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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this email finds you well! The daffodils and cherry blossom trees are fully blooming around the Capitol campus.

Do you know the legend of the so-called “Sine Die” magnolia tree on the side of the Capitol building? Once this tree fully blooms, it’s time for the legislature to adjourn. The 2023 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on Sunday, April 23. We’ll see if legend holds, and we adjourn as this tree blooms.

Public safety update

Vehicular pursuits. One of the most significant issues this session finally took center stage recently. The majority party brought Senate Bill 5352 to the House floor for debate and a vote.

Under Senate Bill 5352, police pursuits will be allowed to conduct a vehicular pursuit for those suspected of committing a violent offense, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, driving under the influence, and trying to escape arrest.

Where I understand this solution is better than leaving the standard at probable cause and does provide clarity to the crimes law enforcement officers may pursue a criminal, I voted against this policy.

I believe it doesn’t go far enough to make and keep our communities safe.

I co-sponsored the bipartisan solution, House Bill 1363, which would have fully returned the reasonable suspicion standard. This would have given the discretion back to our law enforcement officers to make the right call when initiating a pursuit for any crime. This was the better solution.

I don’t doubt that we will be addressing this issue again next year.

You can watch the floor debate here.

Update on the Blake decision. By way of background, in 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state’s felony drug possession statute was unconstitutional. By invalidating the law, the possession of hard drugs because legal.

Senate Bill 5536 was brought to the House floor for debate and a vote. This bill, which was heavily changed by the House, aims to address the drug possession legality issue by making possession of a controlled substance a misdemeanor.

Much like the pursuit bill, this policy doesn’t go far enough to help people suffering from addiction; therefore, I couldn’t support the House-amended version of the bill.

The original Senate version of the bill had strong bipartisan support from three of the four caucuses and would’ve done more to help people with substance use disorder.

You can watch the floor debate here.

Honoring Washington State Trooper Dean Atkinson Jr.

As a former Washington State Trooper, it was an absolute privilege to honor fellow trooper Dean Atkinson Jr. last week.

Let me briefly share his story if you haven’t heard of this brave trooper. Last September, Trooper Atkinson, who is 29, was shot in the face while on duty in Walla Walla. Despite his critical injuries, he drove himself to the hospital before being airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He survived and has made phenomenal improvements.

Our caucus presented him with House Resolution 4627 as a token of our support for his bravery and service to Washington state.

State biennial budgets

The 2023-2025 transportation and operating budgets passed out of the state House of Representatives. We will vote on the capital budget in the final week of session. In my next update, I’ll provide more details and which projects will be funded through this budget for our district.

2023-2025 Transportation Budget

As one of the assistant ranking Republicans on the House Transportation Committee, I’m proud of our bipartisan biennial budget. While this budget doesn’t cover all our state’s transportation needs, it is a collective effort that does accomplish many good things. The budget passed with a vote of 96-1, with one excused.

This proposal would spend $13.2 billion towards:

  • $9.8 billion for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
  • $1.2 billion for the Washington State Ferries.
  • $646 million for the Washington State Patrol.
  • $418 million for the Department of Licensing.

This budget reflects many policies and projects supported by the House Republican Caucus.

You can find the entire budget and all supporting documentation here.

2023-2025 Operating budget

While this proposal may have many good things, there are several concerns.

Despite ongoing economic concerns, this budget would increase state spending to $70 billion, a $6 billion increase over current spending levels. This continues the majority party’s trend of historic budget growth. It adds nearly 1,500 new policy-line items and leaves a small ending fund balance. Our state treasurer recommends at least 10% in our rainy-day fund (Budget Stabilization Account). This budget only leaves around 6%. Given our uncertain economic times, we should be more fiscally responsible with our savings plan.

My colleague, Rep. Chris Corry, offered an amendment to transfer $1.5 billion to the BSA. Unfortunately, his amendment was rejected.

Another concern with this budget is it doesn’t support funding to close encampments and get people off the streets. My colleague, Rep. Jim Walsh, offered an amendment to provide $500 million in grants for encampment response and cleanup to local governments that enact and enforce encampment bans near schools, school walk areas, childcare centers, parks, and courthouses. Unfortunately, his amendment was also rejected.

Another concern is that this budget doesn’t address the learning loss suffered by students across our state due to the pandemic shutdowns nor adequately fund our state’s special education needs. One of my colleagues, Rep. Skyler Rude, offered an amendment to provide $837 million for an additional 20 days of extended learning for all students performing below math and English standards, $645 million to fund special education and $50 million in grants for high-quality tutoring and rigorous, extended learning programs. Unfortunately, her amendment was also rejected.

And one final concern, this budget doesn’t increase funding for our law enforcement officers. One of my colleagues, Rep. Kelly Chambers, offered an amendment to increase funding for public safety, including $126 million for law enforcement retention and recruitment, $90 million to provide body cameras for police agencies, and $10 million for the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Account. Unfortunately, this amendment was also rejected.

We ultimately could not support this budget. It passed on a party-line vote of 57-40, with one excused.

You can find the entire budget and all supporting documentation here.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas regarding your state government or any of the topics and issues mentioned in this update. My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email.

It’s an honor to serve you.

In your service,

Eric Robertson

State Representative Eric Robertson, 31st Legislative District
465 John L. O’Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7866 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000