Author Archives: kimberlywirtz

Calling special session now most responsible path forward

By kimberlywirtz | Published on June 08, 2020

Proposed across-the-board cuts are ‘blunt and crude,’ Legislature can show more care

OLYMPIA…..Sen. Shelly Short, Senate Republican floor leader, R-Addy, issued the following statement in response to the announcement by the Office of Financial Management that it has proposed a 15-percent across-the-board budget cut for state agencies, as directed by the governor.

 

 

“The state agency submittals in response to the governor’s demand for 15% across-the-board cuts further demonstrate the need for the Legislature to convene in a June special session.

 

“Across-the-board cuts are a blunt and crude instrument, which fails to produce thoughtful and rational decisions. Under state law the governor may only reduce agency budgets by an equal percentage, whereas the Legislature can come in and act with more precision and care.

 

“The need to act now is evident. For every month you delay action, you need to cut deeper to achieve the same level of savings. Delaying action is simply irresponsible and may ultimately hurt the most vulnerable among us.

 

“Acting in June is especially important given the nearly $1 billion of new policy spending set to take effect July 1, which includes expanding the governor’s outreach staff; increasing hot breakfasts for inmates; and providing at least 3% raises for over 100,000 state employees. When you find yourself in a hole, you have to stop digging. We should convene the Legislature now and forgo the scheduled new spending rather than resort later to cutting into vital services that Washingtonians currently rely upon.

 

“Convening a special session this month is the responsible path forward.”

 

“Let the people weigh in”: Senate Republicans again call for special session

By kimberlywirtz | Published on May 29, 2020

OLYMPIA…Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, Senate Republican caucus , issued the following statement in response to the governor’s announcement today that the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order will end at midnight on May 31 and focus will be directed toward opening Washington’s economy county by county.

“The governor’s announcement today underscores the need for a June special session of the Legislature. It’s time to let the people weigh in – they deserve that respect.

“Earlier today, Senator Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and Republicans in the House and Senate sent another letter to Governor Inslee calling for the Legislature to convene next month. The end of the stay-home order and the shift in focus to safely reopening our economy signals that this is the right time for the people to have a stronger voice in how we move forward.

“In the beginning of this emergency, we gave the governor the room to do what was necessary to save lives. It’s time he shows trust in the people and their elected representatives by sharing the responsibility of making the decisions on our continued recovery. The urgency that warranted the governor exercising emergency powers is over. This next critical phase needs to give power back to the people. They have felt helpless throughout this public health crisis. Legislators actively engaging in the recovery process is the best way to empower them. Waiting any longer to bring us back in to address the impacts of COVID-19 would only prolong the pain and helplessness Washingtonians are feeling.

“Working cooperatively across the aisle, across the rotunda and with the governor’s office is the best way to rebuild. The governor called on everyone to, ‘get behind the wagon and push.’ That is exactly what we want to do in a special session.”

 

Senate Republicans push back results in redrafting of emergency proclamation

By kimberlywirtz | Published on May 19, 2020

OLYMPIA…As a result of the Senate Republicans’ refusal to extend an emergency proclamation that violated the individual’s right to due process, the proclamation has been scaled back and will be reissued by the governor.

The new version of the proclamation no longer suspends statutes that require court hearings to be held within a certain amount of time, which was the Senate Republicans’ concern. It is now singularly focused on the protections for domestic violence victims, allowing court orders to be served through electronic/telephonic means with acknowledgement of receipt. Service of those documents is encouraged to be done in person whenever possible. By successfully pushing for a rewrite, the Senate Republicans made sure courts will be required to promptly set hearings, a move that promotes access to justice for everyone involved.

“This experience demonstrates what can be achieved when we are all at the table working together,” said Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, who is Senate Republican floor leader. “Blindly extending every proclamation without full consideration of its consequences for those it affects is not good governance. We took a difficult position, but it was the right position. And we’re satisfied with the revision. We will always advocate for victims of domestic violence. And we will always advocate for due process.”

The revised proclamation also includes language added at the request of the Fraternal Order of Police, highlighted below:

“ADDITIONALLY, while the purposes of this order are to ensure access to justice for victims; to promote public safety and public health; and to relieve the severe strain on our judicial system and law enforcement officers during the COVID-19 crisis, nothing in this order or the amendment, reinstatement, and extension of this order prohibits the use of personal service, including in instances in which it is no longer required under statute. In matters where personal service is not employed, service must still be made, and should be made using electronic/telephonic means of service with acknowledgement of receipt, such as by email, text message, facsimile or through social media applications. Furthermore, personal service is encouraged whenever possible, but in particular in all cases in which public safety demands personal service.”

