a solvent plan that addresses their long-term care needs. We need to continue to work on real solutions in a bipartisan way that incentivizes planning rather than the current program that punishes working families. 

Watch my video: Priorities and issues of the 2022 legislative session

Abbarno works to advance prime bills before cutoff

I'm working hard to advance my bills from their respective committees before next Thursday's policy committee deadline. Bills that have not passed from their policy committees by Feb, 3 may be “dead” for the session. So far, most of the measures I have prime sponsored have received public hearings. Here's an update:

  • House Bill 1595 is Zack's Law in honor of a local Centralia teen who drowned last year in the Chehalis River near the Willapa Trail. The bill has gained strong bipartisan support and raises awareness of cold-water shock drownings through signage. Sen. John Braun introduced a companion bill for Zack's Law in the Senate. This bill is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, Feb. 1, in the House Transportation Committee. Read more about this bill here.
  • House Bill 1677 would increase an existing $1,500 business and occupation tax credit up to $3,000 for veterans hired full-time on or after July 1, 2022. It would also expand that tax credit to veteran spouses, or spouses of active-duty military members. Plus, veterans would no longer have to meet the requirement of being unemployed for at least 30 days to be eligible. In addition, it would apply to seasonal employers. A public hearing was held Tuesday in the House Finance Committee.
  • House Bill 1929 would establish a competitive grant program under the state Department of Commerce to award funding to local governments in rural counties for capital projects that would improve fire protection services. This bill is a product of my tours of local fire districts and buildings in Winlock and Napavine. This legislation would greatly assist with fire safety and protection in communities experiencing economic growth, as well as aging buildings. A public hearing was held Tuesday in the House Capital Budget Committee. Read more about House Bill 1677 and House Bill 1929 here.
  • House Bill 2093 would increase the county timber tax distributions by reducing the charge for administrative collection costs. This is an important piece of legislation for Lewis County and many other timber counties. It was very well drafted in consultation with county treasurers, including Lewis County Treasurer Arny Davis. This measure is in the House Appropriations Committee. Sen John Braun has introduced the companion measure in the Senate, Senate Bill 5921.

Bipartisan work – Establishing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library as a statewide program

It is my honor to join with Rep. Monica Stonier, R-Vancouver as a co-sponsor of House Bill 2068, recognizing country singer Dolly Parton's Imagination Library as a statewide program in Washington state.

Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library program in 1995 to inspire a love of reading and provide free books to children ages birth to five-years old. The community connected gifting program mails quality, age-appropriate books to children's homes at no cost to families. The bill would create a statewide program that would develop, promote, and sustain local Imagination Library programs across Washington state. 

I have participated in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with my family and supported the program in my community and throughout southwest Washington for many years. It is an honor to help lead this bipartisan effort to bring the Imagination Library to children and families throughout the state of Washington.

Top House Republican priorities and real solutions

In addition to the bills I've listed above, I am working on several other important priorities for our district and the state, including:

  • Providing tax relief and making life more affordable for all Washingtonians.
  • Strengthening communities by making public safety a priority and supporting effective community policing.
  • Holding state government accountable, improving outcomes, and enacting emergency powers reform.
  • Empowering parents by providing transparency and the necessary financial and educational flexibility to help their children succeed in school and in life.

More information, along with the legislation to accomplish these goals can be found here: https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/our-priorities.

Get more information, get involved!

Your awareness and involvement in the legislative process is very important, especially during this COVID-19 remote session. There are several ways you can stay informed and involved:

How to get involved

Testify remotely

Track legislation

Want to track a specific bill? Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Go to leg.wa.gov.
  • On the left-hand panel, click “Bill Information.” 
  • If you know the bill number, enter it in the search field and hit enter.
  • Don't have a bill number? Under the section “Standard Reports,” you'll find alternative tracking tools. You can search based on topic, legislative digests, cross-references, and within a specific biennium.

Contact my office

Please contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation and/or state government. My contact information is below.

Thank you for allowing me the amazing honor of serving you and the families of the 20th Legislative District.

Sincerely,


Peter Abbarno

State Representative Peter Abbarno, 20th Legislative District
representativepeterabbarno.com
411 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
peter.abbarno@leg.wa.gov
(564) 888-2492 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000