Author Archives: bookerstallworth

Lawmakers renew their call for special session to address pandemic’s impact on business owners and workers

By bookerstallworth | Published on December 07, 2020

More than 50 lawmakers in House and Senate sign formal request

Republican leaders in the state Legislature have again called for a special session to deal with emergency issues related to public health and support for small business and their employees who are suffering from the economic impacts of Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19-related restrictions.

Fifty-two lawmakers (32 Representatives and 20 Senators) have already signed a letter that has been circulated to members of both chambers and transmitted to the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the House. Additional members are being asked to voice their support, with the hope of gathering enough signatures to call the Legislature into special session without the approval of the governor, who has so far failed to allow lawmakers to act.

In the letter to their colleagues, the lawmakers state: “We once again seek your cooperation to convene a special session of the Legislature. The need for legislative action on COVID-19 is urgent and growing. And while we had hoped that you would agree to convene earlier this year—when case rates were lower, social restrictions were more flexible, and budget problems would have been easier to address—we continue to believe that having a special session is the appropriate course of action now. COVID-19 demands our immediate attention as elected officials.”

The letter points out that Washington’s Constitution authorizes legislators to convene a special session with the agreement of two-thirds of the members of each house. Historically, special sessions have only been called by the governor, as is also allowed by the constitution.

Furthermore, the lawmakers argue there is a moral obligation for the legislators to act.

“One hundred thousand restaurant and hospitality workers are facing job loss because of the governor’s new rules,” the letter states. “Workers in retail, fitness, entertainment, the arts, and many other sectors are also losing their jobs without any prospect of relief. It is inexcusable for us to wait while our friends and neighbors are languishing. Designing a solution to this problem is the exclusive responsibility of the Washington State Legislature—not the federal government, and not the governor. It is our job to direct state financial resources and enact state policies to help.”

An emergency session also will enable lawmakers to address the standards needed to return students to the classroom.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley and one of the letter’s signers, said that his constituents continue to tell him that they cannot wait for the Legislature’s annual session to start in January to see relief; they need legislative action now.

“The letters, emails and phone calls I receive are heartbreaking,” said Padden. “People are hurting and they expect their elected officials to be in Olympia, serving as their voice, and working hard to meet their needs.”

One worker from Spokane Valley wrote to the Senator: “Just so you know, I am sitting in my house crying because my job shut down again! It will not reopen until Jan. I am behind 5 months in my house payment. …I can’t do this anymore. What are you as my representative doing to make sure that we have homes to live in, that we have food on the table? That our cars aren’t taken away, that we have electricity. I have two kids here that haven’t been in school since March. They are not getting the same education online as they were getting in school.

What are you doing for us??! I’m sick of this! DO SOMETHING!!!”

Padden agrees, “Yes. We must do something, but to do anything, we first have to be back in session. These folks can’t afford to wait until tomorrow, let alone until January.”

Padden calls new COVID-19 restrictions ‘unfair’ blow to small business

By bookerstallworth | Published on November 16, 2020

Inslee’s refusal to accept citizen input is biggest barrier to public buy-in, says Spokane Valley lawmaker

Shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee held a Sunday press conference to announce a new ban on social gatherings and further restrictions on businesses, Sen. Mike Padden began hearing complaints and pleas for help from constituents in his 4th Legislative District.

“The people of this state are concerned about the safety of our communities and issues of hospital capacity; they want us to take the pandemic seriously, but they also want us to consider the economic and emotional pain these new restrictions will create,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

“The families and small business owners who I am hearing from are rightfully alarmed and angered by the governor’s illogical and Draconian response to the spike in COVID-19 cases. They want solutions that are balanced, fair, and consistent with the data.”

According to the Spokane Health District and Washington Department of Health:

  • Only 5.7% of all beds occupied in Spokane Co. are by COVID patients;
  • There are 81 patients hospitalized with COVID in Spokane Co. at the moment; and,
  • Less than 60% of all licensed hospital beds in Spokane Co. are occupied (Total number of beds in Spokane Co. is 1531; Total beds occupied are 907).

Padden points out that Washington has already lost more than 3,000 small businesses – most likely permanently – due to COVID-related shutdowns. The governor’s latest order means even more business shutdowns and increased unemployment over the holidays – a time of year that is already ripe for depression and suicide. Panicked shopping can cause disruptions in the supply chain, and long lines outside of grocery stores with reduced occupancy limits could once again have a disproportionate impact on the elderly and disabled. Many restaurants that are barely hanging on may not survive this latest blow.

