Will Washington State Legislature Extend the Tyranny?
By Steve Dunham
Many of us over the last 9 months have had an uneasy feeling or apprehension about the opening of the Washington State legislative session. With the democrats in control of both houses would they just rubber stamp the dictatorial powers that Governor Inslee has assumed or would they see how these emergency powers are destroying our state and remove them from the Governor and abide by the State Constitution?
Where in Article III of the Constitution is the Executive (governor) given any emergency powers or any other power to suspend the Constitution and assume dictatorial control? Article 2, Section 42 says the LEGISLATURE in order to insure continuity of state and local governmental operations in periods of emergency resulting from a catastrophic incident or enemy attack may only take certain actions pertaining to specified sections of the Constitution dealing with governmental operations.
Well, with only 1 week into the session my apprehension has been confirmed. Please read Republican Senator Mark Schoesler’s legislative report below and let me know if it reads to you the way it does to me. SB 5114 instead of ending Inslee’s dictatorial Healthy Washington scheme with its restart plan and various phases, evidently confirms that the Governor has these powers. SB 5114 would force the Governor to go to Phase 2 for an unspecified length of time so that businesses can go bankrupt at a slower pace.
SB 5037 would set “metrics” on whether a school district stays open or not. If a county’s virus positivity rate is under 5% then their schools must be open and if it is above 15% then their schools must remain closed. Currently school districts have the freedom of choice of being open or not. Under this bill it appears the state will control every school district according to the state controlled “metrics.” Does this mean every one in each county will be forced to be tested to insure the accuracy of the 5 to 15 percentages? We already know the tests are not accurate. How often will we be tested? Every week? Every Month? For the rest of our lives? Where in the State Constitution does the state have the power to set testing metrics for a cold virus? We all should know by now that the State’s forced plan of wearing masks and being tested is ineffective in stopping a cold virus. So SB 5037 should say let’s STOP this nonsense and get the State and the Governor out of the control of our health care decisions. School districts should have the choice, if they want to stay open then they will receive state funding and if not no state funding.
SB 5039 is by far the most dangerous to our freedoms. I am so shocked by Mark Schoesler’s proposed bill that I had to read what he says in this letter several times. I still hope I am wrong. He says this bill will “reform the emergency powers law by making all proclamations subject to legislative approval after 30 days. This would keep the Governor involved but also keep him from calling all the shots month after month. It’s a much better way to govern.” Again, where in the State Constitution is the Governor granted these emergency powers? I can’t find them. If they are not there then this emergency powers law (RCW 43.06.010?) is unconstitutional and should be null and void and not enforced much like I 1639. If passed, would not this bill allow the Governor and the majority democrats in both houses to suspend our constitutionally protected rights indefinitely?
Our nation was founded on the belief that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Certainly, control of our personal health care decisions and business decisions would be included in these unalienable rights. Our founders said that men institute governments for the purpose of securing or protecting our God given rights. SB 5039 will not protect our God given rights. Like all communist and totalitarian governments that say rights come from government, SB 5039 would allow our rights to be superseded by government mandates and edicts under the guise of emergency powers.
George Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force! It is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Our state government has become a fearful master and it feels like we are living under a communist style government where the government does indeed call all the shots. We want to return to limited government where the people call most of the shots. If you feel the same way please contact your state representatives and tell them not to support these bills. Tell them a better way to govern would be for the Legislature to remove the emergency powers law from the books and put the Governor and the Legislature back under the control of the Constitution.
Senator Mark Schoesler’s Urgent Report on WA Legislature Week #1
Jan. 15, 2021
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For years the state Department of Commerce has included Washington’s lack of a state income tax in its materials marketing our state to prospective new employers. For years I and many others have pointed to that marketing angle when Democrats propose a state income tax. So what changed in the “Choose Washington” section of the Commerce website ahead of yesterday’s Senate Ways and Means hearing on Governor Inslee’s latest proposal for a state income tax? I’ll bet you can guess, but please keep reading for the rest of the story.
If you have a question, problem or idea involving the Legislature or state government, feel free to reach out to me during the upcoming 2021 legislative session. My Olympia office phone number is 360-786-7620 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
I took the above photo [sorry–won’t copy] Monday morning from the Senate Republican Caucus Room, showing the heightened security — and the absence of protesters. The photo below shows north steps of the Legislative Building, normally a popular place for people to hold rallies, looking very empty behind a metal fence and National Guard troops called out by the governor.
