Author Archives: kimberlywirtz

Braun: Inslee unfairly characterizes unvaccinated Washingtonians, ignores people’s true motives

By kimberlywirtz | Published on October 20, 2021

OLYMPIA…Repeatedly in recent press interviews, Gov. Jay Inslee has characterized those who have chosen not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as conspiracy theorists who believe false information about the vaccine found on the internet. Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released the following remarks about the governor’s overgeneralizations.

“While I encourage people to get the COVID vaccine and believe it is generally safe and effective, Gov. Inslee’s characterization of all those choosing not to get the vaccine as gullible conspiracy theorists listening to misinformation is patently false. They include COVID survivors with natural immunity, those protesting his infringement on their medical freedom, people with deeply held religious beliefs and people who fear a bad reaction because while rare – they DO happen. His disdain is manipulative propaganda being used to justify firing people whom he had touted as heroes for a year and a half. Other states allow weekly testing as an alternative with success. But that doesn’t fit this governor’s narrative or political agenda. This mandate has allowed him to purge his state agencies of those who won’t be forced to comply with something that should be a personal choice.

“Also, although the governor would like to downplay the losses to the workforce, he is oblivious to how his mandate affects public safety. In one of the communities in my district, they are down to two volunteer firefighters, both of whom have day jobs. If someone has a heart attack, they can’t count on a rapid response. First responders have extensive training in safety measures for communicable diseases and blood-borne pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis and others. COVID is one more disease requiring strict safety protocols that they are trained to handle while protecting the public. They, and other health-care providers, should be allowed to continue to provide care. They are still heroes.

“The Department of Transportation lost nearly six percent of its workforce. What happens when the troubles in the supply chain are made much worse because we don’t have snowplow operators this winter who can clear the passes? What happens when people get fired because they can no longer commute to work on Washington’s ferries? This affects working-class people who can’t afford to lose a paycheck.

“While the governor has the power to enforce his mandate so long as he refuses to give up his unchecked emergency powers and restore the balance of power to the people, he should not be disparaging people with false generalizations. COVID isn’t the only problem that can destroy people’s lives that our state is facing right now.”

Republican leaders: Today’s vaccine deadline threatens critical services, public safety

By kimberlywirtz | Published on October 18, 2021

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, released the following statement as thousands of people expect to lose their jobs this week thanks to Gov. Jay Inslee’s unnecessarily punitive vaccine deadline. Inslee imposed the deadline as a condition of employment for most state employees and contractors, health-care workers, those working in K-12 and higher education, and many childcare providers through the emergency powers he will have had for a stunning 600 days as of this Thursday.

“We are already experiencing higher prices and empty shelves partially as a result of COVID’s shutdowns and workforce shortages. Today’s deadline, with its unnecessarily hardline consequences, will only make that worse when hundreds, if not thousands, lose their jobs and are denied unemployment benefits. It also threatens public safety by reducing our police forces at a time when crime is already rising. People feel unsafe. They are afraid of what criminals will do when there are even fewer law enforcement officers to respond. And they are worried about people’s chances of survival if there aren’t enough first responders to help in an emergency. The governor underestimates the potential impact of his actions.

“Coercion, intimidation, threats and public shaming are not tactics a leader should be using against the people. The governor’s obvious disdain for those who are choosing to lose their jobs rather than compromise their right to make their own medical decisions is unhelpful. He is dividing the public – segregating us and turning people against each other. Yesterday, even unvaccinated health-care workers were heroes. Today, they become villains in the governor’s narrative.

“We’ve seen the governor bend his mandates according to convenience, practicality and political considerations when it’s in his political interest to do so. If COVID knows no bounds, then the accommodations Inslee has made throughout this process undermine the equity Democrats say they care about. In fact, other governors and even the president have offered weekly testing alternatives for many of those who choose not to get the vaccine. We cannot expect a COVID-free society. We need to find ways to mitigate the virus without making it even harder for people to provide for their families.

“Exercising sweeping, unchecked emergency powers for 600 days is excessive, undemocratic, and just plain wrong, especially when the person with those powers is the only one who can end them. What motivation does he have to restore the balance of power, especially when the majority party’s complacency won’t even allow discussion of possible legislation to reform executive powers? Until Democrats recognize that allowing authoritarian rule for more than a year and a half is dereliction of duty, reform won’t happen. The people will continue to be shut out of the decision-making process.

