An unfortunate theme developed in Olympia over the past decade. The theme is “we know better than you.” The theme presented itself recently in a marathon floor session in the state House of Representatives. I am proud to say our legislative delegation represented our community very well during the more than nine hours of debate that began at 9 p.m. on a Monday (Valentine’s Day) and ended at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
Let me help put the theme in perspective.
In 2016, Washington voters overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 732. The initiative, rejected by almost 60% of the voters, tried to impose a carbon emission tax on the sale and use of certain fossil fuels and fossil fuel generated electricity. The public overwhelmingly, and rightfully, saw this policy as a punishing job killer.
Only two years later, Washington voters overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 1631. The initiative, the Protect Washington Act, failed with over 56% of voters rejecting pollution fees on sources of greenhouse gas pollutants. It would have used the revenue to reduce pollution, promote clean energy and address climate impacts, under oversight of a public board.
Instead of listening to the voters, over the past two years the governor and Democratic majorities in the Legislature passed cap and trade (Senate Bill 5126), low carbon fuel standards (HB 1091) and a plethora of extreme environmental legislation to the detriment of the construction industry and trades workers.
In 2019, Washington voters overwhelmingly opposed House Bill 1087, creating a long-term care payroll tax program. Almost 63% of voters wanted the law repealed. Instead, the governor and Democratic majorities in the Legislature delayed the implementation rather than hearing, and passing, Centralia Republican Rep. Peter Abbarno’s HB 1594 to repeal the insolvent payroll tax program as the voters wanted.
Since 1932, Washington voters have 10 times rejected the opportunity to impose an income tax, and more than 20 local governments have already passed restrictions on such a tax. Regardless, last year the governor and Democratic majorities in the Legislature passed SB 5096, an income tax on capital gains. The law is being challenged in court. This year, SB 5554 was passed by Democratic leaders in the Senate. It would allow for local income taxes.
I could go on for nine and a half hours and describe examples just like our legislators did last week.
This past week, the House debated HB 1837 for nine and a half hours in the House. What could be so important as to debate a bill for nine and a half hours in the dead of night and early hours of the morning? If you listened to all or part of the debate, Abbarno said it is about you.
In 2003, Washington voters passed Initiative 841 by more than 53%. I-841 repealed sweeping state ergonomics regulations and directed the Department of Labor and Industries to not adopt new ergonomics regulations unless a uniform federal standard is required.
The cost of those new regulations would cost businesses over $700 million — and that was in 2003. And, as the state supreme court stated in a lawsuit following the initiative, “nothing in I-841 suggests that L&I is stripped of its general regulatory authority to address serious or deadly ergonomics-related workplace hazards” under state law. Therefore, the overregulation found in HB 1837 (Passed 50-48) is also unnecessary.
Why would we want the Legislature to pass unnecessary regulations that will cost our community jobs? We wouldn’t.
Regardless of your position on specific policies, we should all agree the governor and current legislative majorities are not listening to the will of the people. People feel ignored and there is evidence to support that feeling. We can only hope that next year brings more balance to the Legislature and checks on the executive branch.
Chad Taylor is publisher and owner of The Chronicle and CT Publishing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.