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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this email finds you well! Happy 4th of July!

Summer has arrived, and I hope everyone enjoys the great outdoors and everything our beautiful Pacific Northwest offers.

Even though the session has ended for the year, I’m your state representative year-round. Please continue to contact my office and my Legislative Assistant, Kaden, with your questions, to schedule a meeting, or anything you need. He’s happy to help!

I look forward to seeing everyone around the great 2nd District!

Long-term care payroll tax took effect on Saturday, July 1

Many of you might not be aware of a new payroll tax that took effect on Saturday, July 1, 2023.

This was approved by the Legislature in 2019 to support a new state-operated long-term care insurance program.

Most Washington workers, including part-time and temporary workers, will now pay $0.58 per $100 of their earnings for the WA Cares fund.

Here’s a bit of context for you. If you make:

  • $50,000 a year, it will cost you $290 annually or $24.17 monthly.
  • $75,000 a year, it will cost you $435 annually or $36.25 monthly.
  • $100,000 a year, it will cost you $580 annually or $48.33 monthly.
  • $125,000 a year, it will cost you $725 annually or $60.42 monthly.

You are not subject to the new payroll tax if you purchased a qualifying, private long-term care insurance plan by November 1, 2021, and applied for a permanent exemption from the WA Cares Fund. (Note: the deadline for applying for this exemption was December 31, 2022. While many Washingtonians chose this option, many others could not find a private plan in time.)

This program has many flaws, and House Republicans tried to repeal it. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful, and this program is set to take effect in less than two months.

You can learn more about this program, our efforts to repeal it, and a calculator to see what your tax could be by clicking here.

In case you missed it | Quick legislative update

For those who don’t know, at the end of session, my seatmate, Rep. J.T. Wilcox, announced he would be stepping down as the House Minority Leader. I want to thank him for his leadership over the last several years. The House Republican Caucus saw many successes under his leadership. Rep. Drew Stokesbary now leads our caucus as the House Minority Leader.

For an in-depth rundown of what happened during the 2023 legislative session, please keep your eyes on your mailbox. Rep. Wilcox and I will be sending out a newsletter very soon!

My website is also a great resource.

You can find a list of all the Republican bills that passed the Legislature by clicking here.

You can also find a list of good and bad bills by clicking here.

Update on fixing the state’s drug possession laws

By way of background, in 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state’s felony drug possession statute was unconstitutional because it didn’t require someone to “knowingly” possess drugs for conviction. By invalidating the law, the possession of hard drugs became decriminalized.

That same year, the Legislature approved a temporary law making it a misdemeanor to possess drugs, with an expiration date of July 1, 2023. If we didn’t act this session, hard drugs would’ve been decriminalized again.

We had quite the finale in the final hours of the regular session. Senate Bill 5536 was brought to the House floor for debate and a vote. This bill, which was heavily changed by the House, aimed to address the drug possession legality issue by making possession of a controlled substance a misdemeanor. Ultimately, this bill was voted down and didn’t pass. We adjourned without a fix.

Reps. Gina Mosbrucker and Peter Abbarno led the negotiations for House Republicans on the bipartisan bill (an amended version of Senate Bill 5536), passed during a one-day special session on May 16.

Key provisions of this bill include:

  • Possession and public use of hard drugs become a modified gross misdemeanor with 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 for the first two offenses. The penalty increases to 364 days for subsequent offenses.
  • Prosecutors and judges are given more flexibility to get addicts into treatment but retain jail time if they don’t need the help.
  • Enables cities and counties to set their own rules around drug paraphernalia.
  • Appropriates $63 million for programs to alleviate illegal drug use and provide treatment.

This isn’t the perfect solution, and more work needs to be done; however, this new law provides law enforcement with the tools they need to help people in crisis while providing a pathway out of the cycle of addiction with treatment and recovery options.

You can watch my floor speech supporting this legislation here or by clicking on the photo below.

Housing update | 2023 session brought many successes

Housing policy was one of the cornerstones of the 2023 legislative session. Since I first walked through the doors of the Legislative Building over seven years ago, housing has been one of my top priorities. Where there is still a lot of work to be done in this issue arena, this session successfully reduced some of the barriers to affordable housing across the state.

House Bill 1110 – Increasing middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing.

For more information on my work on this policy:

  • My floor speech in support of this policy | YouTube
  • TVW’s Inside Olympia | Video
  • Interview with John Carlson on KVI | Radio
  • TVW’s The Impact | Video
  • Interview with Ari Hoffman on KVI | Radio
  • WA’s housing crisis requires bold reform. This bill would be transformative | Op-Ed
  • Reps. Andrew Barkis and Jessica Bateman unite behind middle housing legislation | Press release

House Bill 1337 – Expanding housing options by easing barriers to the construction and use of accessory dwelling units. You can watch my floor speech on this policy here.

During session, I also had the opportunity to chat with Austin Jenkins on TVW’s Inside Olympia. The segment was dedicated to bipartisan housing policies. If you missed this interview, watch it here or click the photo below.

Resources and useful links

I hope you will bookmark and save the links below.

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.

In Service,

Andrew Barkis

State Representative Andrew Barkis, 2nd Legislative District
427A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7824 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000