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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Legislature began another mostly virtual legislative session on Monday, Jan. 10. At a time when the pain and loss due to the pandemic are still acute, the small, seven-member House Executive Rules Committee determined that, at least for the first few weeks of session, a fully online format was best. The plan is to review the House guidelines in another two weeks and possibly make modifications.

While I appreciate that these are difficult times to navigate, my concern is these restrictions will have a chilling effect on the public's ability to oversee the Legislature's deliberations, as well as impede the work of its members. Under the current plan, the public will not be allowed entry to the House galleries; rendering them unable to observe, in-person, any floor debates. Similar to the 2021 format, the House will conduct most meetings, committee hearings, and floor debates on Zoom.

Other guidelines include that only two members from each caucus and a presiding officer will be allowed on the House floor. For members and staff, admittance to the floor will not only require proof of vaccination, but also a booster. Covid testing, a minimum of three times per week, is also required to work in any on-campus, legislative office.

Although the use of Zoom and virtual meeting applications have become commonplace during the pandemic — fully online sessions are far from ideal. It cuts the public out of large swaths of the lawmaking process and erodes their right to take part in the deliberations that will affect their families, jobs, and communities.

Throughout the legislative session, keeping public health safety standards in mind, I plan to support prudent and safe ways to return to more in-person work at the state Capitol. It's my hope that the next House operations review brings the changes necessary to improve the public's ability to take part in the activities of the Legislature.

Important policy debates in 2022

In the coming weeks, legislators will be working on some of the toughest public policy issues our state has faced in years. As members and staff prepare for the fast-paced 60-day session ahead, I'll be advocating for common-sense solutions.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the big debates heading our way in the coming weeks:

  • Reforming the anti-law enforcement “reforms” put in place last session by the majority party: Violent gang and drug-related crimes, human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault are all on the rise. Our communities are less safe. Among other problems, the bills approved in 2021 prevented law enforcement from pursuing suspects and assisting with mental health calls. That needs to change. Learn more here.
  • Repeal of the Long-Term Care Act: The Legislature needs to be honest with the people it represents. This program is a major policy mistake. At this point, it needs to be repealed. Changes to the program will only cost more for taxpayers and those unable to opt-out. Learn more here.
  • Emergency Powers Reform: We need to restore balance and trust in state government. Washington is one of only four states in the nation that hands over unilateral authority to the governor to declare and maintain a state of emergency. It was never intended for the current governor to wield the kind of power he's maintained for nearly two years now. The public should have a voice in how to move forward. That's the job of the Legislature. Learn more here.
  • Budget surplus of $8.8 billion + $2.2 billion in reserves + $1.2 billion in unspent federal stimulus: Despite the continued toll of the pandemic, most sectors of Washington's economy are thriving. State revenue growth is the second strongest in the country and tax collections have doubled since their pre-Great Recession peak. While many individuals and families continue to struggle, the government remains flush in cash. Tax relief is needed.
  • Approving the work completed by the Washington State Redistricting Commission: Although the commission missed its deadline, the Washington State Supreme Court approved its bipartisan consensus on political district-making. The Legislature now has 30 days to review the maps and approve or disapprove the commission's proposals for congressional and legislative district maps for the coming decade.

Remote testimony and other resources

Meeting remotely has its challenges, but it doesn't mean you can't get involved. Every legislative committee will be offering remote testimony options. From the comfort of your home, you can testify online via Zoom, by phone, or submit written comments.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Here's an additional list of resources to keep you informed about the activities of the Legislature:

Want to learn how to track a specific bill? Here are some resources that can help:

  • Go to leg.wa.gov
  • On the left-hand panel, click “Bill Information.”
  • If you know the bill number, enter it in the search field and hit enter.
  • Don't have a bill number? Under the section “Standard Reports,” you'll find alternative tracking tools. You can search based on topic, legislative digests, cross-references, and within a specific biennium.
  • If you click on the House Floor Activity Report, this helpful tool gives you a detailed list of all bills scheduled to be heard on the House floor each day.

Stay in touch!

Please remember that your input in the legislative process matters. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about legislation, committee hearings, or the legislative process — I encourage you to call, write or email me. I'm happy to help.

Thank you for your steadfast support and encouragement.

Sincerely,


Mike Steele

State Representative Mike Steele, 12th Legislative District
RepresentativeMikeSteele.com
122F Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
mike.steele@leg.wa.gov
(509) 782-3436 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000