“A much better approach for the governor would be to treat people respectfully and unite them. Instead, he only listens to a limited amount of people from the largest urban areas of our state. It’s sad that Inslee reverts to his base instinct to divide the people to augment his power. As for the governor’s claim that he’s the only one in Washington who can save lives, it diminishes the contribution that every frontline worker and health-care provider has made during the pandemic. It’s ridiculous.”

 

Commissioner Fain releases straightforward plan for Washington’s new congressional districts

By kimberlywirtz | Published on September 28, 2021
Map

Focuses on keeping communities together within compact regions

 

OLYMPIA…Commissioner Joe Fain of the Washington State Redistricting Commission today released his draft plan for revisions to the state’s congressional districts based on results from the 2020 census.

Fain’s plan follows a logical and easily identifiable structure rooted in the idea that the different geographical regions of our state consist of communities with shared interests. It also protects progress made in the 2011 redistricting plan, which created one majority-minority citizen of voting age population (CVAP) district.

“Washington has distinct geographical regions. My plan captures that fact with compact, competitive congressional districts that just make sense. This regional approach keeps most cities, counties and school districts together and more than three-quarters of residents in their existing districts.”

“My plan doubles the number of competitive districts in our state. There are some out there right now entrenched in special interests trying to convince the public that competition in elections doesn’t matter. This isn’t just undemocratic; it violates Washington state law regarding redistricting, which explicitly requires us to draw districts that will ‘encourage electoral competition.’ I look forward to negotiating the final plans with my fellow commissioners and I will work hard to incorporate the values and priorities they bring to this process. I will not, however, accept a final map that fails to protect a voter’s right to choose.”

 

The districts are as follows:

  • 1st: North Metro/Tech Corridor
  • 2nd: North Puget Sound
  • 3rd: Southwest Washington
  • 4th: Central Washington
  • 5th: Eastern Washington
  • 6th: Olympic Peninsula
  • 7th: Seattle
  • 8th: Cascades
  • 9th: Suburban King County
  • 10th: South Puget Sound

Commissioner Joe Fain releases draft 2021 legislative redistricting plan

By kimberlywirtz | Published on September 21, 2021
Map

Focuses on state’s paramount duty while promoting competitive elections

 

OLYMPIA…Commissioner Joe Fain of the Washington State Redistricting Commission released his draft plan Tuesday for the 2021 legislative redistricting cycle. Proposed as part of the state’s 10-year redistricting effort, Fain’s map of 49 legislative districts focuses on keeping communities together and fostering competitive elections.

A core component of Fain’s plan is its respect for school-district boundaries. His proposal protects close to three-quarters of all school districts in Washington from being divided between legislative districts.

“The state’s paramount duty is made clear in our Constitution and by court decree,” said Fain. “Making public schools the center of gravity for our legislative boundaries will elevate the voices of students, educators, and parents in state government. There is no more important community of interest than those bound together by our public schools.”

Fain’s proposal also supports another priority of the Washington’s redistricting law: competition.

“The people of Washington want fair and competitive elections – they made that clear in their testimony to the commission. Competitive elections keep representatives accountable to their local communities rather than partisan interests. It is crucial to the democratic process that our maps reflect that. I estimate my plan does this by increasing the number of ‘swing’ districts by well over one-third – to 15, from 11.”

Fain’s plan also makes several changes to keep other communities of interest intact. His proposal includes seven majority-minority districts statewide, and one additional majority-minority citizen of voting age population (CVAP) district, increasing Washington’s number from four to five.

Additionally, Fain’s plan reflects the interest of each of the tribal governments that communicated with the commission. For example, the Yakama Reservation and related tribal lands would reside entirely within the 14th Legislative District, reflecting a desire expressed several times by representatives of the Yakama Nation’s tribal council. At the same time, the plan recognizes the wishes of the Colville Tribes by not consolidating them into a single district.

The Redistricting Commission, created by voters through an amendment to Washington’s constitution, comprises two Republican and two Democrat voting members appointed by the legislative caucuses, with a non-voting chair. Each voting commissioner is responsible for producing proposals for congressional and state legislative electoral maps. A final set of maps approved by the commission is due to legislators Nov. 15.

Commissioners are expected to release congressional proposals next week. Members of the public are encouraged to submit their own proposals using the commission’s online mapping tool.

