2019 CAPR Lobbyist Legislative Wrap
By Cindy Alia, April 30, 2019
This legislative session was often described as nightmarish, partly because there was little consideration of the bills proposed by the minority republicans, and partly because an unrelenting democrat majority had planned to flood the process with bills, in total there were 2,666 bills introduced this session. This included the Initiatives in the house and senate I-1000 reinstating affirmative action, oddly enough introduced as an initiative sponsored by the people of the state of Washington, even though the people had voted in the past to end affirmative action. Both chambers passed the initiative. You can view the listing of all bills introduced this session at this link: https://app.leg.wa.gov/DLR/searchresults/default.aspx?cb=1&id=5¶ms=25,1000,9999,11/14/2018&desc=SQkn3vo7oXn7D0kuxVi7Yi3CJnh3U4qQyI0TiZFmY1w%3d&bienString=2019-20
When so many bills are introduced it brings about stress for all involved in the session, legislators, staff, and lobbyists alike. There is a huge volume of material to read, and there begins to be a rush to compete for time and appointments with legislators to discuss points of view on the bills. Public hearings begin to become crowded and time for the public to testify is often cut short even though the process of first reading, public hearing, executive hearing, and passage out of committee to the opposite house must be followed and repeated in the opposite house. There were a great many bills repeated in other bills with small changes in title and language, so they were hard to track. This is in part why there were so many bills introduced. It seems dishonest, but is allowed, but makes the work of all more difficult, and does become a frustrating waste of time.
CAPR is in the unique position of lobbying from a position of standing up for the ideal of protecting property rights, we do not go to Olympia with money in our hands, nor do we go to Olympia in anticipation of receiving funds or grants for our organization. I believe this helps to open doors for CAPR and makes our positions less complicated. We simply stand for our rights and for the protection of those rights as mandated by our constitution. There were many, many bills paid attention to, below is discussion about some of the highlights accomplished.
This session, there were wins from our point of view. The first to mention is the success we had in lobbying for our rights in our properties with the passage of SB 5503, a bill we wrote, worked on, and passed with the help of foremost our passionate citizen lobbyist Betsy Howe, who founded COOMWA in 2016 after King County arbitrarily determined to fee every septic owner 40 dollars a year. It was not so much to money that upset and angered King County citizens, as it was the lack of reason or authority to charge the fee to begin with. This caused and led to investigation of how septic systems were being regulated and managed in King and other counties. We determined easements, monitoring contacts, and permitting were being abused and set about correcting that abuse through legislation. This bill will protect our rights in our properties. You can see the bill here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5503&Initiative=false&Year=2019
Two bills that were especially upsetting to anyone who owns property or understands the work and effort it takes to own property were the set of Environmental Justice Bills, HB 2009, and SB 5489. These bills were created for the purpose of virtue signaling, and possibly because the sponsors are so unaware of the constitutional nexus to bill writing that the socialistic wording of the bill did not dawn on them. Or they could just be socialists who do not care about individual rights. For example, one goal written in the bill purported to " Achieve a balance between population and resource use which will permit high standards of living and a wide sharing of life's amenities." There is no clearly described pathway to the balance, how it will "permit" high standards, or what is meant by a wide sharing of life's amenities. If you have worked hard for your life’s amenities, you do not want government to describe to you how the sharing of them should be done. Another sentence in the bill read thus: “The legislature has further recognized that each person has a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful environment and that each person has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.” Pray tell how that preservation and enhancement would legally occur, considering this was an attempt at writing law. This dangerous and irresponsible bill was adamantly refuted by me, as your property rights lobbyist. You can read what my testimony here in the CAPR blog: https://proprights.org/blog/seriously-are-you-ready-environmental-justice and you can read the most harmful of the two bills I fought here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=2009&Initiative=false&Year=2019
We are fortunate these bills did not pass, but it is rumored bits of it were placed in the operating budget, so we may expect to fight this fight again next session. Still it is a win to oppose a bill and see it fail. Preventing bad bills is a win.
Another bill that was outrageous to anyone who has ever worked hard for their properties was HB 2156, Investing in quality prekindergarten, K-12, and postsecondary opportunities throughout Washington with excise taxes on sales and extraordinary profits of high valued assets. This was legislative speak for a capital gains tax, which boils down to an income tax. Constitutionally the concept was forbidden, but this did not stop the sponsors from writing and pushing it. Legal challenges were expected if it were to pass. Two other excise capital gains tax bills were also in play, did not progress, but did not need to as 2156 was the bill that got the most play in session. Those bills were introduced early in the session and were numbered 1343 and 5129. The mindset behind the bill sponsors was apparent in the offensive bill language used and was introduced with the premise that it is a privilege to sell or trade a long-term capital gain. “Beginning January 1, 2020, a tax is imposed on all individuals for the privilege of selling or exchanging long-term capital assets or receiving Washington capital gains. The tax equals nine percent multiplied by the individual's Washington capital gains.” This bill of course is instantly offensive to many in Washington State who believe it is a right not a privilege to sell or manage their assets. This concept was one I fought and found offensive, dispassionate lobbying was tough to come by this session. Review the bills below.
