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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now in Day 15 of the special session, and Democrat leaders in both the House and Senate have dug in their heels, coming no closer to a budget agreement than the first day of this extended session. Both would like to raise taxes by more than $800 million, but Senate Democrats want to raise that revenue through a sales tax increase, while House Democrats and the governor prefer a variety of means, including: raising business and occupation taxes on services, canned meat and vegetable products; increasing cigarette taxes, extending sales tax on bottled water, raising taxes on airplanes, and other targeted tax increases.
In the words of the Democrat House majority leader who spoke last Wednesday on TVW, “You're dealing with an apple and an orange, and you can't morph one into the other. So this is sort of a who-blinks-first kind of deal that's going on. The governor does not like the sales tax either. I'm afraid for the Senate majority leader, that's going to be very difficult.”
It is disappointing and very frustrating that stubborn egos have taken over the process at a cost to taxpayers of between $14,000 to $18,000 a day. It has also been disappointing that Republicans have been excluded from the budget negotiations while Democrat leaders squabble among themselves. We had solutions that would have reformed our budgeting process, closed the $2.7 billion budget gap WITHOUT RAISING TAXES, and adjourned the regular 60-day session on time without the need for an extended session. Unfortunately, the majority party has not been interested in our input. So they have sequestered themselves behind closed doors while we wait.
Last week, the House sent lawmakers home because there was little for them to do. Still, the special session continues without a budget resolution. It's my hope this logjam will be broken soon.
GOVERNOR SIGNS MY BILL TO ALLOW RETIRED FIREFIGHTERS TO VOLUNTEER
While we wait for progress in the special session, the governor has been busy for the past two weeks taking action on bills that were approved in the final days of the 60-day regular session. Among legislation she has signed into law is a bill I prime sponsored that will allow retired firefighters who are collecting pensions to return to volunteer firefighting duties.
Many rural fire districts rely on volunteers and could use the experience of someone who has retired from a life-long career of firefighting. Unfortunately, state law has prohibited retired firefighters who have been collecting a pension from volunteering their services. This measure eliminates that prohibition.
Under House Bill 2823, retired firefighters who are at least age 65 and have been collecting a pension for at least three months would be permitted to resume volunteer firefighting. The measure makes clear that those who return are not eligible for disability payments in the event of an injury related to volunteer firefighting duties. Retired firefighters also would need to pass annual medical exams in order to offer their services.
You can read more about the bill from my news release.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OVERSTEPS ITS CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITS WITH HEALTH CARE REFORM
I remain concerned that the federal government continues to overstep its constitutional bounds in meddling with matters reserved to the states. The clearest example is the newly-adopted federal health care reform legislation.
The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
I believe the federal health care legislation is unconstitutional for several reasons:
- You cannot force someone to sign a contract.
- The federal government does not have the power to regulate inaction. It cannot fine or imprison someone for refusing to participate in its plan.
- The federal government only has power to regulate interstate commerce. The decision not to participate in a government health care plan is a non-commerce activity. Therefore, it has no jurisdiction over the states.
- The federal government cannot compel a state to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program.
Earlier this year, I co-sponsored Washington State Health Care Freedom Act of 2010, which would protect employers and workers from federal fines for not participating in a socialized medicine plan. Although the measure did not get a hearing, I support Attorney General Rob McKenna, who has joined in a lawsuit with numerous other states to fight this attempted federal takeover of health care, because it is an unconstitutional mandate against individual rights.
We had an opportunity this session to provide reforms to our health care system that would have expanded access and lowered cost, while providing for the uninsured. House Republicans offered a 10-point plan of hea
lth care solutions. Click here to read more about our plan. Unfortunately, the majority party decided inaction would be the best plan for our state while waiting for the federal legislation to be approved.
A WORD OF THANKS
I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have contacted my office this session. Your e-mails, letters, phone calls and personal visits to my office have been very inspiring and have helped me to do my best to represent you. Please continue to contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government, or need help dealing with a state agency.
It is an honor to serve and represent you!
In your service,
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7967 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000