The 2021 legislative session: A session like no other
2020 was an unprecedented and hard year for all of us. This week helps bring the last year into perspective as we hit the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 continues to bring us challenges in the areas of public health and the economy.
The Legislature convened on Monday, Jan. 11. As a lawmaker, I always strive to work across the aisle to represent Eastern Washington perspectives and values.
On Friday, Jan, 15, one of the first actions of the Legislature was passage of Resolution 8402, which consolidates and extends over twenty of the governor's emergency proclamations issued in response to the pandemic.
I voted no for a couple reasons, but most importantly, none of the proclamations in the resolution were subject to public hearings. Without public input, it is difficult to gauge which proclamations are working well and which are not. Your voice and involvement in the process continues to be vital to the decisions we make. We should not be voting on resolutions or bills that you have not had the proper time to vet and comment on.
It is important to note how session looks different this year. We continue to operate in a virtual environment, with most of our work being conducted electronically via streaming video and electronic voting systems.
While technology certainly does not replace in person interactions on the Capitol campus and in hearing rooms, there are expanded opportunities for remote committee testimony.
In a demonstration of improved access, over 1,600 people signed in to testify, or provide written testimony, on Senate Bill 5114 which was recently heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. This is the bill to safely reopen our businesses and state. The phenomenal turnout from this bill shows your voice does matter and can still be heard.
As we are just wrapping up week two of session, we've already seen troubling proposals that will make working, driving, and living more expensive for all Washingtonians. I would like to highlight two major tax proposals you should be aware of.
As we have seen in past sessions, the capital gains income tax proposal (Senate Bill 5096) has been brought forward again. It is clearly unpopular with voters, who have rejected any form of an income tax on the ballot. In addition to constitutional concerns, capital gains are an unreliable source of revenue that can be especially volatile while discouraging investment in our state. The new tax would be challenged in the courts and likely struck down, again.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, we saw the presentation of another troubling proposal, which includes an increase to our state's gas tax – already one of the highest in the nation – by 18 cents per gallon. Those who purchase diesel would also pay an additional three cents per gallon. When folks are continuing to struggle to make ends meet, it is entirely (maybe totally or completely?) unwise to increase the gas tax by large increments. We live in a rural district, with long commutes for many workers who would be disproportionately impacted.
I will continue to stand up for working families, those on fixed incomes, and all residents throughout our district, as we work to make life more affordable.
The 2021 session is 105-days and will continue to be one like no other. I encourage you to stay updated on what's happening in your Legislature and stay involved in the process. Please visit my website – www.RepresentativeSkylerRude.com, to learn more about how remote testimony works, how to sign-up to testify, and how to follow a bill throughout the legislative process. It is my honor to serve you.
As printed in the Dayton Chronicle and the Prosser Record-Bulletin