Rep. Blake’s Newsletter: New Facebook Page, Update on Bills, Coronavirus & Property Tax Exemptions


New Facebook page!

Please stop by and check out my new official Facebook page by clicking on the image below.

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Bills that Survived Cutoff

Here’s a summary of the bills I prime-sponsored that are still alive and well. I hope they continue their journey all the way to the governor’s desk:

Pacific razor clam

HB 1061 – Status: Referred to Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee on Feb 21.

In 2014, the Legislature named the Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida) the official state oyster, so why not bring another Western Washington bivalve to the spotlight? This bill makes the Pacific Razor Clam (Siliqua patula)the official state clam of Washington. This clam has an olive-green, or olive-brown shell, and can grow up to 6” in length, with a lifespan of up to 5-years. Clamming is a popular family activity and a historical tradition, dating back to the first native peoples in the state. It is also critically important to the economy of the coast of Washington. Making the Pacific Razor Clam official will encourage people to care more about the species and to protect its habitat.

HB 1242 – Status: Passed Senate Committee on Local Government on Feb 25. It is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

Most cities in Washington retain the full rate of the special local hotel-motel tax revenues. However, cities in Cowlitz and Snohomish Counties do not, due to the special provision preserving the counties’ rate from 1997. In Cowlitz, cities forgo around $325,000 as a result of this special treatment. This bill allows those cities to retain those revenues and invest them in tourism. They simply want to be treated fairly, like all the other cities in Washington, and have more control over the investment of those tourism dollars.

drought

HB 1622 – Status: Scheduled for hearing in Senate Committee on Ways & Means on Feb 28.

Current law limits the ability of the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to effectively prepare for and respond to drought emergencies. This bill shifts to a proactive approach by authorizing Ecology to issue a drought advisory when it appears that drought conditions may develop, and makes various changes to the agency’s responsibilities when an emergency drought order has been issued. It also directs Ecology to initiate a pilot program to explore the cost, feasibility, and benefits of entering into long-term water right lease agreements to alleviate water supply conditions which may occur as a result of drought conditions. 

HB 2109 – Status: Heard in Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee on Feb 20.

In 2016, the Legislature created the Office of Chehalis Basin within the Department of Ecology (Ecology) aimed at reducing long-term flood damage and restoring aquatic species in the Chehalis River Basin.  The Chehalis Board consists of seven voting members, including one member each from the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Quinault Indian Nation.  This bill allows both tribes to designate alternate members to the board so they can attend the meetings when the current appointees aren’t able to do so.

HB 2138 – Status: Referred to Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee on Feb 20.

When you see a “KEEP OUT” sign on public lands, aren’t you curious to learn why?  I sure am. These are public lands, so the public should have the right to know why they must not trespass.  But under current law, that information is not required to be posted anywhere. This bill requires that all new restriction or closure signs on lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife include a reference to the appropriate supporting legal authority.

crab pots

HB 2250 – Status: Hearing in Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee on Feb 25.

To help preserve economic viability for our coastal communities, we need to preserve access to our crab resource since Dungeness crab fishery is the most valuable single species fishery on the West Coast. This measure authorizes the Department of Fish and Wildlife, in cooperation with current commercial coastal Dungeness crab license holders, to expand the Coastal Commercial Dungeness Crab Pot Removal Program during the fishery that occurs from May 1 through September 15. Addressing economic impacts and risk to whales will significantly improve crab fisheries management.

HB 2353 – Status: Heard in the Senate Committee on Transportation on Feb 25.

Fire trailers are commercial trailers used only for wildfire response as required by state and federal regulations, they are only transported between storage and job sites, and are equipped with water tanks for firefighting purposes. This bill provides permanent registration and license plates for fire trailers—the registered owner must pay the initial commercial trailer registration fee of $30 in addition to any other fees and taxes due by law.

HB 2867 – Status: Referred to Senate Ways & Means on Feb 21.

From time to time, we make a mistake or pass a bill that is less than perfect. House Bill 2867 corrects 2SHB 1059 from last session that extended the filing date for B&O tax annual filers. The DOR did not catch that the statutory date for interest calculations for late payments is February 1. However, the Legislature changed the filing due date to April 15. Without this bill, if someone is late filing and paying B&O tax on April 15, the taxpayer would owe interest back to February before the tax payment was, in fact, due.

HB 2868 – Status: Passed Senate Committee on Local Government on Feb 25. It is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

Extends the Special Valuation Tax Credit of historic properties from the current 10 years to a maximum of 24 years for properties located in cities listed as distressed areas by the Employment Security Department and with populations of less than 20,000. This bill will help us restore and preserve historic properties in Aberdeen as part of enhancing special arts and music districts.


Coronavirus

The Department of Health (DOH) and public health officials are monitoring the situation closely. They are still learning about the Coronavirus, including how it spreads and the range of impacts it can have on people.

coronavirus

While common symptoms include fever, cough, and respiratory ailments, severity of the illness can vary. In particular, the illness can make older adults and people with existing health conditions more susceptible to developing pneumonia.

The DOH Coronavirus Outbreak website has more information, recommendations and resources that we should all be aware of.  In the “What can I do to help?” section under the FAQs is a paragraph that I find particularly important to keep things in perspective:

  • The news of this disease outbreak is concerning to all of us, but especially impacts communities who have family or other close connections in China or the greater Asian continent. We should all do our part not to make assumptions by discriminating, spreading misinformation, or harassing individuals, families and communities that have made Washington their home. Just because a disease originates within a certain area of the world does not mean that every person who has an association with that country is ill or has the potential to contract the virus.

Here are some resources to learn more and get updates on the coronavirus:

While there are many uncertainties surrounding this situation, what is clear is the importance of having a strong and resilient public health system to deliver necessary services throughout Washington communities


Property tax exemptions for seniors and people with disabilities

People with disabilities and seniors should be able to age in a place without fear of displacement from rising property taxes.

Senios tax exemptions

Last year, we passed legislation to increase the eligibility for property tax exemptions, which was incorporated into last year’s budget. With this new law, people with disabilities and seniors on fixed incomes are now eligible for property tax exemptions if their annual income meets the threshold.

Check out your County Assessor’s website or call them on the phone to see if you qualify:

Cowlitz County – 360-577-3010

Grays Harbor County  – 360-249-4121

Pacific County  – South Bend 360-875-9301, Long Beach 360-642-9301

Wahkiakum County360-795-3791


This year’s Legislative Session is scheduled to end on March 12, so these next couple of weeks will be packed with activity and we expect some late nights voting on bills on the Floor.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter.  If you have concerns or ideas, or you just want to give me some feedback, please be sure to contact my office.

Don’t forget to like my new Facebook page!

Sincerely,

blake sig