2019 midsession report

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March 25, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2019 legislative session in Olympia is several days past its halfway point. March 13 was the “floor cutoff,” the deadline for the Senate to pass bills originating in our chamber and for the House to approve bills starting there. Now the Senate is considering bills approved by the House, and the House is doing likewise with proposals sent over from the Senate. The session is scheduled to end April 28.

I’m serving on three Senate committees this year. I’m the ranking Republican member on both the Labor and Commerce Committee and the Transportation Committee. I also serve on the Rules Committee, which decides which bills reach the Senate floor for a full Senate vote.

During the first half of this session, the Senate considered more than 1,000 bills and other proposals. Many of them are good proposals that have passed without any opposition.

This newsletter covers several topics being addressed this session, including transportation, agriculture, business and labor, climate and energy, and guns. Below you’ll also find the results from the district survey I conducted prior to the start of session, so I encourage you to see how your fellow constituents answered the questions I asked.    

Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you.


King signature
Freeway traffic

Interstate 5 traffic in Seattle, with Mount Rainier in the distance.

Transportation plan would be costly to drivers

As ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee, I work often with the committee chair, Senator Steve Hobbs of Snohomish County, on a variety of transportation issues.

Senator Hobbs recently introduced a new funding proposal (Senate Bill 5971) to pay for highway and other transportation projects in Washington. The package calls for a 6-cents-a-gallon increase in the state gas tax; imposes a carbon pollution fee; raises the vehicle gross weight fee, electric vehicle fee and other fees; implements a sales tax on automobile parts and bicycles; and increases the rental car tax.

I oppose this transportation funding plan. While it would help address many of our transportation needs and fund several important highway projects in the state, it proposes a carbon fee that Washington voters have rejected twice in recent years. It would likely raise our gas tax by 12 cents a gallon. And there is no guarantee the extra money generated by this proposal would go toward improving our roads and highways because it would not be protected by the state constitution’s 18th Amendment, which requires all gas-tax money to be used exclusively for highway purposes.     

Several gun-related bills still alive this session

As was the case last year, many gun-related bills have been introduced this session. About a dozen gun bills were referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee, and nearly two dozen were introduced in the House. Several of these bills are still alive. They include:

SB 5205 Would prohibit a person with a history of at least one violent act from possessing a firearm under certain conditions. Passed Senate 30-17. I voted no.

SB 5434 Would ban weapons from state-licensed child care facilities. Passed Senate 26-21. I voted no.

SB 5508 Would clarify that the background check for an original concealed pistol license must be conducted though the Washington State Patrol’s Criminal Identification Section and must include a fingerprint background check through the FBI. I voted yes. Passed Senate 47-0.

SB 5954 Allows Washington state residents to trade in up to five bump stocks for payment before the federal bump-stock ban goes into effect March 26. Passed Legislature. I voted yes. 

HB 1465Would remove a provision allowing a dealer to deliver a pistol to a purchaser who produces a valid concealed pistol license prior to the completion of a state background check. Passed House 59-35.

HB 1739 Would establish penalties for undetectable firearms and untraceable firearms, also known as “3D guns” or “ghost guns.” Passed House 55-41.

HB 1934 Would require a simplified renewal process for a concealed pistol license by members of the armed forces who are deployed out-of-state. Passed House 97-0.

HB 1949 Would conduct a feasibility study to examine and make recommendations on establishing single point-of-contact firearm background-check system. Passed House 97-0.

Hairstylists protesting at Capitol

A large group of haistylists and cosmetologists gathered at the Capitol early this session to protest against Senate Bill 5326 and other bills.

Bills targeting small businesses, self-employed are 'dead' -- for now

In Olympia these days, it isn’t surprising to see bills proposed that target big business. But this year there have been some proposals in the Senate that would hurt the livelihoods of small businesses and the self-employed. This is particularly disappointing because small-business owners and the self-employed are everyday people who work hard to support their families. They seek to have control and flexibility over their lives that they wouldn’t have if they worked for an employer. Fortunately, these bills are “dead” this session – for now.

One example is SB 5326, which would affect many hairstylists, barbers and cosmetologists in Washington. It attempts to take away their independent contractor status and effectively make them salon employees by removing current exemptions involving payment of workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance premiums.

When this bill received a public hearing in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee early this session, hundreds of hairstylists came to Olympia to oppose it. Their show of force worked, as the committee chair decided to “kill” the bill.

As the ranking Republican on the Labor and Commerce Committee, I will continue to keep a close watch on proposals that would hurt small businesses and self-employed people, and slow Washington’s economy.

