Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends! I have much to be thankful for in my life, including the opportunity to serve you in the Legislature and represent your voice. It's a responsibility I don't take lightly.
Due to legislative restrictions that begin tomorrow, I won't be able to send out another email update until the 2022 legislative session begins on Jan. 10. However, I'll still be able to respond to your emails and phone calls, so please continue contacting me with your comments, questions, concerns, and ideas for legislation. My email address is Kelly.Chambers@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (360) 746-3670.
In this update, I'll be providing an overview of what House Republicans will be focused on during the upcoming 60-day session. There are countless problems that need to be addressed, especially in the areas of:
- Public safety
- Life affordability
- Government accountability
- Empowering parents
I discussed public safety at length in my October 22 update. Not only have the Democrats' police reform bills made Washington communities less safe, but they've also made it even more difficult for our men and women in law enforcement to do their jobs effectively. Last year marked the 11th consecutive year where Washington ranked last in the nation in terms of the number of police officers per thousand people. We desperately need more police officers patrolling our streets, but that will not happen if we continue passing laws that negatively affect our recruitment and retention efforts. A recent SurveyUSA poll showed that 49% of Washingtonians believe the police need more funding, while just 16% say they need less. We agree with the 49% and will be introducing legislation to allocate state funding for the recruitment of new police officers and the retention of officers already on the job.
Despite the pandemic, tax collections in Washington have remained strong. The latest state revenue forecast brought good news for budget writers, as revenues increased far more than expected. Remarkably, the Legislature is expected to enter the 2022 session with a four-year budget surplus of around $10 billion. For years, we have heard nothing but excuses from Democrats about why it's not the right time to cut your taxes. With a $10 billion surplus, there shouldn't be any more excuses. It is time for us to pass meaningful tax relief for you and your family, whether through a large property tax cut, an expansion of the working families tax credit, or some other means.
We are also going to continue pushing for responsible policies to help alleviate financial burdens for struggling families, students, small business owners, and the most vulnerable. With payroll deductions set to take effect in January, we have authored legislation to repeal the Democrats' long-term care insurance program and mandatory payroll tax. Additionally, a citizens group has filed an initiative with the Secretary of State's office that would repeal the new tax, making participation optional. More information can be found here.
I have spent the last 18 years working in long-term care and know firsthand how beneficial long-term care insurance can be in a person's latter years. Unfortunately, the plan being offered by the state is anemic when compared to other options available in the insurance marketplace. For those of you who were lucky enough to obtain a viable insurance plan before carriers stopped taking new customers in Washington, I strongly encourage you to apply for an exemption from the state plan as soon as possible so it gets processed before the new year.
It's now been 640 days since Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. House Republicans have worked tirelessly to pass emergency powers reform because we believe it is inconsistent with the design of our state constitution and representative government to allow one person to unilaterally rule the state for this long. It is imperative that we restore the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches on day one of the 2022 session.
Incidentally, many major media outlets around the state have agreed with us when it comes to the need for emergency powers reform. This is not a partisan issue. This is a common-sense and good governance issue.
- The Columbian: Legislature should act to balance government
- Tri-City Herald: Gov. Inslee's emergency powers over COVID have gone unchecked long enough
- Tri-City Herald: WA Gov. Jay Inslee has too much power over COVID. Lawmakers must fix the law
- The News Tribune: Inslee should expand his bubble, call special session of Washington Legislature
- The News Tribune: Curbing Inslee's emergency power all but dead. We should learn from Texas, New York
- The Seattle Times: A legislative check on the governor
- The News Tribune: It's time for Washington Legislature to check Gov. Inslee's pandemic superpowers
Another issue that falls under the banner of government accountability that must be addressed is the state's response to our homelessness crisis. From The Seattle Times:
“Washington saw one of the biggest estimated increases in people experiencing homelessness in the country between 2019 and 2020, according to new national figures from an annual report to Congress. Overall homelessness across the U.S. grew by more than 2% that year, according to the report's estimates, but Washington saw an overall increase of 6.2%, or 1,346 people — the third largest increase in the number of homeless people among all 50 states.”
With existing solutions falling short, House Republicans will be advocating for a bill that would send roughly $400 million per biennium directly to cities and counties so they, not Olympia bureaucrats, could pursue the best solutions for their communities. In exchange, municipalities would have to remove encampments near schools, parks and playgrounds, and refrain from opening supervised injection sites.
With lives and livelihoods on the line, we need to start making real progress toward fixing this crisis.
In addition to the above priorities, we are going to be focused on empowering parents to become more involved in their children's education. We believe parents have a right to know what is being taught in the classroom and that transparency is crucial to ensuring trust in our K-12 education system. To that end, we have two proposals.
- Require the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to seek public input and provide an opportunity for public comment when developing learning standards and grade-level expectations.
- Require each school to disclose a listing of the actual instructional materials, including supplemental materials, used during the past academic year on a publicly accessible part of its website and have that link sent directly to parents. This would be modeled after the Goldwater Institute's Academic Transparency Act.
We will also be looking to expand the number of charter schools in Washington. While up to 40 charter schools were authorized by Initiative 1240 and subsequent reauthorization legislation, just 16 are currently operating. That's unfortunate because charter schools are meeting the needs of students who have struggled in their assigned public school. The results we've seen so far have been excellent, with charter schools outperforming traditional public schools in reading and math. Our goal is to expand these opportunities for more families across the state.
Thank you to our family caregivers!
November is a special time of year, not only because we get to celebrate Thanksgiving, but also because it marks National Family Caregivers Month. During this season of thanks, I want to express my gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of unsung heroes in Washington state who serve as family caregivers. The sacrifices they make often go unnoticed, but they mean the world to those receiving their care. To be able to receive care at home surrounded by loved ones and familiar comforts is a wonderful thing.
Thank you to our family caregivers in Pierce County and across the state! We appreciate everything you do!
Please continue reaching out to me with any comments, questions or concerns you have. My email address is Kelly.Chambers@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (360) 746-3670.
It is an honor to serve you.