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The 2022 legislative session kicked off Monday, Jan. 10 and we have so much to get done in a total of 60-days. This session will be mostly virtual again, as the pandemic continues to cause much uncertainty. Because of the remote nature of our work situation, lawmakers cannot meet in-person with people at the Capitol. However, I'm still working very hard on your behalf, trying to make Washington a better place to live for EVERYONE. Please continue reaching out to me anytime with your input and feedback. I'm here to be your voice.
Time for Emergency Powers Reform
One of my biggest priorities is reforming the governor's emergency powers. This is not a political or partisan issue. Our state has been under the control of one person for nearly two years. A governor should not act without any checks and balances and without input from the Legislature.
Our state should not be ruled by a government of one. Together with House Republicans, I have been calling for emergency power reform for months, and recently, even some Democrats have warmed up to the idea that it's time for change. I will continue to work with other lawmakers for change to the state's emergency powers laws.
House Bill 1772 would increase legislative involvement in gubernatorial proclamations relating to a state of emergency, both now and in the future no matter which party is in control; and
Senate Bill 5039 would subject all gubernatorial emergency orders to legislative approval after thirty days.
House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox recently sent a letter to Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins urging the passage of emergency powers reform and demanding that House Bill 1772 be heard in committee and brought to the House floor for a full vote. I fully support these actions. Emergency powers reform is one of our top priorities and it's long overdue.
Making Public Safety a Real Priority
Another top priority for Republicans this year, is public safety. In fact, public safety is always near the top of our list. As a member of the House Public Safety Committee, I'm working on the forefront of this issue.
House Republicans have introduced a number of bills designed to make our communities safer, including restoring balance to law enforcement policies, protecting victims, fighting violent crimes and reducing property crimes, and fixing the fallout from the Washington Supreme Court's decision to legalize drug possession in State v. Blake that came down last February. Please stay tuned for further updates by signing up to receive my email updates. You can also follow these efforts by tuning into the House Public Safety Committee hearings and sharing your input.
One of the biggest issues I've been hearing about is the confusing and unbalanced police reform laws passed last session. These new laws have resulted in several unwanted consequences that I warned would happen if these bills passed. Our law enforcement officers have a very difficult job already, and these laws have made it that much harder . House and Senate Republicans have introduced numerous bills this session that would improve many of the terrible consequences that these new laws have created, specifically House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054.
We're still working on these changes with the majority party, and I will continue to push for reform. Protecting the most vulnerable people in our society should be our top priority, but these bills are not doing that, and our communities are not as safe.
Bills I'm Sponsoring This Session
I'm focused on several issues this session, including some that might not get as much attention as they should. As we begin this session, I have introduced six bills – five of which have bipartisan support – that offer real solutions to some of these other problems.
House Bill 1657, which has bipartisan support, would help reduce emissions and safety risks caused by inadequate commercial truck parking. It's high time we give our truck drivers some love. Without them, we could not survive. If we continue to ignore their needs, we are going to lose more drivers, which means the cost of goods is going to go up even more, and it's going to take longer to get things. We need to support our drivers. This bill would do that by increasing the state's truck parking supply through tax incentives.
House Bill 1655 is another bill designed to help truck drivers and keep our roads safe. Commercial motor vehicle parking shortages are a national safety concern. Washington state exacerbated the problem in the fall of 2021 by closing many state-owned and operated safety rest areas. To help prevent serious and fatal injuries, HB 1655 would encourage the opening of safety rest areas for all drivers who need a place to stop when they are tired.
I've also introduced House Bill 1656, which would change the definition of theft. I've been working on this issue for several years and it's time to get this resolved. Under current state law, loss prevention officers and law enforcement officers can't apprehend a suspected shoplifter until the person has exited the establishment with the merchandise. Under this legislation, concealment would be included in the definition of theft.
I introduced House Bill 1292 last session, but it never received a hearing. However, this is a piece of no-brainer legislation. It would criminalize the act of knowingly providing pornographic and other harmful materials to a minor by anyone 18-years or older. If passed, a person who provides harmful material to a minor would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. Additionally, if the offending individual has previously been convicted of a felony sexual offense, they would be guilty of a class C felony.
Another bipartisan bill I'm working on, House Bill 2077, would help fight human trafficking. This legislation would require human trafficking informational posters to be placed, at a minimum, in bathroom stalls of safety rest areas, by Jan. 15, 2023.
Last, but certainly not least, House Bill 1558 would promote recovery and improve public safety by providing behavioral health system responses to individuals with substance use disorder and providing training to law enforcement personnel.
I'm passionate about each of these issues and I won't stop working on them until changes are made.
I'm also co-sponsoring an important firefighter bill with Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia. House Bill 1929 would provide a new grant funding source for rural fire departments whose buildings and equipment are inadequate to meet the fire safety needs of their communities. It would also establish a competitive grant program under the state Department of Commerce to award funding up to $2 million to local governments in rural counties for capital projects that would improve fire protection services. This effort is exactly the kind of thing the capital budget in intended for, to help these kinds of services in smaller districts and rural areas that need help.
Remote Testimony Still Available
Although House and Senate committee meetings will all be held virtually, you can still be a part of the process. You can testify from anywhere you have internet access. Please click here to testify remotely. Choose House or Senate and then the committee in which you wish to share your testimony. I encourage you to get involved.
Even though most, if not all, of the 2022 legislative session will be done remotely, you can still be in the loop. The links below provide important information to help keep you informed and updated with everything going on in the Legislature, including all committee meetings and House floor sessions on TVW:
My legislative website | Here you will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, videos, radio appearances, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
The Capitol Buzz | A weekday roundup of online news stories. Click on the link to subscribe.
The Current | An online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans. Click on the link to subscribe.
TVW | The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
The Ledger| A legislative news aggregator.
Legislature's website | Bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature.
State agencies | You can find a list of all state agencies, boards, and commissions here.
Please Stay in Touch
I know many of you would much rather meet in person on the Capitol campus, as would I, but current rules prohibit us from doing that. Please continue reaching out to me by phone or email, or by contacting my legislative assistant to set up an in-person meeting. I hope you will continue to contact me with your valuable input.
It's an honor to serve you,
403 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7966 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000