Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As many of us feared, budget negotiators have not yet reached an agreement on our next two-year operating budget. This is very frustrating. I believe our constituents send us to Olympia to get our work done within the constitutionally-mandated timeframe. Special sessions are becoming the norm instead of the exception. We're moving closer to a full-time Legislature, which is troubling to me.
That being said, there is no magic wand to bring about compromise. As I mentioned in my email to you last week, the House and Senate are at an impasse over tax increases. As much as you or I want the Legislature to be finished with its work on time, the fact remains: most of you do not want $8 billion in new and increased taxes over the next four years. This is really what the special session comes down to. We could yield right now and be done, but I don't think you sent me to Olympia to work on your behalf and then surrender to an $8 billion ransom demand.
In an effort to help spur negotiations along, former candidate for governor and now temporary Senator Dino Rossi is trying a new tactic. He's introduced legislation in the Senate that mirrors the House Democrat tax increase proposals. In essence, he's calling their bluff. His plan is to hold a public hearing on those tax increases, pass the bill out of committee, and then vote for it on the floor of the Senate. Again, this is a negotiating tactic (Senate Republicans do NOT want to increase taxes). The Senate vote will fail because there is not support for a state income tax on capital gains and B&O increases that hurt small businesses, and rightfully so. He's challenging Speaker of the House Frank Chopp to do the same in the House – bring the tax increases up for a vote so the public can see that House Democrats don't even support their own budget. Until House Democrats pass a budget that is funded, negotiations are stagnant. I'll keep you informed how that effort progresses.
Your internet privacy
Privacy and online security have become an all new reality for most of us. As we do more and more of our daily activities online, the need for securing our personal information has moved to the forefront. Di you know that your search history, internet browsing history, which websites you visit, how often you visit them, how long you stayed and what you purchased while there – are all up for grabs to the highest bidder?
This unfortunate reality led many of us to sponsor House Bill 2200. This bill will prohibit internet service providers from selling their customers' online activities without prior approval from the customer. It was approved this week in the state House of Representatives and is now in the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.
While I supported this legislation, I was sad that an amendment offered by House Republicans was not accepted that would have extended this prohibition to what we call “edge” companies. These are online retailers or social media pages which collect your search history and then use that date to customize online advertisements that appear while your are online. Had that amendment been allowed, it would have provided for a much more robust and inclusive privacy bill that I would have been much more happy with.
My ATV bill signed into law
My bill to allow ATVs to cross certain sections of highways with speeds greater than 35 mph was signed into law this week. For more information, you can read my news release here.
So, special session – what happens now?
Unfortunately, the Legislature's experience with multiple special sessions in the past decade has provided a reasonable expectation for what the process of this special session will look like. The majority of legislators will be sent home and only called back to Olympia once there is actually something to vote on. Legislative leadership and budget negotiators try to hammer out a compromise and keep the rest of the Legislature apprised via weekly and sometimes daily conference calls. As part of the leadership team and as the leader on our health care solutions, I will be required to be in Olympia periodically throughout the special session.
As always, thanks for staying involved. Feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.