 

View the PowerPoint Presentation outlining Fain’s redistricting proposal

Republican lawmakers: Move schools, employers to next phase now

By kimberlywirtz | Published on March 04, 2021

‘Open Safe, Open Now: A Republican plan for Phase 3 and Beyond’ shows trust in the people

 

READ THE PLAN

OLYMPIA…In response to sharply declining COVID-19 case rates and hospitalization rates statewide, legislative Republicans today announced a simple, practical and consistent plan to get all communities in Washington fully open for both school and business.

The Republican “Open Safe, Open Now” plan returns decision-making authority to local officials, ending top-down state mandates. It requires all school districts in Washington to resume in-person instruction and opens all business activity in the state to 50% capacity, with 100% capacity possible within three weeks.

The plan puts more trust in Washington residents to act responsibly, more than one year into the pandemic, and acknowledges people must learn to live – and earn a living – in the presence of COVID-19.

“The majority of our state’s K-12 students have been kept out of their classrooms for nearly a year. It’s simply unacceptable that so many of our children have been deprived of so much, not just academically but socially and emotionally. We’re glad to see the governor and the state school superintendent agreeing with us that schools may open safely. The time has come to give our districts clear direction that they need to bring their students back full-time,” said Senate Republican Leader John Braun.

“Look at what’s happening to the COVID-19 curve – cases, hospitalizations and deaths are in free fall. We’re at a point where county health officials can handle what’s ahead, so the focus should be on being open unless there is ample reason not to be. The centralized approach to responding to this pandemic needs to end. Our plan represents the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ that the governor seems unable to define.”

The Republican plan was crafted by 8th District lawmaker, Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick. She began questioning the governor’s ability to fairly reopen Washington after her district and the rest of the Governor’s south-central region was temporarily kept in Phase 1, while the rest of the state moved to Phase 2.

“Last month, our region dodged a bullet,” said Brown. “We were left out of phase two, because of alarmingly high hospitalization rates. It turned out to be a mistake, which was only identified thanks to the keen observations of county officials who caught the error and brought it to the attention of the Department of Health. Had she not, a swath of the state – from the Tri-Cities to Ellensburg to Walla Walla – could still be in Phase 1 today.

“This near disaster highlighted how flawed the governor’s reopening plan was – overly large regions, failure to trust the public, and managed from upon high by the Governor through top-down decrees.”

Brown said her plan instead looks to county health experts, who know what is going on in their counties and can spot when data doesn’t mesh with the reality seen on the ground. More importantly, Brown said that it is a plan for moving forward, something Gov. Inslee’s staff neglected to provide her when she met with them in mid-February to discuss the issue.

“The restaurants and other employers and organizations that have been under the governor’s restrictions need to know what’s next, and how to get there. Governor Inslee made it clear last week that he has no plan. Republicans are stepping into the void with a sensible and straightforward approach that will free these important members of our communities from the limbo they’re in, and offer a clear path back to full operation,” said Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver.

“If the COVID-19 numbers continue trending as they are, it becomes harder to claim that our state is still experiencing an emergency. I’m not saying the governor should end the state of emergency – not yet – but he should let go of the statewide mandates and let county health officials do their jobs,” said Wilson, who is Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the prime sponsor of legislation that would have given the Legislature more authority to oversee Inslee’s emergency proclamations.

“It has been two months since the governor unveiled his plan and he has still not identified Phase 3. This is unfair to families, businesses and local governments who have all made great sacrifices over the last year and want to know how their communities can move forward,” said House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm. “While many families and businesses are in crisis, the state health emergency has subsided. It’s time for the Legislature to exercise its proper role and for state lawmakers to make subsequent policy decisions. Republicans have a plan that would get kids back to school and people back to work. Washingtonians know how to do these things safely and it’s time to trust them. Both caucuses have also proposed operating budgets that would provide the necessary resources and relief to those who need it the most.”

“It’s time to open up the state to Phase 3,” said Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, and ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. “And it’s time to place the responsibility of health and safety back into the hands of the people.”

 

Senate Republicans unveil budget to help state restart and recover

By kimberlywirtz | Published on February 11, 2021

Plan to get schools open and people back to work also doesn’t need more taxes

OLYMPIA… Less than one-third of the way through the 2021 legislative session, Senate Republicans have stepped forward with a 2021-23 budget proposal aimed at restarting schools and bringing jobs back, while saving money for lower-income families.

“Senate Republicans have been listening to the people, and the messages are clear. Kids need to be in school. People need jobs. People need relief. This budget responds to those needs in a reasonable and responsible way,” said Sen. Lynda Wilson, budget leader.