2021 session begins under double lockdown
A week ago we became aware the governor intended to call out the National Guard to provide added security at the state Capitol prior to the session’s opening day. What I didn’t expect was that I’d arrive at my Senate office on Monday to find a temporary fence surrounding the centers of the three branches of government. That happened over the weekend. On top of the new session rules forced upon legislators and the public by the majority Democrats, this was an additional and more visible form of lockdown. It led me to offer this public statement yesterday:
“The Legislature is now in session to do the people’s business, yet the people are not allowed to get anywhere close to the Capitol to see their elected legislators in action or to interact in person with them on issues or concerns.
“I understand why fencing was put around the Capitol, and why there is such a strong presence by members of the Washington State Patrol, and National Guard and legislative security personnel. Nobody saw a reason for any of this until the U.S. Capitol was attacked, and now that the ‘wall’ is up Governor Inslee says he wants it to remain through Inauguration Day. I wonder if he’ll just leave it up indefinitely after that and point to our outgoing president as the excuse.
“Assuming the fence comes down and the additional security force goes away, the public will still be kept at arm’s length from what is supposed to be their government by the majority Democrats’ restrictions on public access. I appreciate the interest in protecting legislators, staff, lobbyists and the public from exposure to COVID-19, but conducting our work virtually has created a new kind of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in our state.One of the reasons I’m at the Capitol, instead of working from home like many legislators, is that I won’t risk missing a debate or a vote if there’s trouble with the internet service at my farm. Those who have reliable internet will be able to consider testifying remotely before legislative committees. Those who don’t will be shut out because they don’t have the option of traveling to Olympia and testifying in person.
“I have to believe most of us have left our homes at some point during this pandemic and set foot inside a retail store – and even if that store didn’t require the following of COVID precautions, we know what those precautions are. The Legislature’s meeting places are ‘boxes’ too, and that’s what makes the majority’s restrictions so frustrating. If people can shop at big-box or small retail stores, the public should be able to enter the Capitol as well.”
Reopening economy, reopening schools
Last week’s E-Commentary outlined the concerns county leaders throughout the 9th District (and I) have about Governor Inslee’s new restart plan. Between its unfair region-based approach and failure to explain what comes after phase 2 is reached, Inslee’s “Healthy Washington” scheme doesn’t offer any real hope to the restaurants, fitness centers and many other small businesses that are fortunate to have survived this long.
Would majority Democrats dare to join with Republicans and move the affected businesses across our state directly to the second phase of the governor’s plan, so they have more of a chance to stay open? Is it possible for them to do something the governor won’t do, by trusting these businesses to look after the safety of their staff and customers without government intervention? Those are great questions that can be answered with SB 5114. The list of sponsors includes two Democrats along with 14 Republicans, one of whom is me. The bill will have a committee hearing Wednesday, and we’re hoping for a strong virtual turnout by people who want to help these businesses reopen.
I’d also like to see, now that we’re in session, where the Democrat majority is on reopening schools. Science indicates children are in no more danger virus-wise in classrooms than at home, and we know how they’re being left behind by remote-only learning. SB 5037, which I’m also co-sponsoring, would set “metrics” that finally give students, parents, teachers, and school staff a feeling of certainty.Under the bill, full-time, in-person instruction must be offered if a county’s virus-positivity rate is below 5 percent. School districts in counties with rates between 5 and 15 percent would get to choose between offering in-person or remote instruction, or a hybrid. In counties with positivity rates above 15 percent, only remote instruction would be allowed. SB 5037 is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate education committee on Monday.
Reform for emergency orders
We’ve seen Governor Inslee make two kinds of proclamations during this pandemic using the powers granted by state law after a state of emergency has been declared. The bans on inside dining and other activities are done with proclamations that prohibit such; the other proclamations suspend certain laws (like the renewal of driver’s licenses).
The “suspension” proclamations can’t last more than 30 days without legislative approval, but the “prohibition” proclamations can be open-ended, with no legislative review. I’m co-sponsoring SB 5039 to reform the emergency-powers law by making all proclamations subject to legislative approval after 30 days. This would keep the governor involved but also keep him from calling all the shots month after month. It’s a much better way to govern.
Relief for employers on UI taxes
The headline on a Seattle television station earlier this week was “Washington business owners say hike in unemployment taxes could be final blow.” That’s absolutely true, considering the unusual situation employers find themselves in. First the government forces them to close, driving up the number of unemployment claims and draining the fund that pays those claims; then the government wants more tax to refill the fund! A local chamber member, who was forced to lay off people during the initial lockdown but hired them all back as soon as possible, told me their UI rate went from about .4% to nearly 4%. That’s as unfair as it gets.
