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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

For the first half of this year’s 60-day session, it appeared the majority would not hold public hearings on any of the six initiatives that were sent to the Legislature by Washingtonians. However, in a surprise development last month, majority leaders announced hearings would indeed be held—not on all six initiatives, but on the three that have the least significant fiscal impact.

As for the other three initiatives, they will not be heard and will instead appear on the ballot:

Republicans fought hard for hearings on all six initiatives, and many of you fought that battle with us. Thank you! Public pressure can and does work. From the House floor, we made the argument that the majority had both a constitutional and moral obligation to hold hearings. We then, with your help, kept the pressure on.

The fact three of the initiatives received public hearings and will likely receive legislative approval before we adjourn on March 7 is a significant victory for the people of Washington state. I know many of you are frustrated that the other three initiatives were ignored this session, as am I, but we will have an opportunity to make our voices heard this November when they’re on the ballot.

We’re in the home stretch of this year’s 60-day session

We’ve reached the final major legislative deadline of this year’s 60-day session. Known as “opposite house cutoff,” this is the last day for the House to pass bills that have come over from the Senate, and vice-versa.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved my bill (HB 1989) to create a pilot program that will test new technologies and strategies aimed at mitigating the rampant spread of graffiti vandalism across the state. The program will be directed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and include:

  • Field testing of state-of-the-art spray drone technology to cover up existing graffiti, ensuring prompt restoration of affected areas.
  • Utilization of WSDOT-owned cameras to deter and identify perpetrators. Tolling and work safety zone enforcement cameras will not be utilized.
  • Prioritization of the Interstate 5 Puget Sound region from Tacoma to Seattle and the north Spokane corridor for the deployment of innovative graffiti prevention techniques.

Thanks to Jim Camden with The Spokesman-Review for covering my bill in a column last week.

There were more bills I was hoping to pass this year, but it’s often a tough road in the minority. I want to do even more on graffiti, I want to fix our ferry system (more on that below), I want to create more affordable housing, I want to make our highways safer so we stop seeing record deaths every year.

There is so much I want to do for our communities and the state, but Republicans don’t control the agenda. My job in the minority is to introduce policies, cultivate strong relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and then relentlessly advocate for those policies until the final legislative deadline hits.

Speaking of being a relentless advocate for good policy, I have been hard at work negotiating with my counterparts in the Senate to ensure we pass a supplemental transportation budget this session that honors our existing commitments and addresses our most pressing needs. The House-proposed version of the supplemental transportation budget does this, despite challenges posed by cost overruns and stagnant transportation revenues. In our proposal, we allocate resources strategically and advance projects and programs to improve transportation efficiency, safety, and sustainability, making investments in vital areas such as Washington State Patrol staffing, WSDOT maintenance, and ferry operations.

In my view, the budget we passed off the House floor reflects a commitment to fiscal responsibility while prioritizing critical projects to meet the needs of all Washingtonians. We need to make sure the Senate proposal does the same and then pass a strong final product.

We must fix our ferry system

Washington’s ferry system is facing a number of very significant challenges. The aging fleet is struggling to maintain service across 10 vital routes, with delays and cancellations serving as a constant source of frustration for passengers. Rep. Spencer Hutchins and I introduced a bill earlier this session calling on Governor Inslee to declare a ferry procurement state of emergency and use his gubernatorial powers to get two new boats in the water within the next two years.

Unfortunately, the governor’s pursuit of hybrid-electric ferries has resulted in skyrocketing costs and sluggish procurement, further worsening the ongoing situation. In 2019, the Legislature extended a contract with a local shipyard to purchase five new 144-car biodiesel ferries one after another. However, the governor’s decision to transition all government fleets to zero-emission vehicles, including ferries, led to a multi-year renegotiation of the contract focused on constructing hybrid-electric ferries. This endeavor failed spectacularly when the price of the new vessels skyrocketed to $412.4 million, more than double the cost of the last ferry purchased in 2018.

House Bill 2498 would create a clear pathway for Washington State Ferries to purchase two non-hybrid electric ferries using the existing 144-car design in an expedited manner with the goal of having the first new ferry delivered within two years. By declaring a state of emergency, the governor would be able to cut through red tape and streamline permitting and procurement processes. 

In a statement, Rep. Hutchins and I said the following:

“$932 million over five years, separate from Climate Commitment Act resources, is available to purchase vessels. Passage of Initiative 2117 would not put this funding in jeopardy. By postponing hybrid-electric ferry purchases until proven viable, we can proactively safeguard against financial pitfalls while remaining open to future technological advancements. We call on the governor to acknowledge the shortcomings of his current approach and embrace a more realistic and effective strategy. Fixing our ferry system is one way we can fix Washington. We must act now.”

House Bill 2498 is not likely to gain any traction this session, but this issue deserves to be a top priority.

Contacting me and staying engaged with House Republicans

I encourage you to continue reaching out to me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Andrew.Barkis@leg.wa.gov, and my office number is (360) 786-7824.

Please also continue helping us amplify our message this session. Sign up for text alerts and follow us on Instagram, Twitter (now X), Facebook, and YouTube. I also encourage you to bookmark my legislative website, where you’ll find my latest communications.

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