Senate Republican leader responds to criticism over denying extension of proclamation that limits due process

By kimberlywirtz | Published on May 09, 2020

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released the following statement in response to criticism that the Senate Republican denial of the extension of Proclamation 20-45 will hurt victims of domestic violence.

“Senate Republicans have always been, and will always be, champions for victims’ rights. We are extremely concerned about the 21 percent increase in domestic violence during the governor’s unnecessarily drawn out order that forces them to stay in their abusive households. We call on Governor Inslee to order a new proclamation that provides the same protections to domestic violence victims that Proclamation 20-45 did, but without the additional hinderances to due process. We denied the extension because the proclamation impeded access to justice for everyone, including victims, and created an imbalance of fairness. We don’t want to delay justice for victims, which is why the courts need to promptly set hearings. The proclamation removed those protections. Those hearing timelines exist for a reason – to ensure that those who want the protection of the court can get a hearing quickly.

“Our overriding concern is that the proclamation would create situations where temporary court orders against individuals might last indefinitely, even when the individuals have not been given a chance to present their side of a case in court. A singularly focused proclamation would be more effective and less damaging than one that hurts individual rights.

“The governor and Democrats are fully aware of how this proclamation affects due process, but were willing to compromise our legal rights in order to avoid an unfair headline. Their statements today were cheap shots and completely off the mark.”

 

Points to consider regarding Proclamation 20-45:

  • By suspending hearing timelines, and time limits on ex parte orders, the proclamation poses a risk of infringing on the due process rights of individuals who may become subject to a court order.
  • It is equally important for petitioners to get prompt hearings when they seek protection orders from the courts.
  • By suspending personal service, the proclamation reduces confidence for both the petitioner and the respondent that all parties have been properly notified of a pending court action.
  • If the proclamation is not renewed, the courts still have flexibility to hold hearings, such as telephonic hearings, that limit in-person contact if necessary.
  • Law enforcement is often required to serve process. But if private process servers could be used but have been shut down by the governor’s stay-home orders, then the governor could deem those businesses to be essential and allow them to return to work.
  • The laws that the Legislature enacted for service and hearings related to protection orders are designed to protect both sides in every case – it is appropriate for those laws to come back into force.
  • It is important for Washington residents to continue to have access to justice – the Senate Republican Caucus believes the courts can find effective ways to provide access without threatening individual rights.

 

Inslee four-phase plan forces many businesses to stay on path to failure

By kimberlywirtz | Published on May 01, 2020

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler released the following statement in response to Gov. Inslee’s announcement today that he is extending the order to stay home during the COVID-19 public health crisis until May 31 and will allow a 4-phase approach toward reopening Washington’s economy.
Phase one of the plan, which would begin May 4, would allow some business activity currently banned to resume. This includes car washes, drive-up spiritual services, automobile sales and retail sales with curbside pick-up. Since the governor stated that each phase would be implemented with a minimum of three weeks between them, it could be July before phase four begins.

Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville said:

“Governor Inslee says he wants to bet on success, not failure, yet he apparently believes the majority of Washington employers would fail to protect their employees and customers if they were allowed to reopen anytime soon. That’s a disappointment. Republicans believe these businesses would follow the steps we’ve seen grocery stores and big-box stores and others take. It seems he has listened to Republican ideas about low-risk business operations like auto dealers and landscapers and car washes, and taking a county-by-county approach instead of forcing the same restrictions on all counties. But again, if he wants to bet on success, why is he forcing so many employers to remain on a path that could easily end in their failure?

“The enormous damage being done by the stay-home order to the state budget cannot be overlooked. There will be a direct correlation between the length and extent of the governor’s shutdown and the size of the cuts he will likely have to propose later this year to a budget that goes mostly to educate our children and support social services, including programs for people with developmental disabilities, seniors, foster families and people experiencing homelessness. Governor Inslee doesn’t have a lot of experience when it comes to spending cuts, thanks to what had been a strong economy, but that’s the corner he is painting himself into.”

