Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Just like that, 60 days have come and gone, and the 2020 legislative session officially adjourned on Thursday, March 12. It was a whirlwind two months. During this session we saw more than 2400 bills introduced in both the House and Senate with more than 380 passing both chambers and making their way to the governor's desk for signature.
I really appreciate all the feedback you gave me during the session. It is very important I hear from you. I take my responsibility as a public servant very seriously, and my top priority is to represent you in Olympia. I hope you continue to contact me with any concerns or questions you have during the upcoming interim.
As you know, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a major issue. Although, we continue to discourage fear and panic, we are aware of the seriousness of this virus and its implications. This is affecting each one of us and our families in countless ways, but we must keep doing all we can to stop it.
The House and Senate already passed a bill that would direct $175 million from the state's reserves to fight the outbreak and another $25 million to assist small businesses that have been affected.
As the number of cases continues to climb, there is increased awareness and concern. So, the House Republican party has created a new web page specifically to provide you with the latest information and resources on coronavirus. We will update it frequently as new information and resources come forward. If you think something needs to be added, please email us at email@example.com.
Lastly, please remember to be diligent and vigilant to stay safe and healthy. The best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands regularly, avoid large crowds and others who are sick, and limit touching your face. We want to get through this the best we can, and we want everyone to stay healthy, especially our most vulnerable.
As important as it is for me to hear from you, I also believe I owe you a report on my job performance. I came into session with Affordability as my top legislative priority. Here, I'd like to go over some of the specific areas I've been working along with the results of that work. As with most endeavors, we had some real victories, but still have a lot of work that remains. I look forward to continuing working toward these ends on your behalf.
Affordable Child Care: We had two major successes in this arena. First, we closed the gap for the reimbursement rate we provide to child care providers. Second, we rolled back many of the new educational requirements our providers have been struggling to implement. Together, these items will make childcare more affordable in our state.
House Bill 2556 allows community-based education to be used for child care certification rather than simply college credit. Without this bill, providers who have been caring for our children for 20-30 years or more would have had to get 20 additional college credit hours to stay in business. It was a huge impediment and caused the many providers to simply retire. It unanimously passed both legislative chambers and awaits the governor's signature.
House Bill 2619 increases the state reimbursement rate for children of low-income families. This rate had not been updated for many years and was way behind the market rate. It passed the House and Senate almost unanimously and awaits the governor's signature.
I also supported House Bill 1392, House Bill 1866, and House Bill 1867, all of which would have eased licensing regulations and made the certification process more affordable for child care providers. Unfortunately, none of them advanced this session.
Affordable Housing: This is a mixed bag this year. We missed many opportunities to pass legislation, as shown below, that would reduce the cost of housing. However, we were able to direct $60 million toward increasing capacity to shelter the homeless, $15 million toward permanent supportive housing, and $55 million toward affordable housing projects.
House Bill 2673 and House Bill 2634 are the lone bills that passed both the House and Senate and may assist with reducing some housing costs. One deals with infill development and the other with a tax incentive to produce affordable housing. I was proud to co-sponsor each of these bills but do wish we could have made more progress this session.
I also sponsored and co-sponsored several other pieces of legislation designed to make housing more affordable, including House Bill 2489, House Bill 2010, House Bill 2011, House Bill 2452, House Bill 2886, House Bill 2924, and House Bill 2391.
Affordable Higher Education: When speaking about higher education, I believe it is important to remember we are one of the top three states in the nation regarding tuition assistance. So, we should view college affordability not only from the student perspective, but also from the taxpayer perspective. After all, it is the taxpayer who is funding the student aid. It is my goal to ensure your investment produces results for our future workforce.
House Bill 2254 would encourage students who receive state college grants to pursue degrees in high demand career fields. After all, the last thing we want is for taxpayers to fund a degree for a student who isn't able to find future employment.
House Bill 2255 would encourage grant recipients to live or work in Washington after graduation for up to two years after graduation. We really want to avoid a situation whereby taxpayers fund a college degree for a student who then moves out of state immediately after graduating.
House Bill 2256 would provide a dollar for dollar B&O tax credit to businesses for each scholarship dollar they provide directly to students. This does not change the total amount businesses would pay. It only allows them to send dollars directly to the student rather than funnel those same dollars through the government.
All three of these bills would have helped improve Washington's College Grant program, but none of them advanced.
There were a number of other bills I co-sponsored aimed at lowering higher education costs, including House Bill 1701, House Bill 2014, House Bill 2089, House Bill 2185, House Bill 2255, and House Bill 2574, but none of them moved this session.
One bill concerning college education, however, did pass this year. Senate Bill 6492 passed with bipartisan opposition and no Republican support. This is a $41.3 million expansion of a tax you rejected in the November advisory ballot, that will help cover “free college” for low-income families. It was the first bill signed into law this year.
Affordable Prescription Medication: House Bill 2464 protects patients from excess costs of prescription medication costs. It requires the pharmacist to charge the lesser of the insurance co-pay or the cash price. Many times, the cash price is actually less than the insurance co-pay. Sometimes up to $70 per prescription! It also prohibits Pharmacy Benefit Managers from requiring a pharmacist to dispense a brand name drug when less expensive options exist. The bill passed both the House and Senate and is now on the governor's desk.
House Bill 2662 caps the total out-of-pocket cost for a 30-day supply of insulin at $100 per month for two years and established a workgroup to find ways to keep the cost of insulin low.
If you've been following what's happening in Olympia, then you know the majority party passed several controversial pieces of legislation. Here are a few of note:
Bill 1110: Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. This would have added a gas tax
increase up to .57 cents per gallon while doing little to reduce carbon emissions
and nothing to reduce congestion or fund road construction projects. Thankfully
this bill received bi-partisan opposition in the Senate and did not pass.
Senate Bill 6492: B&O tax increase. This is an increase to a tax passed last session and rejected by you in the November advisory ballot. This was also the first bill signed into law this session.
Senate Bill 5395: Comprehensive sex education. This was arguably the most controversial bill this session and easily the most opposed. Hundreds of people showed up to testify against this legislation and thousands more called and emailed to express their opposition.
Unfortunately, both chambers ignored the will of the people and passed this on to the governor, despite hours of debate and numerous amendments from House Republicans that would have improved the bill.
Watch this video to learn more about our efforts to stop this legislation.
Plans for the Interim
We have a long break between now and next session in January 2021. During that time, I'll be very active meeting with constituents, holding stakeholder meetings, and developing legislation in preparation for that session.
I hope you'll reach out and share your thoughts and concerns to help inform my legislative priorities and plans. So please feel free to contact my office at (253) 840-4523 or email me at Chris.Gildon@leg.wa.gov. I look forward to meeting with you.
It's an honor serving you.