There were a plethora of bills that took pieces of the failed initiative of last November, that was commonly referred to as the Carbon Tax Initiative. The failure of that initiative did not cause bill sponsors to think twice about supplanting the will of the legislature for the will of the people, who overwhelmingly rejected these schemes. I did push back on these bills and thought the one which would be the most harmful to the most people was HB 1110, as it was a “clean energy bill” that would increase the cost of fuel at the pump, while also mandating fuel mixing standards that would be less efficient, and possibly harmful to vehicles. This bill did not pass but did come very near to it. It is still a “live bill” as all bills introduced this year have a two-year life. Watching for bills that have come this close in session in the next session is going to be important.
There were bills worked on that did pass and will protect property rights. Two of the bills I worked on protected the properties of those who own cattle. One was to protect the branding program from being abandoned by the Department of Agriculture. Branding animals is the most definitive method of establishing ownership and so is also the most definitive method of assigning responsibility for that animal. If this program was abandoned, electronic tagging would have been the method used for animal identification, while it has its purposes, it is not as definitive as branding. SB 5959 was hard fought and did pass, so branding will remain the most important method of animal identification.
Along those lines, but with serious considerations and possibly repercussions the management of wolves in Washington State must be taken more seriously. Packs are increasing and spreading, and WDFW has gotten behind in counting and managing wolves. Northeast Washington has taken the brunt of wolf introduction and proliferation, with property losses in their cattle, sheep, and pets. Studies done by WSU and tracking methods done by compiling information from scat and collared wolves show wolves are more widespread and are actively busy around populated areas. HB 2097 has passed, but not yet signed by the Governor. It will become law and it is a good step toward better accountability in wolf management. I did work this bill because I believe the danger of less than accountable management is detrimental to all citizens in the state, but especially for rural citizens.
Another bill worked hard was 5322, promoted by a premier sue and settle organization, the Center for Biological Diversity, which has in recent years attempted to target Washington State with litigation. They have done so on wolf management and on small-scale mining. Washington State has over the last 20 years worked with small-scale miners to create rules that protect fish and fish habitat. This has not stopped the yearly assault on the property rights of small-scale miners by this and other lesser sue and settle organizations in the west and Washington State. Many people do not stop to think about the fact that mining claims are properties, must be managed and have fees associated with them. Claims are properties that can be bought or sold and are on federal lands and so are regulated by the federal government. The environmental cartel in this instance attempted to use the Clean Water Act to deny small-scale miners the right to work their claims. They did not have the facts correct, and the small-scale miners had boxes of documents and prior legal decisions to back their arguments against the bill. The bill failed this session, and the miners are ready to fight it again next session. Their organization, Resources Coalition, has been a long-term affiliate of CAPR, and it was a pleasure to help them defeat this bill, working with our best Representatives. Again, stopping a bad bill is a win.
A last bill I will discuss was 5947 Establishing the sustainable farms and fields grant program. This was a carbon capture bill that had some good ideas, but I found objectional because the idea of creating and funding, yet another grant program is in my opinion not good if there are not enough parameters and accountability built into specific bill language. The grant program would have been administered by the Department of Agriculture. While some of the ideas for agriculture practices in the bill are good, they may not be practicable for on the ground circumstances. The promise of the bill was that it was not a negatively regulating bill, and that is a good direction to go when writing bills. The bill needs a little more work before it should be passed.
I think that especially in a session as difficult as this was, with diametrically opposed ideals and priorities in play, the best way to find success as a lobbyist is to simply be present as often as possible for as long as possible. Testimony in hearings is not the only way to approach bills. A lot of the work happens with legislator office appointments, in stake holder meetings, dropping in on legislators for reminders, meeting in hallways with legislators, and hallway and cafeteria meetings with others you know are working on the same bills. The principle that civility is the best way to approach all works well. I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak with our good representatives and senators. I have been able to build a kind of trust with them, I am polite, I do respect their time, and I am circumspect and trustworthy in regard of conversations had with them.
The future of lobbying for CAPR looks bright, there is something to be learned each year and I take the responsibility of lobbying very seriously. The bottom line is we will be served well if we can protect our properties and our rights consistently. One last bit of good news, I have written six bills and have presented them to a few of our best defenders of liberty in the legislature. They have promised me they will get them in official bill form, and I look forward to conversations I can have over the interim with CAPR members and like-minded organizations and individuals. If we work this well and all advocate for our rights, it will help us continue to protect and preserve our property rights. Thank you for your trust in me, I look forward to visiting with many over the spring, summer, and fall.
