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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I’m back in Olympia for the 60-day legislative session that started on January 8. The pace of these so-called “short” sessions is always fast compared to the 105-day sessions in odd-numbered years. The deadlines and votes come quickly.

As you may know, I was the long-time Deputy Leader of the House Republican Caucus. I stepped down from that role in late April of last year. It was an honor to serve in this position, but I’m enjoying more time now in the policy arena on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources and Capital Budget committees. Both committees are important to our way of life in 7th District, and I’m continuing to fight for our values.

Initiatives

The biggest story around here is the six citizen initiatives that have been certified and sent to the Legislature for consideration. This is rare and nothing like I’ve ever seen in my time in office. To put it in perspective: According to our Secretary of State, the last time the Legislature received more than two initiatives in a single year was five decades ago. I was not around then, for those of you who might be wondering.

I support all of these initiatives. My Republican colleagues have been pushing for public hearings on them, but it doesn’t look like the majority party is interested. I think the people who took the time to sign these initiatives deserve to be heard in Olympia. Our state constitution also says, “Such initiative measures, whether certified or provisionally certified, shall take precedence over all other measures in the legislature except appropriation bills…” I’m no lawyer, but that seems pretty clear to me.

Here are the details:

Initiative 2113 would restore important vehicular pursuit options for law enforcement. Our state is facing a public safety crisis. Communities across our state really need help. We need to support law enforcement and let them do their jobs again. We also need to hire and train more police officers. I support bills that would do just that.

Initiative 2117 would repeal the state’s Climate Commitment Act. Or, as many of us call it, the carbon tax. Call it what you want, but we can all agree that it has driven up gas and energy costs on families and farmers — while doing very little to benefit our state’s air quality. This web page explains this issue in more detail.
  
Initiative 2111 would prohibit state and local personal income taxes. I’m not sure I need to say much more. Washingtonians have made it clear where they stand on this issue. I stand with them.   

Initiative 2081 would establish a Parents’ Bill of Rights for their children’s public school education. We’ve seen many families leave our public school system since the pandemic. I think this initiative would help build trust. You can find some K-12 education facts on our state here.

Initiative 2109 would repeal the state’s capital gains tax. This new tax sure looks like a step toward a new state income tax to me. And while it may not reach most of us today, it could in the future as lawmakers look to expand programs and grow state government. I believe our state already has enough revenue to pay for its priorities. We don’t need to ask any more from anyone.

Initiative 2124 would allow workers in our state to opt-out of the WA Cares program and payroll tax. I think it was unfair that people got swept into this program to begin with. Consumers deserve choices when it comes to long-term care insurance. The payroll tax also really hurts those living paycheck-to-paycheck. I also support legislation that would repeal this program. But opting out is the next best thing.  

You might be wondering what happens next. State lawmakers have three options with each initiative. 1. Pass it. 2. Do nothing, and then it will appear on the ballot in the next general election. 3. Propose a different measure dealing with the same subject, and then both measures appear on the ballot in the next general election. The first option seems unlikely based on the response from the majority party. We’ll see how the other two options play out.

Wolves

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held public hearings on two of my wolf management bills last Friday. You can watch the public hearing at this TVW link. If you want to watch my testimony on these bills, you can find it here.

The first measure, House Bill 2423, would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to convene a workgroup to develop a regional management plan for gray wolves in the portion of Eastern Washington where gray wolves are not federally listed as threatened or endangered.

The second, House Bill 2424, would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to engage with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation on a government-to-government basis to align gray wolf management strategies in certain areas. This bill was voted out of committee today. I appreciate the support.

My goal on wolf management continues to be to find that balance. Unfortunately, the equation is way out of balance in favor of wolves.

I want to thank the folks who made it over here to testify in support of the legislation and share their stories, including Mel Tonasket of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, who has a wealth of knowledge on a range of issues, and Kathy McKay, a friend who has generations worth of insights on this issue and so many others. If you watch the public hearing, you will see their testimony was emotional and impactful.

House Resolution 4659

I prime sponsored House Resolution 4659, which the Washington State House of Representatives unanimously adopted on January 19. The measure recognizes the plight of victims of stalking and January as National Stalking Awareness Month.

I’m learning more about this issue and a constituent’s story inspired my sponsorship of this House Resolution. This crime is invasive and there needs to be more awareness brought to it. You can learn more in this news release.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: We need to restore tools that were taken away from law enforcement and hire and train more police officers. We must address our state’s public safety crisis now.

How you can be involved

There are a lot of ways for you to be involved in your Legislature. If you are ever in Olympia, I welcome you to contact me so we can set up a time to meet. There are also options for you to participate from your own home. You can learn more about these opportunities here.

Please always feel free to call, email, or send me a letter. I’m here to listen. And if I can help in any way, I will. It’s an honor to represent the 7th District.

Sincerely,


Joel Kretz

State Representative Joel Kretz, 7th Legislative District
RepresentativeJoelKretz.com
425A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
joel.kretz@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7988 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000