E-NEWSLETTER: 2018 legislative session begins

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2018 legislative session is under way! In fact, we are almost finished with the second week of this 60-day session. Jan. 8 was the opening day. The first day of a legislative session always features some important traditions, including the swearing-in of newly elected members or returning members starting new terms and a joint session with the House to hear the governor deliver the “state of the state” address.

Sen. Angel asks a question in a committee meeting.

Much of my time during these first two weeks of session has been spent in committee meetings in which we hold public hearings on bills referred to those committees. Our Senate policy committees face a Feb. 2 deadline to consider and act on Senate bills, while the Transportation, and Ways and Means committees have a Feb. 6 cutoff. Once these deadlines have passed, we’ll spend most of our working hours either on the Senate floor to debate and vote on bills that survived the committee process, or we’ll meet with our legislative caucuses to discuss bills that will receive floor votes.

If you have questions, comments or ideas about bills before the Legislature this year or issues concerning state government, I hope you will call, e-mail or write my office. I value your opinion!

If you plan to travel to Olympia and would like to meet with me, please let me or my office know as early as possible because of the hectic schedule that goes with the “short” session.

Governor’s ‘energy tax’ would hurt Washington families

When Governor Inslee unveiled his supplemental operating budget in December, he revealed that he would propose a carbon tax to help balance his budget. During the first week of this session he shared more details about what is really a new tax on energy.

The news isn’t good for Washington families. It’s an unnecessary and burdensome tax increase that focuses more on raising money than actually helping the environment.

The governor’s plan (Senate Bill 6203) would tax carbon emissions generated by transportation fuels and power plants at $20 per metric ton, starting in July 2019. Afterward, the tax would rise 3.5 percent a year, plus inflation.  One of the governor’s advisers acknowledged this energy tax would increase costs by 4 to 5 percent on electricity, about 10 percent on natural gas used in homes, and 6 to 9 percent on gasoline. That’s another 20 cents per gallon at the pump, with no road improvements in exchange.

Paychecks won’t be able to keep up with these increased fees, so that will especially hurt middle- and low-income families. We all use electricity, natural gas and gasoline, meaning this tax would be an immediate hit on our wallets if and when it’s implemented.

We don’t even know if this proposed energy tax would help our environment. But we do know it would raise the costs of vital utilities to taxpayers. Fortunately, even Democratic leaders in the Legislature sound less than thrilled about the governor’s energy tax.

A possible ‘Hirst fix’ on water rights for rural landowners?

Possibly the top unresolved issue from last year’s legislative session was the water-rights problem caused by a lawsuit known as the Hirst case. The state Supreme Court in 2016 issued a decision that basically restricts new household wells in rural areas.

This has been disastrous news for rural landowners who want to build a home on their property because they can’t afford to live in the city or prefer to raise their children in a rural area. Without the ability to install a well where water-system connections aren’t available, landowners won’t be able to build homes on their property, shattering their American dream. It also means plummeting land values, which is a harsh and unfair blow to people who have invested so much of their hard-earned money into their land. It also could cost our state billions of dollars in much-needed economic growth in our rural areas.

In addition, the devaluation of property will result in a reduction in property tax revenue for state and local government, which could hurt our public schools and our communities. Another problem caused by the lack of a Hirst fix is that the loss of property value for some will result in a tax shift onto other property owners in a taxing district, resulting in a hidden tax increase for many in our communities.

My Republican colleagues and I (and some Democrats, too) think a simple, permanent solution to this water-access situation is not only absolutely necessary, but realistic and doable. A Hirst fix is critical to our state’s economy and housing situation.

The Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee recently passed a Hirst fix bill (SSB 6091) that possibly will come up for a full vote on the floor of the Senate Chamber tonight. If you have time, please let me know what you think of this bill. I’m still examining this proposal and deciding whether to vote for it.

Meet my legislative office team!

I’m proud to introduce my legislative office team for this session. Holly Cocci (center) is my legislative assistant after serving as my session aide last year and my legislative intern in 2016. Holly is a Gig Harbor girl who is very familiar with our district. Holly also is a proud Washington State University graduate, but she is feeling outnumbered this year. Jessica Varvil (left), my session aide, graduated last December from Saint Martin’s University in Olympia. And my intern, Olivia Abbott (right), is a Saint Martin’s senior majoring in business. They are doing a terrific job responding to constituents’ calls, e-mails and letters, and greeting office guests.

My bills this session

So far, these are the bills that I have filed this session:

SB 6059 deals with insurance corporate governance. It would provide the Office of the Insurance Commissioner with better insight into the corporate governance framework of an insurer or insurance group, to allow for more frequent review and assessment. This would allow OIC to be able to better assess whether existing governance structures are in place to protect consumers in our state. SB 6059 was passed by the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee last week, and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

SB 6194, which was requested by the state Department of Veterans Affairs, would fix a problem that was created when two veterans-related bills passed by the Legislature last year had conflicting language between them. The bill would ensure that DVA’s post-traumatic stress-disorder program can continue providing counseling to veterans and their families even if trauma occurred outside a combat zone. It was referred to the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee.

SB 6324 would lengthen the time period – to 10 years, from the current six – during which court exhibits can’t be destroyed, or turned over to a county sheriff by a county clerk. The bill would allow a county clerk to offer, to the state archivist, court exhibits deemed by the clerk to have historical value. This bill was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

SB 6328 would define the “best available science” for the purposes of designating fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas. It was referred to the Senate Local Government Committee.

SB 6462 would help make residential property buyers aware of the Washington Pollution Liability Insurance Agency’s Residential Heating Oil Insurance Program, which provides insurance coverage at no cost to owners of active heating oil tanks. It’s scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee next Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Gig Harbor student visits Capitol for a day

Early this week, I had the privilege of having Gig Harbor High School sophomore Jack Grennan “shadow” me for a day to see what I do during a typical day during the legislative session. Jack saw that I attend a lot of meetings! I enjoyed getting to know Jack and answering his questions about the legislative process.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your state senator!

 

CONTACT ME

Phone: (360) 786-7650                       Email: Jan.Angel@leg.wa.gov