I’m co-sponsoring SB 5171 to pull $1 billion from the state’s rainy-day fund to help “backfill” the money that had to be paid out so unexpectedly. It’s an appropriate source for that relief, and could make the difference between survival and failure for employers who are still hanging on. And I’m prime sponsor of SB 5197, which would offer additional relief by adjusting the calculation used to determine UI taxes. Much like a tuition cap gives certainty to families and students about the costs of higher education, this bill would create a cap on UI taxes to provide welcome stability for employers when it comes to this particular cost of doing business.
The governor also has a proposal to reduce the pain for employers facing bigger UI taxes, by spreading the increase out over a longer period – but it also would increase UI benefits in conjunction with the tax hike and extend eligibility beyond layoffs to what are called “voluntary quits.” That’s hardly a satisfactory solution.
Spot the difference between the webpage earlier this week (top) versus how it appeared just before yesterday’s budget-committee hearing? For some reason the mention of “no personal or corporate income tax” (that’s my underline) was removed very recently.
Agency plays politics with ‘Choose Washington’ website over governor’s latest income-tax proposal
Last week I explained how once again the governor and his political allies in the Legislature are pursuing a state income tax, with the governor’s bill (Senate Bill 5096) scheduled for a budget-committee hearing yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t surprised by the fast-tracking of the bill, but I didn’t expect the Department of Commerce would abandon a long-held marketing position in the process. Credit goes to Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center for spotting the deletion of “no personal or corporate income tax” from the agency web page.
I’ve known Commerce Director Lisa Brown since I became a legislator (we eventually served together in the Senate), and she’s never made a secret of her support for a state income tax. What I can’t tell is whether this change in wording was my former colleague’s doing or demanded by the governor; either way it’s an embarrassing move for the agency to make.
Rather than repeat my reasons for opposing a state income tax (and all the bills that only call it an “excise” tax or “capital gains” tax instead), here’s the testimony our committee heard from concerned citizen Ryan Ottele, from Renton:
“Why is the state trying to institute new taxes on anyone in the middle of a recession? State revenue is up 20% over the last three years and the forecast for the upcoming biennium is an increase of another 7% on top of that. Given those numbers it’s just seems like a bad look to be asking for more money during the current slowdown.
“Additionally, capital gains are about the most volatile revenue source you could pick. It’s very difficult to model and it basically puts the state in the business of playing the market, basing [revenue] on unpredictable market fluctuations. Introducing volatility into revenues doesn’t seem like good policy to me.
“Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, the bill has an emergency clause on it. We see that revenue is already coming in higher than in previous years, and the bill doesn’t even go into effect until 2022. So that certainly isn’t necessary for the immediate support of state government. Seems like an abuse of the emergency clause to me in an attempt to chill the people’s right to referendum should they so choose.
“So for me the bill is bad policy, bad economics and bad government. That’s three strikes. Please reject the bill.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Two good bills back for another go-round
When I was Senate Republican leader or Senate Majority leader, I had to be cautious about introducing bills, to keep them from getting caught up in the politics that went with my leadership role. Seeing how two simple policy changes were ignored in recent years, I am hopeful that bringing them back now that I’m not leader will produce better results.
Senate Bill 5198 is my latest effort to help very small, rural communities – like the Whitman County towns of Garfield and Farmington – to provide ambulance service for their citizens.
A 2017 state law allows rural ambulance-service providers to overcome personnel shortages by allowing ambulance drivers who don’t have first aid or medical training. It inadvertently left out ambulance services shared by two or more municipalities. SB 5198 would let shared ambulance services continue operations so these communities don’t have to turn to other providers farther away, simply because the driver of the ambulance isn’t trained in first aid. It’s already set for a public hearing from the Senate Housing and Local Government Committeeat 8 a.m. next Thursday (Jan. 21). There’s more detail in my news release about the bill.
My SB 5202 is this year’s attempt to let school districts create a “depreciation subfund” that can receive a transfer of up to 2 percent of the general fund each fiscal year. The aim is to have another path for funding preventative maintenance to realize the originally anticipated useful life of a building or facility (or meet emergency facility needs). School administrators have recognized the value of this proposal; I hope the majority can get behind it this year as well.
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I welcome your comments about anything in this newsletter and questions about what I’m doing on your behalf in the state Senate. Please call, email or write using the contact information at the end of this report.
Click here to visit my legislative webpage!
Legislative E-mail: Mark.Schoesler@leg.wa.gov
Legislative Phone: (360) 786-7620
Toll-Free: 1 (800) 562-6000