Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session is well underway as we round the corner of week three. I know how frustrated many of you are that we're operating and meeting exclusively virtually this session.
As you'll recall, last session I was able to bring remote testimony to our district. This was an effort to make the legislative process more accessible to those of us who live in Eastern Washington.
This year, the legislature is operating almost entirely virtual. I know virtual meetings, committee hearings, and testimony can be challenging, but I encourage you to stay active in the legislative process. In my recent video update, I go over how you can stay connected with me, and the Legislature. You can also access the links, and other resources I reference in the video, by visiting my website RepresentativeSkylerRude.com. You'll find all the information you need on my homepage.
You can watch by clicking the photo below.
In the video, you briefly heard me announce a couple of the bills I have introduced this session. Let me provide you with a little more detail.
House Bill 1131 passes House unanimously
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, my first bill of the 2021 session was passed unanimously by the House chamber. House Bill 1131 was requested by the State Board of Education. It would allow similar waivers for instructional hours for private schools that are currently allowed for public schools. Unlike public schools, private schools don't have the flexibility in statute to waive instructional days or hour requirements due to a significant disruption resulting from an emergency. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
Greater voter participation in presidential primaries
I've partnered with Secretary of State Kim Wyman to sponsor legislation to allow for greater voter participation in presidential primaries. House Bill 1265 would give independent and third-party voters an option on the presidential primary to register their support without identifying a partisan affiliation. Currently, state law requires voters to sign a party declaration oath on their ballot envelope. Ballots of voters who do not sign the partisan oath are rejected. Those who wish to participate in the current partisan primary would continue to do so by voting and signing the oath as usual. However, results for those who participate in the unaffiliated option would be tabulated and published separately. This provision would ensure the new unaffiliated option would not interfere with the partisan aspect of the presidential primary.
We're hopeful this bill will receive a public hearing in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.
Death with Dignity Act
As some of you might recall, last year I passed a bill to study the barriers associated with our state's Death with Dignity Act. My bill would've required the University of Washington to conduct a study and report on the barriers associated with Washington residents' access to the Death with Dignity Act, consider how to improve the Act, and allow more people to have access. My bill was vetoed by Gov. Inslee in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This session, I've introduced House Bill 1141. This isn't the same bill from last session, rather this bill seeks to improve some provisions within the existing law to include increased access. The bill had a public hearing in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. It was passed out of committee and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Budgets and taxes
This session, our three budget committees – Appropriations, Transportation, and Capital Budget – will be responsibility for writing the 2021-23 biennial budgets. There are many shortfalls due to the COVID-19 response that each budget will need to address. It's important now, more than ever, that we're fiscally responsible. We need to work within our means, concentrate on our existing revenue, and not increase the tax burden on our residents.
As your state representative, it's important to me you are kept in the loop of all the proposals – good and bad – that are brought before us. There are several tax increase proposals that have already been introduced. They include:
Increasing the price of gas and diesel by almost $1 a gallon. The House Democratic Caucus has introduced a massive $26 billion transportation package that includes an 18-cent gas tax increase, and a 21-cent diesel tax increase, over the next two years, plus a fee on carbon emissions, bringing the price of a gallon of gasoline up by almost $1. If this proposal were to pass, it would give Washington state the highest gas tax in the nation.
Low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). While responsible stewardship of our environment is so important, we need to ensure we're introducing policies that balance environmental and economic health. House Bill 1091 would enact a low-carbon fuel standard and authorize the state Department of Ecology to create a clean fuels program, which could eventually increase the cost of gas and diesel. I've consistently maintained that climate issues need to be addressed on a federal level, so we don't economically disadvantage our state.
Capital gains income tax. A push for a state graduated capital gains income tax several times over the years. This year, the proposal comes back as Senate Bill 5096. This bill would impose a 9% income tax on capital gains $25,000 and greater. Not only is a capital gains tax prohibited by our state's constitution – and likely to be challenged legally if passed – it's an incredibly volatile way to collect revenue.
Please reach out to my office at any time to set up a meeting, ask questions, or have a conversation about the issues that matter most to you. Even in this virtual world, my door is always “open.” My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email.
I also encourage you to bookmark the following links. These are good resources to keep you up-to-date and to stay informed about your state government.
- My legislative website. Here you will find my contact information, news releases, archived email updates, and more.
- TVW. The state's own version of C-SPAN. This is where you can watch all of the committee and floor action.
- The Washington State Ledger. This is our legislative news aggregator with information related to state government, public policy, and the legislative process.
- Washington State Legislature website. Here you will find committee and floor schedules, bill information, and how you can testify and/or provide input on a bill.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!