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District 19 lawmakers expect “Damage Control” | in the upcoming session Government and politics

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Local politicians expect that the upcoming legislative period in 2022 will be shaped more by the controversies of the last session than by new bills.

District 19 Senator Jeff Wilson and Rep. Jim Walsh each said they expected the brief “damage control” session for the high profile action earlier this year. The two, along with District 19 Rep. Joel McEntire, said they expected topics like COVID-19, police reform and taxes to be key action points again.

A hot topic for all three locally elected Republicans was the emergency powers established by Governor Jay Inslee. Walsh tabled bill last year to limit the length of the governor’s emergency declarations and plans to make a second attempt in 2022.

“If there’s a bleeding wound in the state, it’s the emergency warrant. This is where the triage needs to be done, ”said Walsh.

Wilson said his emergency authority issues were not about Inslee personally but about “controls and balances of power.”

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Walsh hadn’t expected his version of the bill to get far in the House. However, he argued that as the pandemic state of emergency in Washington drew near 650 days after it went into effect, bipartisan interest in putting some restrictions in place could increase. The House Democrat Amy Walen of District 48 told multiple media outlets that she would support some level of restrictions.

A proposal on the table would, after 30 days of a declaration of emergency, require the governor to seek approval from lawmakers or party leaders to extend it. This process is already in place for executive orders that expose state laws.

Walsh said whether a state of emergency limit would apply to the existing COVID orders was a “point of negotiation” during the meeting.

A battle over the effects of the pandemic in lawmakers has already begun.

Walsh joined a lawsuit last month against House restrictions on members who fail to provide proof of vaccination. The house rules have restricted members’ access to their offices prior to the meeting and would prevent them from entering the plenary during the meeting.

McEntire was not involved in the lawsuit but said he was unvaccinated and was also against house rules. He described the differential treatment of unvaccinated members as a form of apartheid that creates a number of elected officials who must “legislate remotely.”

Wilson had his own issues with the Senate’s COVID-19 requirements and said they were in some ways more restrictive than this year’s session. Wilson was particularly frustrated with the strict viewing restrictions on the Senate Gallery.

“Who decides who is worthy enough, who is special enough to be admitted into the building of the people?” Said Wilson.

The lawsuit against Walsh and five other House Republicans is due to be heard in Thurston County Superior Court on Friday.

Not all changes caused by COVID-19 were poorly received by the legislature. Wilson and McEntire each said the expanded livestreams and virtual public commentary would hopefully help raise more members of the public to get involved in the process this year.

“You don’t have to go to Olympia to testify or hear committee hearings. You can log in from the comfort of your home and line up for any testimony, ”said McEntire.

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Wilson felt most passionate about a new bill addressing recent catalytic converter theft outbreaks that has already gained bipartisan support. Catalytic converter thefts increased nationwide during the pandemic and remain a common crime in Washington. Earlier this week, a Longview company reported that several cars had their converters sawed off overnight.

“If you steal someone’s catalyst, that’s probably the only way to get to work. Do you think the average Washington family has $ 1,500 for the surprise that your converter is off? ”Said Wilson.

Wilson’s bill is based on an Oregon bill that comes into effect in January. The bill would prohibit scrap dealers from buying catalytic converters from non-commercial companies or the owner of the car the catalytic converter came from. Individual sellers could be charged with a misdemeanor over the sale of a stolen or third-party catalytic converter.

McEntire’s largest bill for this session would create a new funding mechanism for rural Washington schools to repair their buildings. The bill would provide capital budget funds for the program, which would allow school districts to apply for funds for building renovations that they cannot borrow to raise.

“I am generally not in favor of developing new government programs,” said McEntire. “But regarding our public education, which is a duty of our government, I think it is probably necessary.”

Aside from the top issues, Walsh still has some bureaucratic bills that he hopes to work on. With his position on the House Transportation Committee, he plans to drive changes in the reuse of funds for transportation projects and is working with District 20 MP Ed Orcutt on a bill to reduce state property taxes.

Walsh also plans to propose bills amending the two controversial restrictions on the use of force by the police that were passed during the last session. His proposals will likely face an uphill battle against changes written by members of the Democratic House majority, but he’s okay with that.

“From a strategic point of view, my calculations are the clearest, simplest and strongest statements. They’re not the ones who get through to (Inslee’s) desk, but that’s fine as long as we move the window on the subject, “said Walsh.

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