“The governor’s order hits groceries and restaurants the hardest, even though those businesses represent less than 2 percent combined of all COVID transmissions, and by the governor’s own admission, are already faithfully enforcing social distancing, hygiene and masking mandates,” said Padden. “It is unfair and simply does not make sense.

“More importantly, my constituents are frustrated that Governor Inslee seems to be making these rash decisions without listening to the concerns of Washingtonians and the lawmakers they send to Olympia to be their voice.

“Any solutions to address the spread of the virus will take the buy-in and active participation of the public. How does the governor expect to get that level of cooperation, when he has repeatedly shut the public out?”

Padden pointed to comments he received from a constituent from Greenacres, who wrote: “The new restrictions imposed by Gov Inslee are disappointing to say the least. Not being able to spend time with our loved ones, having to be isolated, is far more dangerous for our health and mental health than a virus…. I am begging you to take action against our tyrannical Governor.”

A woman from Spokane wrote Padden, saying, “Many small businesses are relying on Black Friday to recover and don’t have the ability to sell online. …Also furloughs for my family members cripples us, and even more so before the holidays. Wait, what holidays? That’s not a thing anymore apparently.”

Padden urged the governor to listen to these Washingtonians’ concerns.

“Since the start of this pandemic, my colleagues and I have been pleading with this governor to call the Legislature back into emergency session, so we can share the ideas and views of the people we represent and help be part of the solution,” Padden said.

“Unfortunately, Governor Inslee has repeatedly rejected those requests.”

Caucus letter

By bookerstallworth | Published on March 27, 2020

March 27, 2020

 

Governor Jay Inslee

Office of the Governor

PO BOX 40002

Olympia, WA 98504-0002

 

Dear Governor Inslee,

During this time of crisis, it is important that we put aside minor differences and come together to work for the common good of all Washingtonians.

For that reason we have made it a priority to work with you and your agencies to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, giving you a broad amount of leeway to make decisions you see as appropriate to help curb the transmission of the disease – without questioning those actions.

We have also brought our concerns, and those of the people we represent, directly to you and your agency officials.

We are, however, aware that government is acting inconsistently – and when that happens during an emergency, public confidence can be shaken at a time when it is needed most. We therefore write to once again voice our concern at the lack of a consistent response from you on the issue of residential construction and the essential nature of that industry in our state.

The clarification issued by your office on March 25, regarding your “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order of March 23 stated that most commercial and residential construction should be considered a non-essential activity, effectively shutting down residential construction and ordering workers to remain at home.

We could not disagree more. The people of Washington rely on the residential construction industry to not only provide housing, but to maintain housing structures and make sure that they do not present a danger to individuals. In your clarification, you appear to recognize these functions as being critical when it comes to government construction projects, such as low-income housing, but not in the private sector where it is every bit as essential. If construction workers on public projects can find a way to work and maintain social distancing, workers on private projects can do the same.

In addition, the residential construction market is of such high importance to our overall economy that not changing course on this directive could result in irreparable harm being done to our state economy and Washington families – harm that would extend well beyond the current crisis. We must also point out that during the just-completed 2020 legislative session, the need for more housing in our state – of all kinds — was referenced countless times. That need is not suspended because of COVID-19.

Our constituents are sacrificing for the greater good. It is imperative that whenever possible, government should not ask some to sacrifice more than others when such a request is inconsistent. In regards to homebuilding, the consistent approach is to consider private and government construction the same. Both should be designated as an essential function. Workers in both can practice effective social distancing and maintaining public health.

For these reasons and more, we ask that you reverse your guidance from March 25 and declare that all residential homebuilding is an essential activity.

Senate Republican Caucus announces 2019 Committee Assignments

By bookerstallworth | Published on December 14, 2018

The Washington State Senate Republican Caucus announces its 2019 Standing Committee assignments, which were finalized today:

 

2019 SRC Standing Committees List

 

Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks (4D/3R)

Warnick*

Honeyford

Short

 

Early Learning & K-12 Education (7D/4R)

Hawkins*

Holy

Padden

Wagoner

 

Energy, Climate & Technology (6D/3R)

Ericksen*

Brown

Sheldon

 

Environment & Tourism (4D/3R)

Fortunato*

Rivers

Short

 

Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade (4D/3R)

Wilson*

Braun

Ericksen

 

Health & Long-Term Care (7D/4R)

