2024 legislative session •

Dear Friend:

The 60-day legislative session ended on March 7. State lawmakers have now returned home to reconnect with their families and friends. Unless a special session is called, the Legislature will not convene again until January 2025.

This was my first regular legislative session as House Republican Leader. I’m really proud of what my caucus accomplished this year, including what we were able to both pass and stop. In my time in the Legislature, I have never seen Republicans more united and focused on addressing the catalog of crises in our state.

Fix Washington

House Republicans entered this year with the mantra: Fix Washington. We introduced several bills relating to affordability, public safety, K-12 education, drugs, homelessness, housing, and childcare. The majority party chose to ignore most of these solutions. Unfortunately, our state’s crises were not sufficiently addressed by the policies and supplemental operating budget passed by Democrats this year. They missed several opportunities to fix Washington.

Three initiatives pass the Legislature

When the people of Washington sent the Legislature six initiatives to consider, it changed the direction of the legislative session. Republicans immediately embraced the measures and called for prompt public hearings. We were ultimately successful in not only securing public hearings for three initiatives, but also passing them.

On March 4, the Legislature passed: I-2113, restoring vehicular pursuits for law enforcement (77-20 vote); I-2081, establishing a Parents’ Bill of Rights (82-15 vote); and I-2111, prohibiting state and local personal income taxes (76-21 vote). Every House Republican supported all three initiatives. These measures will become effective on June 6.

These are major wins for Washingtonians who want safer communities, more parental rights relating to their children’s education, and the assurance of no personal income taxes. It is also a reminder that philosophical majorities exist in the Legislature when Democratic leadership allows legislation to advance to the House and Senate floors.

The national media is also taking notice of the common-sense, conservative policies that advanced this legislative session:

Three initiatives will advance to the November ballot

The majority party did not hold public hearings and did not take action on the other three initiatives: I-2117, repealing the carbon tax; I-2124, opting out of the state long-term care program and payroll tax; and I-2109, repealing the capital gains tax. These initiatives will now advance to the November ballot.

My interview on TVW

I sat down with Mike McClanahan of TVW’s The Impact on the last day to offer my perspectives on the legislative session. In the interview, I said we are finally beginning to restore a little bit of common sense to Olympia. I highlighted the passage of the three initiatives, discussed some bad bills that were stopped, and talked about missed opportunities. You can watch the segment at this link.

I also featured what I believe to be the worst bill that passed this legislative session: House Bill 1589. This controversial legislation will pave the way to ban natural gas and dramatically increase energy rates for Puget Sound Energy customers. This policy is regressive and will make our state’s affordability crisis worse. It narrowly passed on a 50-45 vote, which you don’t see very often, after 2 a.m. on March 6. You can watch my floor speech here.

Supplemental operating budget

It should come as no surprise that House Republicans voted against the final supplemental operating budget. It passed on a party-line vote on the last day of the legislative session. We also voted against a previous version of this budget back on February 24.

While the supplemental operating budget has policies and programs we support, it still spends too much. For perspective: The 2014 supplemental operating budget increased spending by $200 million. The 2024 supplemental operating budget will increase spending by $2.2 billion. This level of spending growth is irresponsible.

As I have mentioned before, state spending has more than doubled in the last decade. At the same time, Democrats have not provided any type of meaningful tax relief to Washingtonians who are struggling under the weight of policies passed by the majority party. Several states, including blue states, have provided tax relief over the last few years. But not in Washington, despite state surpluses over the last several budget cycles.

One of our priorities this legislative session was to fix the affordability crisis in our state. We introduced measures to lower the state sales tax, repeal the state long-term care payroll tax, and provide $200 rebates to Washington drivers to help offset the high gas prices caused by the regressive Climate Commitment Act. Again, the Democrats were not interested.

It is also bad for Washingtonians that House Republicans were not allowed a seat at the negotiating table despite the fact we represent so many legislative districts across the state. If the process for the operating budget was similar to the transportation and capital budgets, we would see much better public policy coming from the Legislature.

Supplemental transportation budget

The supplemental transportation budget passed unanimously on the last day. The bipartisan plan will add $1.1 billion to the $13.5 billion allocated last year for the 2023-25 transportation budget. In a statement from Rep. Andrew Barkis, ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, he talks about this budget prioritizing maintenance and preservation, highway safety, recruiting and retaining Washington State Patrol troopers, and preventing and removing graffiti vandalism. Rep. Barkis did a great job of representing the interests and needs of our communities in the budget negotiations.

Supplemental capital budget

The House passed the supplemental capital budget on a 96-0 vote on March 6. It is often called the state construction budget and the process for developing it continues to be bipartisan. The $1.33 billion plan invests heavily in K-12 school construction, housing, mental health facilities, and early learning facilities — all critical needs for our state.

I appreciate the hard work of our new ranking member on the House Capital Budget Committee, Rep. Peter Abbarno, who led our team’s negotiations. I like his description of this budget: “A community-up, not Olympia-down, budget.” In addition to larger statewide investments, this budget funds small, important projects in communities across our state. You can find more details in Rep. Abbarno’s news release or by visiting this non-partisan website.

Thank you

Thank you for reading this publication. I appreciate it. I’ll touch base again in April to share more information, including details on bills that did or did not pass. And if you aren’t already, please consider following us on social media. You can find all of these platforms on our caucus website.

Warmly,

Rep. Drew Stokesbary
House Republican Leader
drew.stokesbary@leg.wa.gov