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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are quickly approaching one of our first “cutoff” dates for the 2013 legislative session. Cutoff dates are established to help move legislation through the process. This Friday, Feb. 22 is the policy committee deadline. House and Senate bills need to be voted out of House and Senate committees respectively in order to continue on through the legislative process. The next cutoff will the fiscal committee cutoff on Friday, March 1 and then the “House of Origin” cutoff on Wednesday, March 13.
Wolf Meetings in Northeast Washington
That's right, after announcing the state's wolf population has nearly doubled in the last year, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) finally realized that having wolf recovery and management meetings in places like Olympia and Seattle is pretty pointless. Unless, of course, they're ready to adopt Rep. Kretz's bill allowing for wolf relocation to Western Washington! But I don't see that happening any time soon. Thanks to you – for all your phone calls, e-mails and letters, WDFW will hold three public meetings in northeast Washington to discuss wolf-livestock conflict management:
- Feb. 26, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in Cusick at the Cusick Community Center, 107 1st Ave.
- Feb. 27, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in Colville at the Colville Ag Trade Center, 317 West Astor Ave.
- Feb. 28, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in Okanogan at the Okanogan Public Utilities District office meeting room, 1331 2nd Ave. N.Rep. Joel Kretz said: “I give kudos to the department for finally figuring out where wolves are located and scheduling meetings accordingly.” To read our press release on the issue, click here. We need folks to attend these public meetings if they can. People need to tell WDFW what they think of wolf management issues in Washington state. We asked for these meetings in northeast Washington and got them. Let's show them that we care and we're involved!A Big Thank You to Sen. Bob Morton!
Earlier this session, we were able to say “thank you” and “goodbye” to Sen. Bob Morton who retired this year. Morton has served the 7th District with distinction. He was first elected to the state House in 1990, where he served until his appointment to the Senate in 1994 to replace former Sen. Scott Barr. I've learned so much from Sen. Morton over the years. He is a true gentleman and a statesman. Thank you, Bob!
I'm very pleased to tell you that my bill to bring more accountability to the Department of Ecology (DOE) passed the House Environment Committee. It now awaits action by the full House. If you recall, House Bill 1113 requires DOE to identify the peer-reviewed science, scientific literature, and other sources of information used before taking significant agency action related to certain agency programs. This is an effort to ensure that DOE is using the highest scientific standards before enacting rules that impact landowners and business owners around the state. My goal is to bring more accountability and transparency to DOE and the decisions they make in our state.
House Bill 1619 is my bill that would suspend the Growth Management Act (GMA) in counties with persistent unemployment. For many of our low-population, rural counties, complying with the GMA's “one size fits all” approach to land use and development is nearly impossible. I'd rather see resources devoted to economic development and creating jobs than complying with urban mandates, especially for counties in northeast Washington where unemployment is significantly higher than the state average. This bill didn't receive a public hearing and is most likely dead for the session.
Another one of my bills is still alive and moving through the process. House Bill 1192 would allow veterans with disabilities in other states to qualify for reduced hunting and fishing license fees here in Washington. It would also encourage reciprocity – that is, it would encourage other states to offer the same discounted license fees to our state's veterans. We have veterans with disabilities that would like to hunt and fish in other states; and wounded veterans from other states that would like to participate in those activities here in Washington. I think it's the least we can do for those who have sacrificed so much for our country.
House Democrats propose 10-cent gas tax increase!
You read that right. House Democrats released a proposal today to raise the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon! If it passes, our state will have the highest state gas tax in the nation (according to the Tax Foundation) at nearly 48 cents per gallon. When you add in the federal gas tax, Washingtonians will be paying about 66 cents in taxes for every gallon purchased at the pump.
I agree with our House Republican Transportation leader, Rep. Ed Orcutt, who said “Any debate on transportation must begin with reforms, not tax increases on struggling workers and families, and not new projects lists to entice votes in the Legislature.” Rep. Orcutt also pointed out that Washington pays construction costs that are between two and two-and-a-half times what other states are paying for similar projects in similar areas.
To read his statement on the issue, click here. He also said “We need to see how we can make our tax dollars go further, before we reach further into taxpayers' pockets.” I couldn't agree more. I want you to know that I do NOT support raising the gas tax and will work across the aisle to help defeat this proposal.
As always, feel free to pass this on to friends and family who might be interested in state government or the issues we discuss each week. Thanks again for the honor of serving you in Olympia.
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