Senate Republicans call for compassionate economic policies under “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” extension

By kimberlywirtz | Published on April 02, 2020

OLYMPIA…Senate Republicans released the following statement after Gov. Inslee announced that he is extending the “Stay Home, Stay Health” self-quarantine policy another 30 days until May 4.

 

 

 

 

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville:

“It’s critical to focus on saving lives during the COVID-19 crisis, but we also need to focus on how life will resume afterward. This means making reasonable decisions that will protect us from the virus. But it also means we have to be careful not to cause irreparable damage to people’s livelihoods.

“The emotional pain people are experiencing right now is not only about whether or not they will get coronavirus. It is also about whether or not they can provide for their families – now and after this is over. Some of the restrictions are inconsistent and unreasonable and should be lifted so that people who want to work, and can do so safely, are allowed to do so. Protecting people’s lives and their way of life go hand-in-hand.

“We have some really tough economic decisions ahead of us. Let’s try to head some of that off by removing some of the inconsistent restrictions, such as those against home construction. If workers who are building low-income housing and government projects can work safely, so can residential construction workers.”

 

Senate Republican Caucus Chair Randi Becker, R-Olympia:

“I’m glad that medical resources are being properly allocated to prioritize those who are the sickest, and I am pleased to see the governor call on manufacturers to retool and produce personal protective equipment.

“But I’m concerned that the blanket ban on elective surgery is forsaking some who truly need care. I hope we can take a more reasonable look at which procedures are not allowed right now. Think of someone who has a kidney stone. The surgery might be considered elective, but that patient is in terrible pain waiting for treatment. We need to make sure that our priorities are not having inhumane unintended consequences. Sadly, this is exactly what I fear is happening with regards to an increase in domestic violence – it is an inhumane unintended consequence of this policy for some families.”

 

Senate Republicans advocate for compassionate policies that address the physical, mental, social and economic health of our citizens.

  • Physical.  The physical well-being of our citizens is the paramount concern of government.
  • Mental.  Extended solitary confinement can exacerbate symptoms in those prone to behavioral health challenges. We need to pursue policies which maintain healthy physical distances while also allowing social interaction and allowable economic activity.
  • Social.  Extended family confinement can trigger harmful behaviors by those who are prone to domestic violence. We need to ensure that there are appropriate opportunities for families to get needed social relief from extended confinement. Priority should be placed on allowing those wage earners in the family the ability to safely work if they wish to so that economic hardship does not exacerbate any social divisions in the family.
  • Economic.  Work brings dignity. Providing for one’s family brings mental relief. Economic activity allows government to take care of our neighbors who cannot take care of themselves. Allowing citizens to work in a physically safe manner if they want to do so allows them to take care of themselves, their families and their neighbors.

 

 

Senate Republicans’ letter asks Inslee to veto sex-education bill

By kimberlywirtz | Published on March 12, 2020

OLYMPIA… On the final day of the 2020 legislative session, all 21 members of the Senate Republican Caucus signed a letter sent to Gov. Jay Inslee asking him to veto Senate Bill 5395, which would require comprehensive sexual health education to be taught in all grades levels in all Washington public schools.

 

Senators who signed the letter include Sens. Randi Becker, John Braun, Sharon Brown, Doug Ericksen, Phil Fortunato, Brad Hawkins, Jeff Holy, Jim Honeyford, Curtis King, Ron Muzzall, Steve O’Ban, Mike Padden, Ann Rivers, Mark Schoesler, Tim Sheldon, Shelly Short, Keith Wagoner, Maureen Walsh, Judy Warnick, Lynda Wilson and Hans Zeiger. The letter can be viewed here. It reads:

 

To the Honorable Jay Inslee,

 

While your attention has rightfully been directed at responding to emerging public health and safety needs in our state, the people of Washington are insisting that you listen regarding another issue of great importance to them.

 

As you may be aware, thousands of parents, educators and students from around the state gathered at our Capitol yesterday to voice their strong opposition to the passage of Senate Bill 5395, which will require “comprehensive” sexual health education to be taught in all grade levels. Similar protests took place in other cities across Washington.