Wilson pointed out how the $55.5 billion plan covers a broad range of public concerns yet balances without more taxes, setting the bar high for upcoming negotiations toward a new state operating budget.

“People are being told there’s a budget deficit, and the solutions are a state income tax or a ‘wealth’ tax. The truth is, state revenue is still growing despite the pandemic. The outlook from the governor’s own budget office shows things are still on track to be in balance four years from now,” Wilson explained.

“Putting this budget on the table so early is about being transparent, and exposing the false claims about taxes. People can see for themselves just how many good things can be done within the level of revenue that’s already available.”

Wilson, R-Vancouver, said her decision to give school districts financial incentive to reopen was clinched by the recent tragic suicide of a young teen in her legislative district.

“It’s been 11 months since the governor shut down every public school in Washington, and today nearly 80 percent of students in Washington are still learning at home. For almost one entire year these students have had no contact with a teacher and no contact at school with friends or classmates,” she said.

“When school districts in counties that meet the governor’s health metrics refuse to get students back in class, despite what the public-health experts and the ‘science’ say, it’s not just a matter of being inequitable and denying children an education – it can literally kill our kids. We can’t afford to wait months and years for a broken system to fix itself. There has to be a better way, and that’s why school reopening is such a priority in our budget.”

The proposal also includes significant funding for behavioral health.

“There was a mental health crisis in this state before everyone was put in lockdown, isolating them from friends and family and taking away their livelihoods and sense of worth,” said Sen. Sharon Brown, assistant ranking Republican on the Senate budget committee, who worked with Wilson to craft the Republican proposal.

“Given the additional challenges we face with the pandemic, we must act now to address this crisis and provide Washingtonians with this support they so desperately need,” added Brown, R-Kennewick, who is also the deputy leader for the Senate Republican Caucus.

Highlights of the Senate Republican plan include:

  • More than $1 billion aimed at encouraging school districts to get children back into classrooms, of which $200 million will go toward contact tracing, testing and other safety measures;
  • $333 million in additional assistance for small employers;
  • More support for behavioral health than has been proposed by the governor;
  • $200 million to support efforts to expand broadband access;
  • Eliminating the business-and-occupation (B&O) tax on manufacturing;
  • Gradually shifting tax revenue from vehicle sales for use on transportation projects; and
  • Full funding for improving forest health to reduce catastrophic wildfires.

Review the documents here:

Proposed Senate 2021-23 Operating Budget (SB5451)

Highlights of SB 5451

PowerPoint Presentation

Wilson noted Washington families haven’t seen tax relief from the Legislature since Senate Republicans froze tuition, then led on passage of the nation’s first tuition cut for the 2015-17 biennium. The proposed 2021-23 Senate Republican budget would reduce the tax burden on working families by as much as $1,000 annually, starting with a Working Families Tax Credit of up to $700 per year.

“The people with the highest needs are also bearing the highest cost of the pandemic, when you consider not only school closures but access to childcare, and internet service, or behavioral-health services. Our budget recognizes that not everyone is able to work remotely from their home,” Wilson said.

“Since 2018 the people have seen more than a dozen tax increases, many falling on working- and middle-class families. I can’t think of a better time than now to reduce their tax burden,” she added.

Besides responding to the pandemic, Wilson said the Senate Republican approach makes critical investments in areas that were deserving of more support before the pandemic – like services for Washington’s most vulnerable residents, and seniors, and veterans. It also increases support for domestic-violence victims, and puts more money into public-safety areas that need attention.

One of the Legislature’s mandatory duties in odd-numbered years is to approve a new operating budget for the next fiscal biennium. Typically, proposals from the Senate and House of Representatives don’t emerge until after each year’s first quarterly revenue forecast is released, which will be in March.

“This gives our Democratic colleagues plenty of time to see how a budget can be reasonable and responsible without needing more taxes. Our approach is the right path for all of Washington.”

Braun says new Senate rules severely limit access to democracy

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 11, 2021

OLYMPIA…After an historic day in the Washington State Legislature where changes to the rules were adopted to allow for the 2021 Legislative Session to continue remotely, Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released a statement.

Braun said he’s disappointed that majority Democrats refused to bend on new Senate operating rules for the 2021 legislative session that will severely restrict public access to lawmakers and the legislative process.

