My parting thoughts from session
Last updated 5/19/2023 at 9:32am
Beef Day is the second-best day of the legislative session, next to the last day. Probably the best news about the 2023 legislative session is that we adjourned on time, although there are grumblings from even the governor that he may call for a special session to deal with flawed drug-possession law problem known as the Blake decision. More about that later.
As a state senator representing large parts of eastern Washington and chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, I’m representing my constituents and balancing those needs with broader goals for our state and the people we all represent.
At the start of the session, my colleagues and I stood firm on principles of restoring public safety and returning affordability. I think that my Republican colleagues and I did just that, even if the majority party did not. Our votes reflected an alignment not just with our constituents, but also working families across the state who want to feel safe in parks, walking on the streets or driving on our roadways. We stood for policies that made daily life more affordable, like lower costs on housing production, common-sense environmental regulations, and support for critical industries like agriculture.
There have been significant pushes by the legislative majority to implement all kinds of “green” energy policies. While they aren’t necessarily taxes, the impact on Washingtonians is the same. At the beginning of this year, the state implemented a carbon-pricing scheme that you are feeling at the gas pump. Our gasoline and diesel costs are far higher than our neighbors in Oregon and Idaho, which don’t have such a policy.
Sadly, our agriculture industry has been hit hard with broken promises. The state said it would help offset the extra fuel costs, but instead of getting refunds they were told they’d receive; the governor has met their frustration with contempt.
Our main task this year was to create a balanced, two-year operating budget. The spending plan that was approved by the Democratic majority is far from what my Republican colleagues or I would have proposed. While the budget doesn’t rely on new taxes, there is notably no tax relief either at a time when people need it most. With a nearly $70 billion budget, the state could more than afford to provide relief for taxpayers, and fund vital services for those most in need.
Instead, more policies have been approved that drive up costs on everything. It’s simply unsustainable that every Washingtonian sends nearly $9,000 a year to Olympia. While a budget was passed, I believe the Legislature failed its most important task this year – restoring public safety.
Senate Bill 5352 was approved to make some reforms to police pursuits. This, in addition to the fix for drug possession that I mentioned earlier, has been a significant concern for people around the state. Certain crimes have increased significantly since 2021 when these policy problems arose, and the public has demanded and deserves real action. Senate Republicans worked collaboratively for a compromise solution, but the majority party was unable to find any agreement among themselves to ensure our communities are safer and drug addicts get the help they need and accountability we all expect.
The erosion of public safety is particularly concerning given further restrictions on gun ownership by law-abiding citizens. Washington state has now adopted nearly 40 different gun-control measures since 2015. At the same time, the legislative majority worked to reduce penalties for gun crimes. No gun owner wants these tools to fall into the wrong hands or for people with mental-health problems to have easy access. National rhetoric in the wake of tragic shootings isn’t the reality in our Washington. There are more pressing matters than banning certain types of guns or imposing arguably unconstitutional tests to exercise your rights.
As legislators return home, we will be meeting with our constituents to unpack the challenges and opportunities we faced in Olympia. There is undoubtedly room for improvement and important policies that should have been front and center will need to be addressed in the next legislative session. Know that my Republican colleagues and I will not stop advocating for our shared principles to make Washington a safer, more affordable place to live, especially if called back for a special session.
— Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, is the Republican Caucus Chair