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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this email finds you well! The Legislature adjourned the regular session on April 23. On May 16, the governor called us back for a special session.

This update will cover our special session dealing with the state’s drug possession laws; an update on our efforts to stop the placement of sexually violent predators in our communities; and the long-term care payroll tax, which begins on July 1, 2023.

Even though the session has ended for the year, I’m your state representative year-round. Please continue to reach out to my office with your questions, to schedule a meeting, or anything you need. My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email.

I look forward to seeing everyone around the great 31st District!

Quick legislative update

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my seatmate, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, for being elected as the new Minority Leader for the House Republican Caucus.

There’s a new ranking Republican member on the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee

Serving as the ranking Republican on the House Labor and Workplace Standard Committee during the 2023 session was an honor. I will be shifting roles moving forward as I’ve been appointed as ranking Republican member on the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee.

Governor signs several bills into law

Three of my sponsored legislation was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

  • House Bill 1237. This bill will distribute the entire $65 vehicle identification number inspection fee to the State Patrol Highway Account to support the activities of the Washington State Patrol’s auto theft program. The bill goes into effect on July 1, 2023. 
  • House Bill 1457. This bill requires businesses that must provide restrooms under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act and that either ship or receive cargo or property to allow the motor carrier picking up or delivering the cargo or property to have access to the restrooms under certain conditions. The bill goes into effect on July 23, 2023.
  • House Bill 1514. This bill allows manufacturers of recreational vehicles and park trailers to purchase and distribute insignia from the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) if the manufacturer has an approved quality control program and submits its plans for the model or prototype of its recreational vehicle or park trailer to L&I. This will increase the inventory of RV’s available to Washington residents in a timely manner.  This bill goes into effect on July 23, 2023.

You can find a list of all the Republican bills that passed the Legislature by clicking here.

You can also find a list of good and bad bills by clicking here.

Update on fixing the state’s drug possession laws

By way of background, in 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state’s felony drug possession statute was unconstitutional because it didn’t require someone to “knowingly” possess drugs for conviction. By invalidating the law, the possession of hard drugs became legal.

That same year, the Legislature approved a temporary law making it a misdemeanor to possess drugs, with an expiration date of July 1, 2023. If we didn’t act this session, hard drugs would’ve become legal again.

We had quite the finale in the final hours of the regular session. Senate Bill 5536 was brought to the House floor for debate and a vote. This bill, which was heavily changed by the House, aimed to address the drug possession legality issue by making possession of a controlled substance a misdemeanor. Ultimately, this bill was voted down and didn’t pass. We adjourned without a fix.

Reps. Gina Mosbrucker and Peter Abbarno led the negotiations for House Republicans on the bipartisan bill (an amended version of Senate Bill 5536), which passed during a one-day special session on May 16.

Key provisions of this bill include:

  • Possession and public use of hard drugs become a modified gross misdemeanor with 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 for the first two offenses. The penalty increases to 364 days for subsequent offenses.
  • Prosecutors and judges are given more flexibility to get addicts into treatment but retain jail time if they don’t need the help.
  • Enables cities and counties to set their own rules around drug paraphernalia.
  • Appropriates $63 million for programs to alleviate illegal drug use and provide treatment.

This isn’t the perfect solution, and more work needs to be done; however, this new law provides law enforcement with the tools they need to help people in crisis while providing a pathway out of the cycle of addiction with treatment and recovery options.

If you’d like more information on how Republican resolve led to stronger state drug possession reforms, please click here.

Update on the placement of sexually violent predators in our communities

Thank you to everyone who continues to contact my office with your concerns about releasing sexually violent predators into less restrictive alternative housing in Enumclaw.

Rep. Drew Stokesbary and I continue to work hard to keep these individuals out of our communities or, at the very least, ensure the notification and placement process is as transparent and thorough as possible.

As a proviso to the 2023-2025 operating budget, we introduced language requiring the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to provide local government officials with notice and an opportunity to comment before placing a sexually violent predator within their communities. The same notice and opportunity for comment would also have been extended to federally recognized Indian Tribes, like the Muckleshoot Tribe in our district, before a sexually violent predator could be placed within one mile of their reservation.  

When Gov. Jay Inslee signed the operating budget into law, he vetoed this section of the bill.

We released the following statement following the veto:

“After a sexually violent predator was placed in our district without advance notice to the community or the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, whose reservation is less than one mile away, we introduced budget language requiring DSHS to provide local government officials with notice and an opportunity to comment before placing a sexually violent predator within their communities. The same notice and opportunity for comment would also have been extended to federally recognized Indian Tribes before a sexually violent predator could be placed within one mile of their reservation.

“It is unconscionable that DSHS isn’t already doing this, considering the public safety implications of placing sexually violent predators in established neighborhoods, often near school bus stops and other community amenities. And with alarming rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women, DSHS should be going out of its way to consult with Tribes that worry about the safety of their members.

“So, it is appalling that the governor chose to veto this common-sense reform, claiming simple notice requirements are somehow ‘administratively burdensome.’ Though perhaps it should be of little surprise that he would find basic notice requirements too ‘burdensome’ for an agency with a legacy of failure, staffed by his appointees, which has seen the loss of federal certification at multiple state institutions, from Rainier School to Western State Hospital. It is also deeply unsettling that the governor’s own veto letter says he intends to continue prioritizing the ease of placing sexually violent predators in our communities above the safety of our communities. This stubborn approach to governing is exactly why so many of our constituents on the Enumclaw Plateau were thrilled to hear this would be Governor Inslee’s final term.

“Ironically, the governor vetoed this proviso with no notice to us or the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. Our communities deserve better. Washington’s sovereign Tribes deserve better. We will continue fighting to keep sexually violent predators from being placed in Enumclaw or any other neighborhood across the state without notice, collaboration, and meaningful participation from local officials, Tribal governments, and community members. This veto is not the end. It is just the beginning of our efforts to hold DSHS and the governor accountable for their mismanagement of this issue.”

I also interviewed on KVI Radio with Ari Hoffman on the veto. You can listen to the interview here or by clicking on the photo below.

We will continue our fight on this issue.

Long-term care payroll tax begins July 1, 2023

Many of you might not be aware of a new payroll tax beginning on July 1, 2023. This was approved by the Legislature in 2019 to support a new state-operated long-term care insurance program.

Most Washington workers, including part-time and temporary workers, will pay $0.58 per $100 of their earnings for the WA Cares fund.

Here’s a bit of context for you. If you make:

  • $50,000 a year, it will cost you $290 annually or $24.17 monthly.
  • $75,000 a year, it will cost you $435 annually or $36.25 monthly.
  • $100,000 a year, it will cost you $580 annually or $48.33 monthly.
  • $125,000 a year, it will cost you $725 annually or $60.42 monthly.

You are not subject to the new payroll tax if you purchased a qualifying, private long-term care insurance plan by November 1, 2021, and applied for a permanent exemption from the WA Cares Fund. (Note: the deadline for applying for this exemption was December 31, 2022. While many Washingtonians chose this option, many others could not find a private plan in time.)

This program has many flaws, and House Republicans tried to repeal it. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful, and this program is set to take effect in less than two months.

You can learn more about this program, our efforts to repeal it, and a calculator to see what your tax could be by clicking here.

Please contact my office and share with me your thoughts on legislation and issues of concern or interest to you.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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