2023 legislative session •
House floor action has concluded for the week. State representatives will return on Monday with just 14 days left to complete their work, including three state budgets and policies relating to public safety, housing, education, and other issues. A lot of work remains to be done in a short time.
The House Democrats’ operating budget ran as a striking amendment to Senate Bill 5187, the operating budget that came over from the Senate. The House debated the legislation for four hours on Monday night, with House Republicans offering strong amendments and floor speeches related to K-12 education, public safety, tax relief, encampment clean up, agriculture, and the long-term care program and payroll tax. The majority party voted down all of the amendments noted. The measure passed on a party-line, 57-40 vote.
You can watch some of our floor debate highlights in this video. Our budget lead, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, provided a great speech that articulated our concerns with the House Democrats’ approach and contrasted it with our priorities.
Unfortunately, it does not appear House Republicans will be a part of the negotiations moving forward — a concern I shared in my speech. We hope the final version will look more like what came out of the Senate and make greater investments in special education and programs to help students recover from learning loss. We also remain concerned about the growth of the operating budget, with spending more than doubling in the last ten years. This is not sustainable.
New tax increases
House Republicans continue to be on alert for new tax increases. This includes House Bill 1628, which would increase both state and local real estate excise taxes, and House Bill 1670, which would allow cities, counties and other taxing districts to triple their annual increases in property taxes. I talked about House Bill 1670 in my video update.
Our state does not need more of your tax dollars. These policies would increase the cost of housing and rent payments and raise property taxes. With an ongoing housing crisis and uncertain economic times ahead, these bills would be disastrous. Please stay tuned.
The House transportation budget, House Bill 1125, passed off the floor with a 96-1 vote on Monday. Our transportation lead, Rep. Andrew Barkis, emphasized bipartisanship and collaboration in his floor speech. He also went up to the House gallery afterward and recorded a video to share more of his perspectives on what this $13.2 billion budget would mean for our state. Andrew will now be involved in negotiations with the Senate on the final plan.
The House capital budget did not advance this week. However, negotiations with the Senate have already started. As I mentioned last week, the House proposal would appropriate $8.38 billion, including $4.18 billion in newly authorized bonds, and leave $158 million for the 2024 supplemental capital budget. Rep. Mike Steele is leading our negotiations. I expect bipartisan support for the legislation that finally reaches the floor.
I wish I had better news to share on the two important public safety bills I have been talking about for weeks: Senate Bill 5536 (drug possession and treatment) and Senate Bill 5352 (vehicular pursuits). A striking amendment was adopted for Senate Bill 5536 in the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Our members on the committee opposed it. Nothing has happened with Senate Bill 5352 since it was voted out of the House Community Safety, Justice & Reentry Committee on March 28.
I think Democrats continue to be deeply divided on these critical issues and that’s why we have not seen either measure reach the floor yet. I will reiterate what I have been saying: We cannot accept token efforts on these bills. We need real solutions to address the serious crime and drug problems in our state. Policies passed by Democrats have exacerbated these problems. It is time to admit mistakes were made and fix them. These issues will define the legislative session.
Bad Senate bills
Several bad bills came over from the Senate. Some died in House committees. However, others advanced — including one that passed off the floor tonight: Senate Bill 5082. This measure would abolish advisory votes, which were established by I-960 in 2007. This legislation would take away the voices of Washingtonians on tax issues. Every House Republican voted against this bill. Rep. Peter Abbarno led our debate. You can watch his floor speech here.
House Democrats also passed Senate Bill 5217 late tonight on a narrow 51-46 vote. It would repeal the voter-approved initiative from 2003 that repealed burdensome ergonomic rules and prohibited L&I from adopting ergonomic regulations. This policy would put our state at a competitive disadvantage for businesses looking to expand or relocate.
We expect to vote on other bad Senate bills next week. I will share more information next Friday.
Rep. J.T. Wilcox
House Republican Leader