36th District Rep. Noel Frame has served in the Washington House since 2016, and Rep. Gael Tarleton joined the Legislature in 2013. Tarleton is planning to ramp up her campaign for Washington Secretary of State after the 60-day legislative session.
36th District Rep. Noel Frame has served in the Washington House since 2016, and Rep. Gael Tarleton joined the Legislature in 2013. Tarleton is planning to ramp up her campaign for Washington Secretary of State after the 60-day legislative session.
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Washington’s 36th District representatives have a long list of goals they hope to see realized during next year’s short legislative session.

The Legislature will convene in Olympia for a 60-day session on Jan. 13, where lawmakers will work on legislation and adopting a supplemental budget amid uncertainty whether a state initiative to reduce car-tab fees will require backfilling transportation funding. Democrats have climate action and tax reform policies they hope to address in 2020.

36th District Rep. Gael Tarleton said there are also community projects to push forward on her agenda, including financial support for the Ballard P-Patch. Its members are attempting to acquire the church parcel the P-Patch sits on. Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church needs to sell the site to cover building renovations.

She cautioned gardeners present at a 36th District town hall meeting on Sunday — many wearing gnome hats — that she couldn’t guarantee her funding proposal to the capital budget team would be approved.

Transportation

The Tim Eyman-sponsored Initiative 976, which would cap car-tab fees at $30, is likely to impact transportation projects in the capital budget, Tarleton said, which was also being used to fund the removal of culverts blocking fish passage as required by a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

36th District Sen. Reuven Carlyle said it’s important to remember that the overall Sound Transit coverage area rejected I-976, which jeopardizes funding for multimodal projects. He said it’s likely the Legislature will need to approve stop gap funding for a year while the initiative’s constitutionality is determined in the courts. Carlyle said he will not support any cuts.

“I don’t think that we want to punish the voters, I don’t think we want to pretend it was a rejection of transit and a rejection of multimodal investments,” Carlyle said. “I think there was a very legitimate, understandable rejection of the $30 car tab, but that’s very different than rejecting very important public infrastructure and public investments that affect tens of thousands of people, not just here but all over our state.”

The senator said the 18th Amendment to the state Constitution is also important to the transportation issue related to gas tax revenue, which has been interpreted as only being used for roads, bridges and highways, but Carlyle argues that needs to change to address transit.

“We need a modern, 21st century way to fund a holistic approach to transportation, and we need it now,” he said.

One town hall attendee took issue with the Legislature passing a $75 car-tab fee on electric and hybrid cars he said punishes people trying to reduce carbon emissions.

Tarleton said the Legislature passed the fee last session as a substitute to what the state was losing in gas tax revenue due to the use of electric and hybrid vehicles. She added there is an effort underway to reinstate tax incentives to encourage people to buy electric vehicles, but her hope is to make sure they are high enough to support middle-class Washingtonians given their high cost.

Carlyle said he also wants to see the state adopt a clean fuel standard, which is a top priority for Gov. Jay Inslee. Biofuels are already being produced in Washington, he said, but they are being shipped to California and Oregon to cash in on credits offered by those states.

Magnolia and Ballard bridges

People attempting to get to Sunday’s open house at the National Nordic Museum from Queen Anne and Magnolia may have been delayed like Carlyle was when the Ballard Bridge became stuck in the open position.

Tarleton said she’s focused on getting the Ballard and Magnolia bridges replaced, and highlighted a $750,000 proviso she was able to get passed last session to create a work group of elected officials focused on the Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation System. SDOT recently completed a report that looked at alternatives for replacing the Magnolia Bridge, with a 1:1 option topping out at around $420 million. A study for the Ballard Bridge is now underway. Tarleton said the work group should begin meeting in January.

She said the bridges are supposed to be replaced by 2035, noting these talks took place following the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The state has removed the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was also damaged by that earthquake, and the South Park Bridge has since been replaced.

Tax reform

36th District Rep. Noel Frame said she was happy to report that a House tax structure work group will be back this session, which she will co-chair with Republican Rep. Keith Wagoner.

Frame is in favor of replacing the business and occupation tax, which hits small and low-margin businesses hardest. She said the Washington Department of Revenue will spend 2020 working on a number of economic models, including four alternatives to the B&O tax, a flat and progressive income tax, a capital gains tax and lifting the 1 percent annual cap on property taxes.

The representative said a rollout of tax code options will occur in summer 2021, at which point she encouraged her 36th District constituents to weigh in. A legislative proposal would come up in 2022, Frame said, and the hope is for a bipartisan bill to be taken up in 2023.

