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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this email finds you well! I hope you and your families had a Happy Thanksgiving and Potlach Day!

State lawmakers are gearing up for the 2022 legislative session which begins on Jan. 10. The Washington State Legislature is considered a part-time legislature. In even-numbered years, such as this upcoming year, we convene to do the people's work for 60-days.

On Nov. 18-19, in preparation for the upcoming session, we met virtually for Committee Assembly Days. We held work sessions in our respective committees to plan for the months ahead. During these hearings, representatives and staff received presentations and previews on studies we had commissioned and policy issues we are likely to tackle come January.

On Dec. 6, bills prepared before the regular session begins can be submitted. Prefiled bills are “officially” introduced on the first day of session. If you would like to review any prefiled bills, you can do so by clicking here.

2022 Operations Plan for the House of Representatives

As we head into the 2022 session, it's important for you to know what the operational plans will look like. We're still living under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and House operations will reflect this.

On Nov. 18, the House of Representatives announced our operations plan. During session, only a limited number of legislators will be allowed in the House chamber, and only if we are fully vaccinated. To access our on-campus offices, unvaccinated members will need to commit to a minimum of three COVID-19 tests per week.

Members of the public who wish to watch legislative proceeding from the House gallery will be permitted to do so with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72-hours. Committee hearings will still be conducted virtually.

As we get closer to Jan. 10, I will keep you updated on the specifics of this operational plan.

Preparing for the 2022 session | Transportation Update

Our state continues to face multiple transportation-related issues. Funding continues to be a struggle. The primary funding for transportation infrastructure efforts in Washington comes from the state portion of the fuel tax and fees for registering motor vehicles. Democrats' have expressed interest in another transportation package that could rise the price of gas anywhere from 9.8 to 18 cents per gallon to pay for a new transportation package. If that happens, the majority's decisions could cost you nearly $11 more every time you fill up your tank with gas.

Washington state drivers regularly pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation, thanks in part to our state's 49.4 cent gas tax. But if you think gas prices are expensive now, wait until two new regressive policies enacted by Democrats during the 2021 legislative session fully go into effect. Some estimates predict House Bill 1091 (low-carbon fuel standard) and Senate Bill 5126 (cap and tax) could add nearly 50 cents to the price of a gallon of gas by 2030, in addition to increasing the cost of food, goods, and heating for families across the state.

There is a better way.

On Nov. 17, Rep. Andrew Barkis, ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, unveiled the framework for the Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity (REAL) Act.

The REAL Act will be comprised of solutions and legislation that:

  • Reprioritizes and shifts funding streams to provide better services for all modes of transportation by using our growing general fund revenue instead of relying on shrinking transportation revenue.
  • Reprioritizes and directs sales tax paid on motor vehicles to preservation and maintenance of the existing transportation system.
  • Reprioritizes and shifts funding on sales tax paid on transportation projects from the general fund to the transportation budget.
  • Recognizes fish passage barrier projects as inherently correcting environmental justice concerns without further review and process.
  • Creates a program that bridges the divide between transportation safety in urban and rural communities.
  • Pauses the commute trip reduction program capital investments while studying the impacts of commuting and travel due to COVID-19. I introduced this bill during the 2019 session as House Bill 1528. I am pleased it will be considered as part of this plan during the 2022 session.
  • Reprioritizes and shifts the funds for the Safe Routes to School Program to the general fund with direction to better coordinate funding for safe pathways to new schools.
  • Prevents barriers to recruitment and employment for Washington State Ferries that are part of the current employment practices, which make it difficult to recruit women and people from minority and LGBTQ communities. 

State transportation revenues have plateaued roughly around $6 to $7 billion annually and are expected to remain stagnant for years to come. Conversely, the state general fund – even during a pandemic – continues to experience record tax collections. Washington state has the nation's second-highest tax revenue growth.

Adopting the REAL Act would redirect approximately $3.2 billion per biennium — beginning in 2025 — from the operating budget to the critical transportation budget needs while still leaving the operating budget with billions in surplus funds that could be used for other state services and programs. 

I will keep you updated on this innovative approach to transportation and state budgeting when the 2022 session begins.

Resources

I want to take this opportunity to share information and a list of resources with you. These will provide a detailed look at the work happening behind the scenes on your behalf – and on behalf of everyone in Washington state. I encourage you to bookmark the links below, and please share them with your friends and family.

Public policy issues

Governor's Emergency Powers reform and COVID-19 resources

Other important resources

Other information

As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas regarding your state government, or any of the topics in this e-newsletter, please don't hesitate to get in touch with my office. You can find my contact information 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
representativeericrobertson.com
465 John L. O’Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
Eric.Robertson@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7866 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000