Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As of yesterday we are officially half way through the 105-day scheduled session. Two important deadlines have passed: House policy committee cut off on Feb. 22 and House fiscal committee cut-off on March 1. Because of these deadlines, more than half of the bills introduced this session have died. Culling the bills is positive. More than one thousand bills were introduced in just 52 days, which is a sure sign we are creating bigger government. While technically any bill can be revived, it is difficult and unlikely.
Unfortunately, some good bills have also died, such as a bill that would have reclassified hydropower as a renewable energy source, another that would have required agencies to make permitting decisions within 90 days, and a bill I sponsored to give relief to Whatcom County farmers who have been struggling to maintain their existing water rights. These good ideas have not died along with the bills however, as I will support similar proposals next session and continue to fight for the issues that matter to you.
Since I last wrote you, a bill I sponsored for our local raspberry farmers was voted off the House floor unanimously. This bill would allow two non-voting members with marketing experience to be added to any agricultural commission. The addition of members is optional, so boards are not required to make the change, but this will give growers flexibility to market their goods in a different way and help increase sales. The bill has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee and is likely to be scheduled for a hearing soon.
A busy week of voting
This week has been very demanding. Voting on the floor has continued into the evening each day and is likely to do so tomorrow and this weekend. The deadline for legislation to be voted off the House floor is Wednesday, March 13; so there is a constant push for bills to move. This is the time when tensions rise and debates ensue on the House floor. The majority typically wants to move legislation as quickly as possible; while my fellow Republicans and I urge a more thoughtful approach. If you are interested in seeing the House (or Senate) floor debate you can watch it live at: www.tvw.org.
This week several interesting bills regarding voter registration came to the House floor. As the ranking Republican on the House Government Operations & Elections Committee, I heard these bills in committee. I have been working to amend some of them and to support those that are helpful. Some of the bills that came up for a floor vote yesterday are:
- House Bill 1103 – would change all ballot machines in the state so that one type of ballot is used by every area. Voting systems are aging and differing ballots can confuse voters. This bill gives auditors until 2022 to replace the aging machines on their existing schedules reducing the burdens and costs to local counties. I voted to support this bill because I feel it's in the best interests of voters to have one easy-to-use system. The bill passed off the floor 77 to 20.
- House Bill 1267 – would align online and in-person voting timeline standards so that citizens are given up to eleven days before an election to register. This is a good balance because it allows people the maximum time to register and auditors enough time to carefully compile the information. I voted to support this bill which is a good compromise for all stakeholders. This bill passed off the floor 64 to 33.
- House Bill 1279 – would let youth preregister to vote at 16 or 17 years-old while getting their drivers license. Tracking voters who register at this young age will be difficult, and it could be costly to send ballots to addresses where people are no longer residing. I proposed an amendment to this bill that would have helped with some of the issues surrounding the bill. However, the legislation is still an unfunded mandate and lowers the integrity of our voting system. I voted against the measure. Unfortunately, the bill passed the House 55 to 42.
Court doesn't uphold will of the people
In closing, I want to make you aware of a recent court decision that could impact your life. Seven days ago, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the requirement that two-thirds of the Legislature must vote to support a tax increase. Just a few months ago, Washington state voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 1185 and reiterated a message that it should not be easy to raise taxes.This is the fifth time citizens have voted to support the two-thirds rule. The decision by the court clearly demonstrates they are not listening to the will of the people – just as a one-party controlled Legislature hasn't listened.
I am co-sponsoring legislation, House Joint Resolution 4206, in order to make the two-thirds restriction a part of our state constitution. My fellow representatives and I will push for this constitutional amendment so that once and for all voters will be heard; and free from concern over new taxes they cannot afford. If you also agree that the two-thirds rule should be added to our constitution, you can call (800) 562-6000 or you can click here to find the e-mail address for any legislator you would like to contact. I encourage you to have your voice heard and support HJR 4206.
Town hall this month
I invite you to attend and participate in a town hall with myself and Sen. Doug Ericksen. Legislators are elected to be the voice of the people and this is a great opportunity to hear how I can best represent you. The needs and priorities of our communities are at the forefront of my mind while voting in Olympia, so I'm happy to have this public forum to listen to your ideas and concerns. The town hall will be held on March 16, at the Ferndale High School auditorium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The address is 5830 Golden Eagle Drive, Ferndale, WA 98248.
I will continue to work on the issues and legislation I have discussed in this newsletter, and much more. If there is any element of state government that I can help you with, my door is always open. I am here to be a resource for you. If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (360) 786-7854, or e-mail me at Vincent.Buys@leg.wa.gov. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your voice in Olympia.