 

Most school districts in our state are already offering sex education that has been determined, at a local level, to be age-appropriate. As some districts have made clear, it is completely inconsistent to submit their sex-education curricula for scrutiny by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction – as SB 5395 requires – when that is not required for any other content area. In addition, there is legitimate concern that this unfunded mandate from state government will detract from valuable instruction time in other critical learning areas, exacerbating the persistent opportunity gap that legislators have worked so hard to address in our K-12 education system.

 

While there may be some disagreement about how this policy will be implemented in the 295 school districts across Washington, especially as it concerns the definition of “age-appropriate” curricula, one thing is clear: Parents have not agreed to yield their rights regarding the content of this sensitive subject matter and how it is conveyed to their school-age children. They do not feel it is appropriate for the Legislature, OSPI or special-interest groups to interfere with the principle of local control that is part of the bedrock of our public-school system.

 

As public servants, it is our responsibility to listen to the people we represent. By the tens of thousands, they have made their wishes known on this particular subject. For that reason we strongly request that you also listen to the people and veto Senate Bill 5395.

 

Senate Republicans will miss retiring Senator from 2nd Legislative District

By kimberlywirtz | Published on March 05, 2020

OLYMPIA – The Senate Republican Caucus issued the following response to the announcement by Sen. Randi Becker, R-Olympia, that she is retiring from the Washington State Senate when her current term expires at the end of this year. Becker will not run for reelection.

 

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville:

“Randi is my pal. When she was the chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, she forced me to become literate in health-care issues and work with the other body. I appreciated that. When you are caucus leader, the caucus chair is your right arm. She’s my confidant and my friend. I will miss working with her, but I know she is excited to move on to the next chapter.”

 

Senate Republican Deputy Chair Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake:

“Senator Becker will be missed in the Senate. Her background as a medical clinic manager not only helped her be an effective Republican Caucus Chair, but also gave us a better understanding of health care in general. I especially enjoyed her keen sense of humor, her caring nature for all members and staff of the Senate and her absolute dedication to the people of her Legislative District. She exemplifies the meaning of a true public servant.”

 

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, ranking on the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee:

“Randi has been a delight to work with and I have learned a lot from her practical knowledge in the health care space. I will miss her cheerful smile, but I know she will be smiling more broadly as she pursues her passion of sorting through rocks on the hillsides of Wyoming.”

Prolific offenders struggling with mental illness would receive help under O’ban’s CARE Act

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 31, 2020

OLYMPIA…People whose severe mental illness leads them to be prolific criminal offenders and prevents them from consenting to receive treatment could soon benefit from a bill sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County.

Senate Bill 6109 would allow courts to assign an executor to make care decisions for people whose mental illness makes them incapable of recognizing their need for help. The court-appointed representative would only be assigned when someone has been referred for involuntary commitment eight times in two years, making them a repeat offender with a high risk of reoffending and putting the public in danger.

SB 6109 will be heard by the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee today at 1:30 p.m. Several mental-health providers and family members of individuals who would have received care under  a bill of this kind will testify in support of it. If SB 6109 is passed out of committee, it could be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

“People should have the right to decide for themselves if they want mental-health treatment, but some individuals’ judgment is so clouded by their mental illness that they need someone more objective to step in and facilitate real help on their behalf,” said O’Ban. “Families are devastated by their loved ones’ dangerous and irrational behavior, and they feel helpless. They just want someone to take their child, brother, sister, or parent off the street and put them on a better path. They are desperate.”

Many among our homeless population languish in homeless encampments with little to no hope of improving their lives. Sometimes their families only know they are alive because authorities contact the families after making an arrest.

Often, mentally ill repeat offenders also lack the ability to remain in temporary housing, complete job training or hold a job. And they are more likely to have substance-abuse disorder.

“The combination of mental illness and drug or alcohol use can be deadly for the user and the public. One might think it is cruel to force someone to undergo treatment without their consent, but it is far crueler to let their mental illness endanger their lives and public safety. We must give courts, mental-health providers and families more effective tools for saving their loved ones.”

Senate Republicans to all of Washington: We hear you

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 08, 2020

Voter frustration with high-handed response to I-976 carries over to legislative agenda 

Watch our video message.

OLYMPIA – Senate Republicans say they share the frustrations of Washington voters with a political establishment that has done all it can to thwart their vote last November to reduce car-tab taxes, and they are responding with an agenda for the 2020 legislative session that responds directly to their discontent.

