Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has been great being back in district following the adjournment of this year's 105-day legislative session. In late May, I hosted my seventh, eighth and ninth town halls of the year with my seatmates, Rep. Brandon Vick and Sen. Ann Rivers. The three of us deeply respect and value your feedback, which is why we have been intentional about holding so many meetings across the 18th this year.
Last month, I went on a post-session media tour with Rep. Vick, meeting with the reporters and editors of Lacamas Magazine, The Columbian, the Camas-Washougal Post-Record, Clark County Today and The Reflector. Much of the focus of our interviews was on the billions in new taxes passed by the Democrats this year, but we also discussed transportation, education, economic growth, family issues, and what we're working on this interim in preparation for the 2020 session. Rep. Vick and I have strong relationships with the members of our local media, and we appreciate them taking the time to chat with us.
Engaging with our communities in the 18th
Since interim began, I've met with dozens of constituents, community and business leaders, representatives from state agencies, and more. I have toured a number of businesses to discuss their challenges, the impact of the legislative session, and their concerns affecting the 18th District and the Vancouver area. I have also attended several city council meetings, discussing issues such as education and transportation with local leaders. Additionally, with housing (both its supply and affordability) being of paramount concern, I have attended and participated in multiple housing forums to discuss the best path forward for our district and the state.
Of the many things I enjoy about this job, perhaps nothing is more enjoyable than having the opportunity to sit down and talk with our young people. I recently visited with 400 students at Chinook Elementary to share how a bill becomes law and lead them through a fun exercise that resulted in them passing their very own bill.
As we make our way through interim, I look forward to continuing to engage with our communities and working toward solutions for the many pressing challenges we face. My top priorities remain:
- Keeping taxes low and cutting government waste;
- Eliminating unnecessary regulations on small businesses;
- Working toward regional transportation solutions and developing ways to reduce congestion;
- Strengthening the state's K-12 education system;
- Protecting your Second Amendment rights; and
- Supporting policies that lead to increased job creation in the 18th.
Proposed Labor and Industries (L&I) overtime rule change would put further pressure on our local businesses
Our business community in Southwest Washington, which is already under enormous pressure due to the Democrats' insistence on changing our state's nonresident sales tax exemption, may soon be faced with navigating yet another radical change. Last month, L&I proposed a new rule that would require all employers to pay salaried employees at least 2.5 times the state's minimum wage by 2026. That equates to $79,872 per year.
Last week, Rep. Vick and I wrote an op-ed detailing our concerns with L&I's proposal. Here is an excerpt:
“While large companies may be able to foot the bill of what would essentially be a massive minimum wage hike, many small employers, nonprofits and businesses in rural areas would likely not be so fortunate. In order to comply with the new rule and still be financially viable, smaller employers would likely look to turn salaried employees into hourly employees, which would result in less flexibility in their schedules and fewer opportunities for them to advance their careers. Not only would that lead to a dip in workplace morale, but productivity would suffer as well. And if employers opt against making this change, they'll likely be forced to cut services as they tighten their bottom line to absorb the financial hit from L&I's mandate.”
We also discussed the potential impact here locally:
“Oregon's salary threshold is tied to their minimum wage, but at a much lower rate than what's being proposed here in Washington. Businesses looking to the future and trying to decide where to set up shop are going evaluate this new mandate, and many are going to opt for our neighbor to the south. This, combined with the Democrats' decision to all but eliminate our nonresident sales tax exemption for Oregonians, makes you wonder about the future of the business community in Southwest Washington.”
While we don't disagree the state's overtime threshold should be updated (it's almost four decades old), workers in Washington are currently covered by the federal threshold – which is also being updated. In 2004, L&I aligned itself with federal standards. We believe the department should take the time to properly evaluate the new federal proposal before going forward with a state plan that could hurt thousands of Washington businesses.
L&I will be holding a public hearing on its proposal at Clark College Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on August 15 at 10 a.m. Please make your voice heard by attending the hearing or submitting your comments to EAPrules@LNI.wa.gov. The deadline to submit comments is Sept. 6.
Please continue emailing me with your comments, questions, and ideas for legislation. I also encourage you to email my legislative assistant, Virginia, if you would like to set up a time to meet with me at my district office in Vancouver.
It is an honor to serve you.