Here’s a last-minute reminder of the second of my two town hall meetings this weekend.
I held one meeting today in Stanwood and had a great discussion with the people in attendance. I will hold another meeting on Saturday, Jan. 7, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Whidbey Island at the Bayview Senior Center, located at 14594 SR 525 in Langley.
This will be your best opportunity to reach me in person before the regular session begins on Monday. After that, I’ll be pretty much in Olympia for the next few months, but will try to get around the district when I can get back on weekends.
Hope you’re off to a happy new year …
SIGNS SALUTE OUR AGRICULTURAL CORRIDOR
Along with a lot of other people, I’m very happy to see the new signs popping up along Interstate 5 that designate Skagit Valley as an “Agricultural Scenic Corridor.” This is an important effort — reflecting the hard work of a lot of people over a long period of time — that will help showcase our beautiful valley. I’d like to credit the many folks who suggested that I sponsor the legislation that enabled this designation and pitched in from all over our community on this project. Special thanks go to Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, Leadership Skagit and its volunteers who designed the signs, and to our Skagit County Commissioners. Credit also goes out to our State Department of Transportation traffic and maintenance experts who reviewed, produced and installed the signs.
SURVEY SHOWS SUPPORT FOR ELECTRIC CAR FEES
I was encouraged to see that 60 percent of Washington residents favor an annual fee on electric vehicles, according to a recent survey by the state Transportation Commission. As you know, I sponsored Senate Bill 5251 last year to create such a fee because we maintain and preserve our roads through the state gas tax, and it’s only right that all motorists — including drivers of electric vehicles that do not use gas — contribute their fair share. The bill did not pass last year, but I am optimistic it will fare better in the 2012 session, partly because of the poll and partly because we modified the bill last session to address feedback from users of electric cars who preferred being charged for miles traveled instead of a flat fee. Though we do not have the technology to do that yet, the bill was written so that the flat fee for electric vehicles would be automatically repealed if or when the state replaces the gas tax with Vehicles Miles Traveled system.
UNEMPLOYMENT REFORMS ARE PAYING OFF In the first days of the 2011 regular legislative session, we passed a major package of unemployment insurance reforms. Well, now those reforms are bearing fruit. The changes we passed last year mean most businesses will pay lower tax rates in 2012 than they did in 2011, according to the state Employment Security Department. The agency says 88 percent of employers will pay lower tax rates, including many businesses that had layoffs – which can trigger higher rates. Overall, businesses will pay $200 million less in 2012, money they can invest in growing and hiring. WORKERS COMP RATES WON’T RISE IN 2012 Still more good news: Employers across the state will not see an overall increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, thanks to other crucial legislation we negotiated last year in the Legislature. The state Department of Labor & Industry had proposed a 2.5 increase but reversed course in response to public testimony, citing the impact of the Great Recession and positive trends in the duration of claims.
PORTAL CAN HELP WITH BENEFITS
People facing severe financial difficulties may be eligible for benefits through the Washington Connection Benefit Portal, a helpful state website that offers one-stop service from a wide range of public agencies. The “Am I Eligible” and “Apply for Benefits” sections make it easy. You can access the website here. After you click on “Am I Eligible,” all you have to do is enter a few key details such as your name, income, number of members in your household and zip code. The website will filter through the federal, state and local resources for you might qualify. Then click on the “Apply for Benefits” section and fill out a single application that will be submitted to all agencies that offer assistance.
IF YOU FIND THESE NEWSLETTERS HELPFUL, PLEASE SHARE THEM
My office receives lots of comments from folks who find these e-newsletters informative and useful. If you do, too, please feel free to any friends, neighbors or coworkers you think might also and point out that they can sign up to receive them themselves by clicking this link. WE ARE HAPPY TO HELP YOU DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION As always, if you have a concern, I want to hear it. The best ways to reach me during the legislative session are by e-mail or at my Olympia office at 360-786-7618 staffed by legislative assistants Nova Gattman and Gina Bull along with this year’s session intern, Gavin Kremian. Until next time — Take care!