Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this email finds you well! On Monday, Jan. 10, lawmakers returned to Olympia to officially begin the 2022 legislative session. We have 60-days to complete the people's work, including approving the supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budgets. However, in these beginning weeks, our focus will be on moving priority policy bills through the committee process. It's going to be a busy and extremely fast-paced 60-days.
Although the chain-link fences and National Guard surrounding the Capitol are gone, there are many similarities between the 2022 and 2021 sessions. It was my hope we would be conducting business in person this session. At least for the next couple of weeks, we are back to a virtual process as we remain under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. You need to know what our operational plan looks like as it continues to change.
Even in the short span of 60-days, there are significant issues for the Legislature to tackle in that timeframe. I understand virtual meetings, committee hearings, and remote testimony are challenging, but it's imperative for you to stay active in the legislative process this session.
My top priority in 2022 | Transportation
Since becoming one of our state's transportation budget leaders in 2019, I have been the voice for fiscal responsibility, reform, and reprioritization. My goals have been to keep costs down, stop more forced taxes on drivers, and complete projects within existing revenue.
This session, I am taking my goals to new heights. The transportation REAL Act is our pathway and opportunity to rejuvenate our way of thinking and move away from the antiquated and obsolete form of state budgeting.
- How to pay for better roads and ferry service without raising taxes | My op-ed appeared in The Seattle Times on Dec. 14, 2021
- Transportation solutions: Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity (REAL) Act | Website
- Rep. Andrew Barkis to champion a sustainable and equitable transportation funding model by reimagining state budgeting process | Press release on Nov. 17, 2021
- Rep. Andrew Barkis introduces the REAL Act for transportation funding | Video
In other transportation news
Since October, I have been an active voice against the vaccine mandate that cost many state employees their jobs. Specifically, I warned how these losses could affect whether highways would get plowed this winter.
The recent closure of all three major Washington passes affected us differently. From Christmas Day through Jan. 4, the Washington State Patrol handled 3,575 calls for service that were collision-related statewide due to the inclement weather and bad road conditions. Many people we stuck on either side of the Cascades because our state was impassable. The dwindling supply on grocery store shelves got even smaller when trucks couldn't travel safely on our state's highways and roadways.
On Monday, Jan. 10, during Secretary Millar's (WSDOT) presentation to the House Transportation Committee, I again posed the question on whether the governor's vaccine mandates and the loss of employees impacted the recent shutdown of our passes and if the lack of skilled employees to plow the roads was a factor. He said no – it's not just a staffing issue. It is budgetary issues surrounding the hiring freeze due to the financial shortfall caused by the pandemic (not the governor's mandates) and changes due to the passage of I-976. You can watch our dialogue here.
A news report broke later this week tells a different story of the pass closures and WSDOT's refusal to allow a local government to assist in snow removal on state highways because this particular county does not honor the governor's mandate of releasing employees who are not vaccinated.
It is frustrating to hear conflicting stories as we try to find solutions to these issues. I have written a letter to the governor and Secretary Millar seeking clarification. I will keep you posted on any responses I receive from the governor or Secretary Millar.
Public Safety | 2022 House Republican priorities
House Republicans have promised to bring real solutions to the people of Washington state. We are keeping that promise.
We will focus on many issues during this 60-day session. One of our top priorities is public safety.
Washington communities continue to face the challenges of chronic homelessness, the increases in addiction and overdose, the increase in crime and murder rates, and many untreated mental health needs. Unfortunately, the majority party's ineffective and destructive policies have worsened these problems and left law enforcement professionals without needed support. If communities are going to have an opportunity to thrive, we must develop solutions that effectively address the root causes of these problems.
2020 was the 11th consecutive year where Washington state ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in terms of the number of police officers per thousand people. We must also address our police officer recruitment and retention crisis and provide more funding to police departments around the state.
- Republican legislators prioritize policing, public safety, and corrections in 'Safe Washington' Plan | Joint House and Senate Republicans press release
- 'Safe Washington' legislation list by category
- Why Democrats' police reform bills have made communities less safe | Website
- House Bill 1737 – Restoring balance and common sense to police reform | Rolls back several harmful provisions in last year's police reform bills, restoring tactics and tools that help bring criminals to justice and keep communities safe.
- House Bill 1788 – Allowing law enforcement to chase suspects | Eliminates the disastrous probable cause requirement for vehicular chases and allows a peace officer to engage in a vehicle pursuit when there is a reasonable suspicion a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a criminal offense
- House Bill 1787 – Putting more police officers on the street | Provides funding for signing bonuses, retention bonuses, body cameras for local agencies, and funds additional classes at the Criminal Justice Training Commission to get officers trained and ready more quickly.
We will continue working to keep our streets, neighborhoods, and families safe while respecting those who serve and protect our communities with a focus on compassion and accountability.
In my next e-newsletter
In my next e-newsletter, I will cover another House Republican priority — the long-term care insurance program and payroll tax. There is a lot on the table, and I want to ensure you stay informed on the hot topic issues and the solutions we are bringing forward. Please share these updates with your family and friends and ask them to subscribe.
As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas regarding your state government or any of the topics and issues mentioned in this update, don't hesitate to reach out to me.
It is an honor to serve you.