The 2020 Legislature opens Monday in Olympia for a scheduled 60-day session.

In last year’s general election, Washington voters approved Initiative 976 by margins that exceeded 70 percent in some counties, slashing license-tab renewal fees to $30 statewide. The governor’s response was to halt road projects unaffected by the vote, while political leaders in Seattle and King County have sued to overturn the initiative, claiming a ballot title written by the state’s attorney general misrepresented the measure.

Adding insult to injury, statewide-elected school superintendent Chris Reykdal tweeted, “If certain counties want transportation taxes cut, then they don’t get the projects.”

Outraged voters have flooded lawmakers’ offices with complaints. Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler says the furor illustrates a pervasive lack of trust and confidence in state and local government. Voters’ suspicions that their voices do not matter appear to have been confirmed.

“As well-intentioned as government can be, it can alienate people if it always acts as if it knows better than the people,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “You can’t run the entire state as if it all fits in the Puget Sound region, and you can’t run the Puget Sound region like it’s the rest of Washington. You also can’t ignore or insult the people because their will makes your job more challenging. We hear our constituents loud and clear, and we know that what they want to see is a legislature that acts as if they work for the people – all the people.”

The people have been disheartened by the dismissal of their decision, said Senate Republican Caucus Chair Randi Becker, R-Olympia.

“What I hear a lot right now is that people feel like government doesn’t really care about their wishes – that what they want doesn’t matter,” Becker said. “They feel attacked and belittled. That’s a problem we are addressing by proposing a whole host of bills designed to do right by Washingtonians across the state,” Becker said. “We have a lot of great legislation that can really make a difference for everyone, while also keeping an eye on the state’s bottom line.”

In addition to bills that would implement the people’s will on I-976, Senate Republicans have introduced or are planning legislation to deal with the public’s top policy priorities, including mental health, homelessness, affordable housing and public safety.

Meanwhile, one element of the Senate Republican Caucus agenda requires no legislation, The caucus is creating an internal Tax Watchdog Committee to monitor efforts to raise taxes, as well as decisions that could force tax increases in the future.  Senate Republicans maintain spending should be kept in check in anticipation of an economic downturn, to ensure taxation remains stable and reasonable, and to head off efforts to spend the state’s ‘rainy day fund’ for anything less than a genuine emergency.

Schoesler explained, “The rainy-day fund is meant to shore up the state’s budget in a recession and to help cover the cost of disaster response, like after an earthquake or a heavy wildfire season. Other needs, while certainly serious, don’t justify tapping into a fund that, while growing, is still far short of what would be needed to keep the state afloat in an economic downturn. And tugging at people’s heartstrings to get access to the state’s emergency fund is just wrong.”

Areas to be examined by the committee include spending for homelessness programs. For several years, Republicans have called for an audit of the organizations that receive state funds to provide shelter and services to the homeless population in what some refer to as the ‘billion-dollar housing industrial complex.’ Recently, the former Pierce County Housing Authority finance director was discovered to have stolen roughly $7 million in taxpayer money that should have gone toward homelessness response.

“We really need to get a handle on where money is already going, how it’s being spent and what kind of results we’re getting because mismanagement of the taxpayers’ money could be one reason why homelessness is getting worse,” said Schoesler. “That’s our responsibility to taxpayers and those who depend on services.”

The Tax Watchdog Committee will consist of the following members of the Senate Republican Caucus:

  • Sen. Randi Becker (2nd LD)
  • Sen. John Braun (20th LD)
  • Sen. Steve O’Ban (28th LD)
  • Sen. Phil Fortunato (31st LD)

Three of the committee members represent areas that were targeted with exorbitant car-tab fees for Sound Transit’s ST3 project. Sen. O’Ban, R-Pierce County, led the charge for three years for legislation that would have revised the valuation method for car-tabs, while warning that the failure to pass meaningful legislation could result in a citizen initiative that the Legislature would regret.

“When your message to people who are upset about car tabs for three years is to ‘just deal with it,’ they will do exactly that,” Becker said. “With I-976, they definitely dealt with it. Now it’s the Legislature’s duty to deal with it, and to make it work. This year, the Senate Republican Caucus will make it clear through legislation that we are listening and responding to the people of the state. And with our Tax Watchdog Committee, we’re saying: ‘We hear you. We’re listening. We’ve got your backs.’”