Sen. King listening to testimony

Sen. King listens to testimony on a bill during a Senate committee meeting.

Protecting children and teachers

We have laws in this state that prohibit a marijuana store or liquor store from being within 1,000 feet of a school, but there is no law to specify a distance between schools and homeless encampments, either sanctioned or unsanctioned. Homeless camps near schools can put students and teachers at risk.

That’s why I introduced Senate Bill 5882, which would prohibit cities, towns and counties from permitting sanctioned or unsanctioned homeless tent camps or other encampments within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, or an early-learning facility.

While that bill died in the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability Committee, I successfully added language from it to a homeless-camp measure (SB 5946) that was passed by the Senate. Now that bill specifies that a temporary shelter or homeless camp, in order to qualify for a State Environmental Policy Act exemption, may not be sited within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or early-learning facility unless approved by the school or early-learning facility or an affiliated organization.

Trying to fix foreign guest-worker program for agriculture

Agriculture is critical to Washington’s economy and a way of life for many people in the 14th District and rural Washington. I voted against a bill recently passed by the Democratic majority in the Senate that would add a financial burden on farmers who rely on foreign guest workers.

Senate Bill 5438 would create an “Office of Agricultural and Seasonal Workforce Services” within the state Employment Security Department and allow ESD to impose new fees on Washington farmers who hire H-2A foreign guest workers, including up to $75 per H-2A worker and an application fee up to $500. 

Farms are critical to Washington’s economy. A $75 fee per H-2A worker adds up when you multiply it by the 30,000 foreign guest workers found in our state’s agricultural sector. Some  farms are barely getting by. It isn’t fair to tax farmers twice, as this bill would do. Furthermore, there is no clarity where the money raised by these fees would go. It would be like signing a blank check. 

Tree-fruit growers and representatives from several agricultural organizations came to Olympia to testify in the Senate against SB 5438. They pointed out how the bill would hurt family farms – such as how small and family farmers can’t provide H-2A worker housing, and higher H-2A fees will mean a larger shortage of workers.  

During this session, I’ve worked many days with other legislators and stakeholders on this concern. We have reached a lot of common ground, but I’m disappointed we weren’t able to improve this proposal for farmers before the Senate approved it. We are continuing to work on the bill as it goes through the House of Representatives.

Before the Senate voted on SB 5438, I offered a major revision that would include the creation of a two-year working group comprising eight people: four representing agricultural workers and four representing ag employers. The amendment was defeated.

I think there is a shortage of farm workers. Our farmers need foreign guest workers to compete in the global economy, and in turn, those workers need jobs. It should be a two-way street, but this bill in its current form does not accomplish that.

Sen. King floor speech

Sen. King makes a speech during Senate floor debate on a bill.

'Clean energy' bill would raise electricity prices

Washington has long been a top producer in clean energy, with 75 percent of its power coming from zero-emission sources, thanks mostly to our hydroelectric dams. Despite the fact that our state is a clean-energy leader nationally, the Senate’s Democratic majority earlier this session passed a proposal (SB 5116) that would require Washington’s electric utilities to obtain 100 percent of their power from carbon-free sources by 2045. I voted no. If it becomes law, this bill will result in higher energy prices for Washington families and businesses.

2019 Community Survey results

Thanks to all of you who filled out and returned the 2019 Community Survey that I mailed to constituents around the holidays. I appreciate your responses to the questions in the survey, as well as the feedback you provided me through comments or questions. Here are the survey results:

Question 1: Do you support the governor’s call to increase taxes despite record state revenues?

Yes – 21.21 percent

No – 71.97 percent

No opinion – 6.82 percent

Question 2: Would you support a 6-cent increase in the state gas tax to pay for transportation projects that would improve road safety and maintain existing infrastructure?

Yes – 37.78 percent

No – 60.00 percent

No opinion – 2.2 percent

Question 3: After two carbon tax proposals failed as initiatives, do you support lawmakers who are trying again to pass a carbon tax in 2019?

Yes – 23.88 percent

No – 70.15 percent

No opinion – 5.97 percent

Question 4: Do you support tolling new roadways to pay for the cost of adding lanes or roadways?

Yes – 22.22 percent

No – 65.93 percent

No opinion – 11.85 percent

Question 5: Would you support impact fees on commercial and residential development if the revenue was dedicated to improving transportation infrastructure?

Yes – 40 percent

No – 53.33 percent

No opinion – 6.67 percent

Question 6: Some have proposed drivers pay for transportation infrastructure based on miles driven instead of taxing the amount of gas you purchase. Do you support this idea?

Yes – 18.65 percent

No – 72.39 percent

No opinion – 8.96 percent

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