Here is a listing of taxing bills resulting from the 2019 session:
CAPR Overview of Tax Bills as Passed by the 2019 Washington State Legislature
HB 1109 Making 2019-2021 biennium operating appropriations. Passed on a party line vote, Senator Ericksen described the budget best in saying the budget grows government by 17.5% in a two-year period 11% over what is needed to continue to grow in Washington. This budget bakes in 25 billion dollars of tax increases over 10 years. Over the 4-year budget 75.5 billion dollars of tax money will be required to do this budget. It is not sustainable and when the economy takes a downturn it will be disastrous.
HB 1087 Establishes the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Program to provide benefits for long-term services and supports to qualified individuals who need assistance with at least three activities of daily living. Establishes eligibility requirements for the Trust Program for persons who pay a premium of 0.58 percent of a person's wages for a specific amount of time. The bill imposed a payroll tax to cover long-term care.
HB 1873 Vaping tax: $27 million
HB 2158 Creating a workforce education investment to train Washington students for Washington jobs. This bill is a B&O increase on select professional services: $380 million. The bill establishes a Workforce Education Investment Accountability and Oversight Board and establishes the Washington College Grant Program, the Washington Student Loan Refinancing Program, and a career connected learning cross-agency work group and grant program. Establishes a Workforce Education Investment Account. Makes changes to the Working Connections Child Care Program.
Imposes a 20 percent business and occupation (B&O) surcharge on the income from service and other activities of select businesses. Imposes a 33.33 percent B&O surcharge on the income from service and other activities of advanced computing businesses with revenue of more than $25 billion, but less than $100 billion. Imposes a 66.66 percent B&O surcharge on the income from service and other activities of advanced computing businesses with revenue of more than $100 billion.
SHB 2163 Budget Stability Account K/12 passed with the required constitutional majority. This bill authorizes the transfer of $58.4 million from the Budget Stabilization Account for K-12 hold-harmless appropriations in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.
HB 2167 B&O increase on banks: $133 million The bill will impose an additional 1.2 percent business and occupation tax on specified financial institutions. With this bill, 22 of the world’s largest financial institutions is B&O tax nearly doubled.
SB 5116 Supporting Washington's clean energy economy and transitioning to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future. This bill is the pride of Governor Inslee and is based on concepts rejected by the voters last November through Initiative 1631 The Carbon Tax Initiative.
The bill mandates a Coal Phase-Out Standard. By December 31, 2025, all electric utilities must eliminate from their allocation of electricity coal-fired resources.
Greenhouse Gas Neutral Standard. By January 1, 2030, each electric utility must make all retail sales of electricity to Washington customers GHG neutral.
Clean Energy Standard. By January 1, 2045, each electric utility must meet 100 percent of its retail electric load to Washington customers using non-emitting electric generation and electricity from renewable resources.
Hydroelectric Generation. In complying with the GHG neutral standard and clean energy standard, an electric utility may not use hydroelectric generation that requires new diversions, impoundments, or bypass reaches, or expansion of existing reservoirs, unless otherwise required for the operation of a pumped storage facility.
There exist in the bill, cut-outs and implausible standards, the bill will be a burden to all in the state and many opine a step backward in allowing for innovation that has occurred in the past and might have happened in the future. This bill is a kingly creation.
For greater detail, please enter this link into your address bar on your computer:
SB 5313 K/12 Education Concerning School Levies passed also on a party line basis with the majority democrats carrying the bill with Hobbs, Mullet, and Sheldon jumping ship. The Bill allows a district to levy at the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per pupil for school districts with fewer than 40,000 FTE students. Allows a district to levy at the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $3,000 per pupil for school districts with 40,000 FTE students or more. Provides local effort assistance to school districts that do not generate an enrichment levy of at least $1,550 per student when levying at a rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. Provides enrichment funding to charter schools and state-tribal compact schools based on the local enrichment levy collected by school districts, up to $1,550 per student. Provides additional enrichment funding to school districts that meet certain enrollment criteria. Requires school districts, beginning in the 2019-20 school year, to provide an expenditure schedule that identifies the amount expended on certain supplementary enrichment activities.
SB 5581 Sales tax nexus change: businesses with more than $100,000 in sales into the state would be required to pay the state's B&O tax. $116 million
SB 5993 Reforming the financial structure of the model toxics control program. The bill raised the state’s oil barrel tax (SB 5993) by $173 million
SB 5998 Graduated Real Estate Excise tax: $245 million
SB 5997 Changes to non-resident sales tax exemption: $54 million
SB 6004 B&O tax increase for travel agents: $5 million
SB 6016 B&O changes for international investment management companies: $59 million
On a more positive note, the Capital Gains tax failed to pass this session. HB 2156 would have imposed a 9.9 percent tax on Washington capital gains realized from the sale of long-term assets.