Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I would like to invite everyone to a virtual town hall I will be hosting on Tuesday, April 13th at 6:00 p.m. You will need to register to attend this event. You can do so by clicking here, or by visiting my website RepresentativeEricRobertson.com and clicking on the drop-down menu.
This virtual town hall was originally scheduled for Wednesday, April 7. House floor action, and voting on important legislation, necessitated cancellation of the event and re-schedule to a future date. I hope you will join me for our rescheduled event on Tuesday, April 13th. If you have already registered, you do not need to re-register.
As you will read below, there are many topics and issues before us that will impact our district and state. I look forward to discussing these issues with you, and hearing about what they mean to you and your family. See everyone on Tuesday, April 13th at 6:00 p.m.
House floor action: Police accountability
I would like to go over two police accountability bills and explain my vote on each of them. While one bill passed with bipartisan support, the other did not.
Senate Bill 5066 | Peace Officer's duty to intervene
This bill would require a peace officer to intervene when the officer witnesses a fellow peace officer engaging in the use of excessive force. I did offer an amendment which would have required a peace officer to make a report to a supervisor if they had firsthand knowledge that another officer committed wrongdoing, rather than if they had a good faith reasonable belief that another officer committed wrongdoing. My amendment was not accepted.
Even though this is an imperfect bill, I believe in accountability, and believe this bill is a step in the right direction. It passed with bipartisan support, including mine.
Senate Bill 5051 | State oversight and accountability of peace and corrections officers
This bill would make changes to the certification and decertification processes for peace and corrections officers by modifying the provisions and composition of the Criminal Justice Training Center (CJTC) by increasing the membership from 16 to 21 – adding civilian members – bringing law enforcement membership to less than 50% representation. The bill also changes the primary responsibility of the CJTC to establishing and administering standards and processes for certification, suspension, and decertification of peace and corrections officers, and gives the CJTC the ability to unilaterally suspend and decertify officers.
I could not support this bill. With my law enforcement background, I feel this bill was poorly written and did not reflect real life situations. I believe in police accountability but did not see how this bill connected the dots between real boots on the ground police work and creating a strong, but fair accountability measure. There is a still a lot of work that needs to be done. I believe it was not ready for floor action or to become law.
For these reasons, I could not support this policy.
House floor action: Capital, Transportation, and Operating budgets
We recently dedicated a lot of our time on the floor voting on the state's three main budgets – the capital, transportation, and operating budgets. Below, you will find information on each one.
The capital budget doesn't get as much attention as the operating or transportation spending plans. It is known as the construction or “brick and mortar” budget. It allocates funds for land acquisitions, parks, broadband, construction and repair of public buildings, and other long-term investments.
The $5.7 billion House Capital Budget passed with unanimous support. Highlights include funding for mental health expansion efforts, schools, low-income housing, and state park improvements, among many others.
I am happy to announce roughly $24 million in local projects for the 31st District are appropriated in the House Capital Budget. For a list of our local projects, click on this link, and choose the 31st District from the drop-down list. I am hopeful these projects are funded when the House and Senate reconcile the final budget.
As one of the assistant ranking members on the House Transportation Committee, I had the opportunity to have a seat at the table to write this budget proposal.
This $10.9 billion biennial budget is both an operating and capital budget. It funds infrastructure projects across the state including maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Ferry system, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol, the Department of Licensing and other state transportation agencies.
This budget will keep transportation projects across our district and state moving forward. The proposal itself does not raise taxes on anyone or anything.
Although this budget is not perfect, it does reflect bipartisan collaboration, and has my support.
The majority party in the Washington State House of Representatives recently proposed and approved a massive $58 billion two-year operating budget, an increase of $6.4 billion over the previous biennium.
This budget includes priorities – many of which my seatmate Rep. Drew Stokesbary introduced early in session – such as investments in childcare, rental and landlord assistance, the expansion of broadband, and improvements to state-managed forestlands. Those are all good policy objectives.
However, I have two major concerns with this budget proposal: the unsustainability of the spending plan in future years, and its dependence upon an income tax on capital gains. Let me explain my concerns.
It's troubling spending continues to climb dramatically. The House proposal increases the operating budget by $6.6 billion, a more than 12.8% over the current budget cycle. The enormity of this $58 billion plan, and it's focus on expanding ongoing operations and programs rather than utilizing one-time expenditures, means this budget likely will create a bow wave of financial obligations in the future.
Despite early predictions of a budget shortfall, state government has made it through the pandemic relatively unscathed. Budget writers have more than $4.3 billion in surplus state revenue to work with this year. Not only have tax collections rebounded to pre-COVID levels, it has grown by 13.6%. It is unfathomable that the majority party would even be proposing an unconstitutional, unpopular, and unsustainable income tax on capital gains as part of this budget. I also fear this will be the “foot in the door” to expanding an income tax to middle-class and working families. My seatmate, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, offered an amendment that would have funded this entire budget proposal without relying on this tax; however, his amendment was rejected.
Due to the massive increase in spending and the reliance upon an income tax on capital gains, I could not support this budget.
What's up next
Now that these three budget proposals have passed out of their respective chambers, negotiations will begin in earnest on the final versions. We will have one more opportunity to debate and vote on them before the final gavel on Sunday, April 25.
We have been in a state of emergency for over one year. There is also continued dialogue amongst colleagues and I, concerning with the lack of attention to reform and rein in the emergency powers of the governor. It is time to allow the Legislature to have a voice and say in the decisions being made on behalf of the people of this state. I hope we will have an opportunity to debate and vote on House Bill 1557, of which I am a co-sponsor, to bring the legislature to the table on this important issue.
Stay connected and in touch
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns you may have. While my office in Olympia is closed, my “virtual door” is always open and I look forward to hearing from you. My Legislative Assistant, Meagan, is also happy to help in any way she can. I encourage you to stay engaged and involved in the legislative process. Together, we will continue to navigate through these challenging times.
It's an honor to serve you.
In your service,