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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Washington State Legislature convened at noon on Monday, Jan. 10, starting the clock on a 60-day session. For the House of Representatives, at least for the first few weeks of session, that means another fully virtual format, similar to last year.

Online, virtual sessions are far from ideal. Why? Because the public is shut out of any in-person participation in the lawmaking process and dialogue with their representatives. The path of law, from the time it is a mere idea, to the time it arrives on the governor's desk for signature, contains many hurdles. Working remotely should not be one of them.

Under the recently approved House operations plan, the public will not be allowed entry to the House galleries; rendering them unable to observe, in-person, any floor debates. Members of the press, however, unlike the public, will be allowed in the galleries if they show proof of vaccination.

Only two members from each caucus and a presiding officer will be allowed on the House floor. For members and staff, admittance to the floor will not only require proof of vaccination, but also a booster. Lawmakers and staff are required to get tested for COVID three times per week to work in their legislative offices.

The House operations committee plans to revisit these rules, and possibly revise them, in another two weeks.

In the coming days, with public safety standards in mind, I plan to support prudent, health-wise ways to return to more in-person work and normalcy at the state Capitol. For now, I am working out of my Olympia office. Along with my colleagues, we will continue to request that the next House operations review brings the changes necessary to improve the public's ability to take part in the activities of the Legislature.

Repealing the Long-Term Care Act

Recently, one of my legislative colleagues called this payroll tax the “Short-Term Care Act.” I agree. Those who pay into the program are eligible for a maximum lifetime benefit of only $36,500. For quality long-term care, that's not much money. Whether you need a nursing home, assisted living services, on long-term care — the average costs range closer to $100,000, depending on how much help you need.

Worse yet, the program is fundamentally unfair. Many citizens will be forced to pay into the program with no eligibility to receive any of its “benefits.” Vested individuals must reside in Washington state to get help. That means individuals living in another state, but working in Washington, will pay into the program but not receive benefits. Current retirees who have no income from an employer are also ineligible.

Another big problem is solvency. In a few years, the annual program expenditures are expected to exceed annual premium collections. That means the program will have to decrease future benefit expenditures or increase future premium rates to remain solvent.

Those are only a few of the program's problems. There are more. The Legislature needs to be honest with the people it represents. This program is a major policy mistake. At this point, it needs to be repealed. Changes to the program will only cost more for taxpayers and those unable to opt-out.

Retaining and attracting more ferry employees | House Bill 1608

Another bill I've co-sponsored would remove barriers in the hiring of new Washington State Ferry workers and improve their working conditions. After an estimated 132 ferry employees lost their jobs in October because of the governor's COVID vaccine mandate, there was a deep decline in ferry service. Washington State Ferries are operating, by and large, on a drastically reduced service schedule.

Current employment practices make it extremely difficult to keep and attract new employees. House Bill 1608 would direct a review of collective bargaining agreements governing state ferry employees to identify provisions that create hiring barriers. The governor's office would conduct the review, in consultation with the Office of Equity and the attorney general's office.

The study would also look at hiring-barrier impacts on women, people of color, veterans, and other employees belonging to communities that have been historically underrepresented in the workforce. This analysis would be required to be completed prior to scheduled negotiations for the 2023-25 collective bargaining agreements.

Modernizing and improving ferry workforce employment agreements is long overdue. This bill takes a common-sense approach in managing the Washington State Ferries hiring and employee retainment strategies. More importantly, it would improve the traveling experience of the public that relies on this crucial transportation service.

Other important public policy debates in 2022

Some of the toughest policy choices our state has faced in years will take place this session. Here's a quick rundown of some of the big debates heading our way in the coming weeks:

  • Reforming the anti-law enforcement “reforms” put in place last session by the majority party: Our communities are less safe. Among other problems, the bills approved in 2021 prevented law enforcement from pursuing suspects and assisting with mental health calls. That needs to change. Learn more here.
  • Emergency Powers Reform: The framers of our state government never intended for the current governor to wield the kind of power he's maintained for nearly two years now. The public should have a voice in how to move forward. That's the job of the Legislature. Learn more here.
  • Budget surplus of $8.8 billion + $2.2 billion in reserves + $1.2 billion in unspent federal stimulus: While many individuals and families continue to struggle, the government remains flush in cash. Tax relief is needed.
  • Approving the work completed by the Washington State Redistricting Commission: Although the commission missed its deadline, the Washington State Supreme Court approved its bipartisan consensus on political district-making. The Legislature now has 30 days to review the maps and approve or disapprove the commission's proposals for congressional and legislative district maps for the coming decade.

Remote testimony | Information and resources

Although the 2022 legislative session is officially closed, at least for now, to in-person interactions by the public, you can still participate remotely. Every legislative committee will be offering remote testimony options. Constituents can testify online via Zoom, by phone, or submit written comments.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Here are some additional resources to keep you informed about the activities of the Legislature:

Want to learn how to track a specific bill? Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Go to leg.wa.gov
  • On the left-hand panel, click “Bill Information.”
  • If you know the bill number, enter it in the search field and hit enter.
  • Don't have a bill number? Under the section “Standard Reports,” you'll find alternative tracking tools. You can search based on topic, legislative digests, cross-references, and within a specific biennium.
  • If you click on the House Floor Activity Report, this helpful tool gives you a detailed list of all bills scheduled to be heard on the House floor each day.

Stay in touch!

In the weeks ahead, please remember that your input in the legislative process matters. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about legislation, committee hearings, or the legislative process — please call, write or email me. I'm happy to help.

Thank you for your steadfast support and encouragement.

In your service,


Greg Gilday

State Representative Greg Gilday, 10th Legislative District
representativegreggilday.com
404 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
greg.gilday@leg.wa.gov
(360) 939-1211 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000