O’Ban*

Bailey

Becker

Rivers

 

Behavioral Health Subcommittee (3D/2R)

Wagoner*

O’Ban

 

Higher Education & Workforce Development (4D/3R)

Holy*

Ericksen

Brown

 

Housing Stability & Affordability (4D/3R)

Zeiger*

Fortunato

Warnick

 

Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation (4D/3R)

Walsh*

O’Ban

Zeiger

 

Labor & Commerce (4D/3R)

King*

Braun

Walsh

 

Law & Justice (4D/3R)

Padden*

Holy

Wilson

 

Local Government (3D/2R)

Short*

Honeyford

 

State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections (4D/3R)

Zeiger*

Bailey

Hawkins

 

Transportation (9D/6R)

King*

Fortunato

O’Ban

Padden

Sheldon****

Zeiger

 

Ways & Means (14D/10R)

Braun*

Bailey

Becker

Brown**

Honeyford***

Rivers

Schoesler

Wagoner

Warnick

Wilson

 

Rules (10D/6R)

Schoesler*

Becker

King

Rivers

Sheldon

Short

 

* Ranking

**Assistant Ranking Operating 

***Assistant Ranking Capital 

****Assistant Ranking 

Senate Republicans’ plan addresses affordable-housing problem in Washington

By bookerstallworth | Published on November 13, 2018

Legislation focuses on increasing supply of housing to help reduce homelessness

Senate Republicans announced today they will introduce a package of bills in 2019 to address one of the main causes of Washington’s homelessness problem: the lack of affordable and available housing.

At a news conference held at Quixote Village, an Olympia-based community of 30 tiny cabins for the homeless, three Republican senators discussed their concerns about affordable housing and shared how the proposals would help reduce homelessness in the state.

“Homelessness continues to be a serious problem in Washington, and one of the key factors causing it is the lack of affordable, available housing,” said Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville. “Many people assume this problem exists only in the Seattle area, but the lack of affordable and available housing is evident in many other communities across the state. Our affordable-housing package can help remove obstacles that are preventing more housing options from becoming reality.”

The affordable-housing proposals will include planning-stage reforms that affect urban growth areas and the Growth Management Act, reforms related to appeals of Growth Management Act decisions, tiny house reforms, property-tax reforms for seniors, disabled veterans and disabled persons, and connecting the homeless with services.

“Solving homelessness is a very challenging and complex issue, but simply throwing money at it isn’t going to work,” said Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy. “According to a recent news report, nearly $200 million a year is spent on homelessness in King County, but the problem there is very far from over. Here at the state level, it’s time to try a different approach to provide more available housing, including making needed changes to urban growth area boundaries and the Growth Management Act. More available housing will mean more affordable housing.”

Short, who serves the 7th Legislative District in northeast Washington, plans to introduce legislation that would give planning jurisdictions flexibility to adjust urban growth area boundaries in response to development pressures. Short also intends to sponsor a bill to create an opt-out process for counties that originally opted in to the Growth Management Act but are suffering economically.

Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, will sponsor bills to reform rules related to tiny houses and tiny-house villages. They include legislation allowing tiny houses to be detached from the primary dwelling unit and utilized as additional housing, enabling jurisdictions to more easily permit tiny-house villages, and helping local jurisdictions streamline the permitting process for tiny-house villages and manufactured home parks to exist outside an urban growth area under limited circumstances.

“Tiny houses and villages are becoming more common throughout the country, and they are innovative ways to help provide more housing for those who need it, but there are rules and restrictions that keep them from being utilized as a meaningful part of an overall solution to homelessness,” said Zeiger, who serves the 25th Legislative District in Pierce County. “My bills would offer common-sense reforms so more tiny houses and tiny-house villages can be built and help reduce homelessness.”

Becker, whose 2nd District includes Eatonville, Yelm and parts of Lacey and Puyallup, will introduce legislation that aims to provide a valuation freeze and state property-tax exemption for the primary residence of a disabled veteran, senior citizen or disabled individual, if the home’s value is below the county median value or the combined household income is below $100,000.

According to the state Department of Commerce, there are more than 22,000 homeless people at any point in time in Washington. A recent news report said sales of single-family homes in King County fell 16 percent in October, while months of inventory, which had been extremely low during the summer, has increased to more than two months. A health housing market that doesn’t favor sellers or buyers is considered to have an inventory range of four to six months, the news story reported.

The 2019 legislative session begins Jan. 14 and is scheduled to last 105 days.