“No one disputes that this session has to be conducted differently because of the pandemic, but the rules put in place today seem to have been written months ago when Republican lawmakers still hoped the governor would see the wisdom of having a special session to get a head-start on pandemic relief for Washington families and employers. Whether we’re seeing more COVID cases or new strains of the virus here in January is not so much the point – the Legislature does its work in big, boxy buildings, we know more about the virus than ever, and the same precautions that have been effective for months in other big-box establishments or even small retail outlets can work here.

“Republicans offered reasonable proposals to make this legislative session much more transparent and accessible, without creating unnecessary health risks. We were looking for ways to get to ‘yes’ on giving folks across this great state more opportunity to have their different viewpoints heard. For months the people of our state have had to deal with a form of government they didn’t recognize, and now they’re getting a second dose with a lawmaking process that may lead some to question the legitimacy of the decisions that are made.”

“Our Democrat colleagues view access to democracy as being about voter registration. To Republicans it’s also about enabling public participation after the elections are over, when the real work of making policy begins. The majority tried to make the case today that rules to reduce public access are somehow about increasing transparency, but I doubt that will get past the people.”

  • Senate Republican Floor Leader Shelly Short, R-Addy, proposed an amendment that would allow more public participation in the legislative process through the public’s proper use of masks and social distancing. (SR 8601, S AMD 1)
  • Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, proposed an amendment to allow all Senators to make motions so that they can adequately represent the people who elected them. (SR 8601, S AMD 2)
  • Fortunato, R-Auburn, offered an amendment to increase Senators’ in-person participation by allowing them to speak and vote from Senate galleries. (SR 8601, S AMD 3)
  • Ericksen, R-Ferndale, proposed a Senate Resolution to convene a 30-day special session now, waiting to convene a full 105-day session until the public health situation will allow full public access. (SCR 8400)

 

 

 

Braun condemns violence at U.S. Capitol as threat to democracy, safety

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 06, 2021

OLYMPIA…Washington State Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released the following statement regarding protests in Washington, D.C. that have resulted in breaches of security, a lockdown of the U.S. Capitol and the distribution of gas masks to legislators.

 

“What we are seeing at our nation’s Capitol today is unacceptable. I condemned the violent protests here in our state and around the country this summer and I condemn today’s actions just as strongly. Attacking the U.S. Capitol is no more justifiable than attacking our state capitol, or a police precinct, or private property that happens to be in a certain part of a city. No matter the reasoning behind it, violence is not the answer.

 

“One of the bedrocks of our democracy – something that has distinguished our nation from many others for centuries – is the peaceful transfer of power from one elected official to another. I understand that some question the legitimacy of the recent election. The U.S. Constitution guarantees them the right to have their voices heard through peaceful assembly. They even have the right to challenge the election process in a court of law. But nothing grants anyone the right to storm the Capitol building and terrify those inside.

 

“I sincerely hope those protesting at the Washington State Capitol who share a cause with those protesting in D.C. today recognize the volatility of the situation and the need to maintain public safety, respect the role of the Capitol campus security officers and conduct themselves peacefully. Violence is not the path forward.”

 

Republican leader sends letter to governor explaining refusal to extend two proclamations

By kimberlywirtz | Published on 

Dear Governor Inslee:

As the letter yesterday documented, my caucus—as per the provisions of RCW
43.06.220(4)–did not approve of the extension of the statutory waivers and
suspensions ordered in Proclamations 20-58 and 20-63.

The immediate cause of our caucus’ disapproval is your continued shutdown of
restaurants and gyms without a firm basis in data and science.

Governor, our constituents are in agony. Life savings are being lost. Vulnerable
workers are thrown out of jobs. Many of them have had ongoing challenges
obtaining unemployment benefits that are due to them…

Click here to read the full letter.

Republican leaders respond to governor’s new 2-phase ‘reopening’ plan

By kimberlywirtz | Published on 

“As Washingtonians are forced to comply with the detailed demands of the governor for marginal impacts on public health, he has demanded no accountability from important state agencies involved in the pandemic response. His Employment Security Department failed to prevent massive fraud and deliver timely unemployment benefits to those in desperate need. It continues to fail them. And after months of criticizing the federal government’s efforts, the governor’s Department of Health just admitted that the state has fallen behind in its vaccine rollout. We need the governor to hold his state agencies accountable, help those who have been devastated by his actions and safely reopen businesses and schools.

“The legislative session begins Monday. Republicans have already introduced solutions and will be putting more ideas on the table soon. We will also bring the voices of forgotten Washingtonians to the legislative arena.”