Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We just finished 10 days of floor action. We worked long hours, late nights, and during the weekends as we debated, amended and passed bills. The finally tally of House bills we sent to the Senate was 351, of those, 280 are Democrat-sponsored and 71 are sponsored by Republicans.
I feel fortunate to have had three prime-sponsored bills pass the House. All of which are now being considered by the Senate:
House Bill 1467 – Would clarify the definition of a “well” to protect farms and businesses from the Department of Ecology's interpretation of what constitutes a “well.” The department has been considering increased regulation under the current definition, which could apply to something as simple as small hole made in the ground by a soil probe. The bill passed the House by a vote of 97-0. It is already scheduled for a public hearing on March 9 in the Senate Environment and Water and Energy Committee.
House Bill 1538 – Would modify regulations related to animal health inspections. There have been instances where livestock have not arrived at their required destination for inspection before ending up in a feed lot. This legislation would make it illegal for livestock to end up anywhere other than the location they are assigned for inspection. This bill passed the House 97-0 and is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee.
House Bill 1542 – Would help combat motorcycle theft. This an increasing problem and this legislation takes a proactive approach in preventing the theft. This bill has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Most of the job-creating bills we were pushing as a caucus have been rejected by the majority party and did not make it out of the House before the cutoff date to pass bills to the Senate.
- Workers' compensation reform (House Bill 1872), although Senate passed their bill to be considered in the House;
- Double small business B&O tax credit (House Bill 1672);
- Keep homes affordable by delaying expensive new state energy code requirements (House Bill 1388);
- Require permit decisions in 90 days (House Bill 1961);
- Freeze on rulemaking (House Bill 1156); and
- Make unfunded mandates on school and local governments optional (House Bill 1855).
During our many hours of floor debate, I do not recall a significant piece of legislation from the majority party that would create jobs or potentially boost our economy. There were some bills I found very concerning.
They passed legislation that would implement tougher regulations and steep fines against contractors (House Bill 1701). Also, a bill nicknamed the “Permanent Employment Act,” House Bill 1832, would protect workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from losing their jobs when new contractors take over. Under the bill, new contractors who provide services within the airport would be required to retain employees for 90 days. Unless employees do something wrong, the new contractor would be required to keep them on the job. This sets a dangerous precedent for guaranteed employment contracts and is a prime example of state government telling the private sector how to run their business.
I am hopeful we will be able to pass the Senate version of workers' compensation reform, Senate Bill 5566. It came out of the Senate with strong bipartisan support. Anyone who owns a business or is associated with business, knows how important this legislation is for our employers and the workers' compensation system. The system is facing insolvency if reforms are not made soon. The Accident Fund, which is 100 percent employer funded, faces a $360 million deficit despite an almost 30 percent increase in rates in 2011.
We expect the bill to be challenged heavily by labor in the House, but it is essential we get it passed this session. Small businesses provide the jobs and support for our communities, families and individuals. We must get Washington working again and this would be a big help to our employers.
Town Hall Meeting
The details for the town hall are:
Saturday, March 12
1 to 3 p.m.
Lynden Middle School auditorium
516 Main Street, Lynden
This meeting is an excellent opportunity to discuss solutions surrounding our budget and other issues before the Legislature. I hope you are able to attend. I am looking forward to the opportunity to meet with you and hear your questions and concerns.
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