Rep. Joe Schmick, Rep. Mary Dye and Sen. Mark Schoesler: The theme for this legislative session is fixing bad policy passed during the last one
The 2022 legislative session kicked off Jan. 10 much like last year's with very few legislators and staff in attendance. While the House and Senate have slightly different operating plans for the year, much is the same: remote committees, online voting, and very little in-person involvement from the public.
In fact, much of this session's work will be to undo, fix, or “tweak” legislation that passed last year. It's now very apparent that when you shut down in-person testimony from the public, bad policy abounds.
First on the list is a full repeal of the regressive and unfair long-term care (LTC) insurance and payroll tax. Nearly 63% of voters voted against this plan through Advisory Vote No. 20 in 2019. To date, more than 460,000 people have successfully opted out of this program by purchasing long term-care plans on the open market.
While there will be legislation aimed at fixing the LTC insurance and payroll tax, we believe the best path forward for everyone is to completely repeal the program. The governor and majority Democrats in Olympia have said they will work with us to suspend the collection of the payroll tax until after the 2022 election. It remains to be seen how that will play out.
Next on the list of fixes is to address legislation spawned by the Defund the Police movement that prevent law enforcement from pursuing suspects and assisting with mental health calls. These two bills, House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054, MUST be reworked to allow law enforcement to do their jobs effectively and to help keep our communities and families safe.
Emergency powers reform is next up on our to-do list. We have been in a state of emergency since Feb. 29, 2020. We are approaching two years of one-person rule with very little input from legislators who represent diverse constituencies from all four corners of the state. While we agree that in times of severe emergencies the executive branch needs the flexibility and immediacy of emergency powers, there must remain a system of checks and balances, something lacking in current law.
Homelessness, drug addiction, and crime are also areas that need serious legislative intervention and attention. Violent crime is at a 25-year high and property crime continues to increase as drug addicts fuel their habits.
In the midst of reworking last year's poor partisan policies, the Legislature must decide what to do with the state's largest-ever four-year budget surplus: $8.8 billion, with another $2.2 billion in reserves. In addition, the state has $1.2 billion in unspent federal stimulus funds.
We believe the Legislature should give some of this ample surplus back to you, the taxpayers, in the form of meaningful property tax, sales tax, or cell phone tax relief.
We encourage you to stay engaged in the legislative process throughout this short, 60-day session. You can contact our offices via email or phone call. Visit tvw.org to watch committee meetings and floor votes. Visit leg.wa.gov to find out how to testify in online committees, or call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000.
Your active involvement is more crucial now than ever before as we see what happens when the majority party ignores nearly 50% of Washington citizens.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, and Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, all represent the 9th Legislative District.