Frame supports a capital gains tax, but Carlyle said opponents could successfully argue it’s an income tax. He suggests setting the same rate as the sales tax to get around that. Carlyle added he supports a capital gains tax and tax reform in general, as long as it reduces taxes for the middle class.

A bill to increase transparency around tax breaks has passed out of the House finance committee several times, Frame said, adding those breaks are about a third each for B&O, sales and property taxes. Frame said she would like to see a margins and corporate income tax replace the B&O tax entirely.

Climate action

On top of establishing a clean fuel standard in Washington state, other priorities to address climate change that will come up in 2020 include bills to raise climate goals to more align with the Paris Agreement, from which the Trump administration is pulling out, advancing orca and salmon restoration and ending the use of plastic bags.

Carlyle said he’s excited about legislation to establish a cap-and-invest, or cap-and-trade program similar to what has been adopted in California, where industries would have to stay within emissions limits or buy credits to exceed them. The state would then invest that revenue in things like free transit in low-income communities, Carlyle said. The legislation would also result in more investment in renewable energies, he said.

“It’s not perfect but if the caps are real, you have a dramatic reduction in climate [impact], and I think that’s the kind of — at least — outside-the-box thinking we’ve got to think about partnering with California,” Carlyle said.

Education

Financial aid investments for higher education remain strong, Carlyle said, but the senator cited problems for the Washington College Grant. Created through a workforce investment bill passed by the Legislature, the scholarship fund is meant to provide financial aid to more than 110,000 low- and middle-income Washington residents, making it so students pay little or no tuition.

Carlyle tells Queen Anne News the Legislature must fund the Washington College Grant, but what was created through the legislation was a complex formula that leaves unanswered questions about which companies will be affected by an increase in the B&O tax that funds the program. He said it’s supposed to rely on industry sectors with demand for an educated workforce, such as doctors, lawyers and engineers.

The scholarship program was originally estimated to raise $1 billion over the next six years, but Carlyle said new projections show revenue being a few hundred million dollars less.

Summer Stinson, president of the Washington’s Paramount Duty group focused on funding basic education, told the 36th District lawmakers not to forget about about reducing classroom sizes as required under Initiative 1351, which voters approved in 2014. Frame agreed that needs to be addressed as lawmakers focus on the McCleary decision and their duty to fully fund basic education.

Tarleton said the Legislature had to recently intervene to help keep librarians in schools, and now there is a need for more counselors, but there is also a lack of people graduating into that profession to serve the K-12 and college systems.

Assault weapons

Tarleton said she is taking cues from incoming House Speaker Laurie Jinkins about addressing issues around assault weapons and preventing mass shootings.

“She thinks it is most important, in order to avoid a legal challenge of some sort, to start banning the high-capacity magazines,” Tarleton said, “so you ban bullets, and that takes away the demand for buying the machine that delivers them.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is introducing a package of legislation aimed at banning assault-style weapons, limiting magazine capacity and requiring background checks on ammunition purchases.

“We don’t want people owning weapons that can destroy everyone’s sense of safety in a moment,” Tarleton said.

Death penalty

Carlyle said 2020 will be the third year in a row that he pushes to end the death penalty in Washington. The governor has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2014. Carlyle said the House passed legislation the last two years, but it failed to get through the Senate.

Lobbying

Carlyle said he’s planning to submit new legislation that would prevent elected officials and high-level government officials from taking lobbying positions until at least a year after leaving office.

“I believe legislators and senior staff should take 12 months off before they go from their official public positions into a corporate lobbying position or equivalent,” he said.

The senator said too many legislative staff were counted in a previous bill, which is why it didn’t pass, but he was confident his revised legislation would receive the needed support of his peers.

Former state Sen. Guy Palumbo resigned his seat in May to become Amazon’s director of public policy. Carlyle told Crosscut at the time that he felt Palumbo “has the highest integrity,” and that he wasn’t concerned about his move. Palumbo had previously worked for Amazon from 1998 to 2004.

Crosscut recently reported Palumbo was heavily involved in pushing Amazon’s large ($1.45 million in total) investment this year's election in an attempt to shape the Seattle City Council in 2020, which ultimately did not have the desired effect.

“Unfortunately, we have situations where people might be, not just the legislator or the senior cabinet member in the administration,” Carlyle said, “but if you’re in a senior position and you have an opportunity to have the direct visibility into the awarding of contracts worth hundreds of millions and billions of dollars, I don’t think asking you to take 12 months off before you go and represent those interests is irrational.”