Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2024 legislative session is rapidly approaching as the Legislature will convene on Monday, Jan. 8. During even-numbered years, the sessions run for 60 days. The main focus of the short session is to pass supplemental budgets – operating, capital and transportation – to adjust or amend the two-year spending plans passed in 2023. There are a number of other things we hope to address, such as high gas prices, strengthening public safety laws, housing affordability and much more. It will be a very fast-paced session as lawmakers work to get as much done as possible. Stay tuned for more details as we approach session.
Staying busy this interim
I have spent time this interim with my legislative committees touring the state, looking at priority issues we expect to see before us in the 2024 session. I have also been meeting with folks from around the district discussing their concerns and what they see is impacting our region and state. Here is a brief list of some of the meetings and events I have been involved with:
- Meeting to discuss tribal, infrastructure and K-12 issues;
- Hop harvest and workforce development legislative tour;
- Family Farm Alliance dinner meeting;
- Meeting on why modernization of Columbia River Treaty is critical to Northwest Utilities;
- Discuss legislation before the House with the Washington Bankers’ Association;
- Public defenders and prosecutors workgroup meeting;
- Provided a legislative update to the Yakima Valley Council of Governments;
- Work session for the House Environment and Energy Committee;
- Grand opening and ribbon cutting – Foundation Mini Pitch at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Union Gap;
- Port of Pasco, Basin Disposal Facility Legislative Tour;
- Elected Leaders Reception – Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities, Reach Museum;
- AWB Manufacturing Tour – Lampson International and Rankin Equipment;
- Environment and Energy Committee Tour;
- Radio KDNA tour;
- Friends of Union Gap Library;
- CWU tour, Health Education and Nicholson Pavilion Ribbon ceremony.
Fuel prices remain among highest in nation
In my last email update, I talked about the high fuel prices in our state, and how California and Washington spent the summer battling for the top spot. Our prices have dropped, but so have prices across the country. We are third, with California still the highest, and Hawaii slipping into second place. However, even at an average of $4.67 per gallon, our prices remain $1.21 higher than the national average of $3.46.
I also mentioned the impact the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), or the cap-and-trade program passed by the Democratic majority party in 2021, has been a factor in the increase in fuel prices. Affordable Fuel Washington is now showing the CCA is currently adding $.50 per gallon for gas and $.62 for diesel. As of Sept. 1, the program has also collected nearly $1.5 billion in compliance costs — four times more expensive than originally projected.
As you can see by the chart below, the increase in gas prices coincides with the implementation of the cap-and-trade program in January.
The governor’s office has played the blame game, pointing the finger at the oil companies, but the chart shows that is inaccurate. Washington state has the highest, or close to the highest, gas prices in the country because of the governor’s climate cap-and-trade program that went into effect in January.
House Republicans are looking at different options to address the high gas prices and flawed program. Such as:
- Amend some of the Department of Ecology guidelines of the cap-and-trade program, to help reduce carbon credit prices while lowering fuel and natural gas prices. Click here here to read a letter from Sen. Chris Gildon detailing some possible improvements.
- Rebate. With the state collecting more revenue, individuals and families still struggle to pay for gas. Providing a rebate could help offset these financial burdens. House Republicans, led by Rep. April Connors of Kennewick and Rep. Mary Dye of Pomeroy, are working on a proposal to offer monetary rebates for vehicle owners of $100 per individual or $200 per family. For more on the House Republican Carbon Auction Rebate (CAR) Payment program click here.
- Repeal. Given the CCA’s shortcomings, repealing the program should also be considered. It negatively impacts businesses and could reduce competitiveness, job loss, and higher consumer costs.
Another concerning crime report for Washington
Last month, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released information on more than 11 million criminal offenses that were reported in the U.S. in 2022. According to its data, violent crime across the nation decreased by about 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021. Unfortunately, the violent crime numbers in Washington increased about 1.06%.
You may recall, in a previous email update I shared the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ Annual Crime in Washington Report. The report indicated Washington state experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s.
This is another crime report showing our public safety policies must be improved and staffing levels are too low. Washington has the lowest number of police officers per capita in the country and needs more than 7,000 officers commissioned than we do right now.
Science, technology, engineering and math event
On Thursday, Nov. 9, at 12:30 p.m., I will be attending a Yakima Valley College (YVC) STEM (science, technology, engineering math) Club luncheon event. I will have the opportunity to ask a student panel questions about STEM Club and MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Program.
While I am no longer sitting on the House Education Committee, I am still very interested in what is happening with our schools and higher education institutions. The science, technology, engineering, and math fields strongly emphasize innovation, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Washington state has a high concentration of STEM jobs, but the Legislature must ensure students are adequately prepared to take on these opportunities in the future as these fields continue to get more complex and demanding.
l look forward to interacting with the students, faculty, administration as well as community leaders at this YVC event.
Stay engaged in your state government
Below are a couple of websites that will help you stay informed about what is happening in Washington state government throughout the year.
If you have any questions, concerns or comments on issues related to state government please do not hesitate to contact me. Your input and feedback is important to me.
It is an honor to serve the great 15th District!