In Shift’s annual interview with a legislative leader before the start of the session, we interviewed Senate Republican Leader John Braun from Centralia, who serves the 20th Legislative District in Southwest Washington. The U.S. Navy veteran began serving in the Washington State Senate in 2013 and became leader of the GOP Caucus before the 2021 legislative session. The senator manages his family business (which builds emergency vehicles). He and his wife are parents to four children.
In his interview, Senator Braun outlined the three policy areas his caucus will focus on during the upcoming session (which commences on January 9). He discussed the initiatives to the legislature that Let’s Go Washington delivered. Senator Braun shared his thoughts on the learning loss suffered by public education students during Governor Inslee’s unilateral decision to unnecessarily force kids to stay in unproductive distance learning. The GOP Senate Leader explained his views on the state budget, parental rights, and what more the legislature can do to repair the state’s criminal justice system after previously passed Democrat bills led to skyrocketing crime rates and more crime victims.
The 2024 Legislative Session starts in a few weeks. What will be the Senate Republicans’ focus during the session?
Senate Republicans will continue to focus on three policy areas in critical need of common-sense legislation.
First, we’ll work to secure a safer Washington through bills that support law enforcement, toughen penalties for retail crime, fight human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors, and expand domestic violence victims’ advocacy.
Second, we’ll offer legislation to make it more affordable to live in Washington. This includes bills which require maximum transparency by listing the impact of the carbon tax on utility bills to be itemized on billing statements, and bills which require retention of affordable natural gas. It also includes bills to reduce regulations that are adding to the cost of housing.
Third, we’re committed to building a better future for Washington’s children by funding additional intensive tutoring to make up pandemic learning loss, investing in special education services, further improving school facilities, and recognizing the valuable roll parents play in raising healthy, responsible kids.
It appears Let’s Go Washington has enough signatures for at least three (and possibly more) of its initiatives to be delivered to the legislature in January. It appears likely more of Let’s Go Washington initiatives will also obtain enough signatures. What will be your caucus’ response to the legislature receiving these citizen initiatives?
Let’s Go Washington initiatives that get enough signatures to be certified by the Secretary of State will become initiatives to the Legislature and, according to the Constitution, will be the top priority in the upcoming session.
Children in our state continue to suffer serious education loss due to the long shutdown unilaterally imposed on our state’s schools by Governor Jay Inslee during the COVID lockdown. In many districts, the teachers’ union prevented in-person learning even longer than the governor’s orders. What will the Senate Republican’s education priorities be during the upcoming session?
This is THE equity issue of our time. You can’t say you support underserved kids and not take learning loss seriously.
We have to get this right. We need to fix it now or watch our school children lag behind where they should be and suffer lasting consequences.
We will push for an expansion of intensive tutoring, a longer school year, a year-round instructional schedule, and more funding for special education services. We will also seek to clarify parents’ rights in their children’s education so kids are better supported at school and at home.
Crime continues to be a problem in our state. While the rest of the country is experiencing a drop in crime, it continues to rise in Washington state due to the anti-police measures passed by liberals and progressives at the state and some local levels. What can be done to make our communities safer?
Public safety should not be a partisan issue. It should be everyone’s number one priority. We need to increase the number of police officers across the state – Washington currently ranks 51 out of 51 (all 50 states and D.C.) on per capita basis. We need to restore their ability to exercise their judgment as trained professionals on things like when to pursue a suspect. We also need to help prosecutors get through their backlog of cases so criminals can be prosecuted and sentenced.
The Legislature needs to pass an expansion of the DUI lookback period and we need to stop letting repeat offenders walk out of jail like their cells have revolving doors. Democrats can’t continue to turn a blind eye to what’s happening to our communities under the guise of “equity.” Victims of crime are from all walks of life and all races.
Parents rights are becoming a hot topic as citizens are becoming more concerned about transparency in our education system. What will be the Republicans’ approach to helping parents stay informed on issues related to their children?
Being transparent and involving parents in the curriculum choices for their children is important. During the pandemic, some districts did not want parents watching the lessons. While the motive might have been to keep kids from being distracted during instructional time, it sent a clear message to parents – you aren’t welcome. Since then, we’ve seen parents discouraged from attending and participating in school board meetings. This is unacceptable.
Different members of our caucus have bills supporting parental rights. Sen. Perry Dozier’s Senate Bill 5024 would require public school districts and schools to post some assessment results on the homepage of their websites. It would also allow parents certain to access curriculum information and require the Washington State School Directors’ Association to update its policies and procedures for remote participation in school board meetings.
School districts and parents should be partners in K-12 education, not adversaries.
The state budget has more than doubled in the ten years Jay Inslee has been governor. The 2024 legislative session will be working on the next biannual budget. How much larger do you expect the next budget to be and what can citizen’s do to help Republican lawmakers bring some control to government spending?
In 2023, the Legislature adopted a two-year spending plan. The 2024 session is not another bite at the apple. We get into budget trouble when legislators and the governor treat the “short” session as an opportunity to blow up the budget for the biennium and add in millions, or sometimes billions, in additional spending. We should only fund changes in caseload, correct technical errors in the underlying budget, or take care of items that address emergencies If there is excess revenue, we should find a way to give it back to the citizens by reducing their taxes.
Unfortunately, the governor wants to squeeze hardworking taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars more to deal with homelessness. Instead of throwing more money at a problem that has only gotten worse with every dollar spent, we need to evaluate how the money is being spent and why the success rate of programs funded by taxpayers are not working. The governor likes to use the term “radical transparency” when blaming others for his failures but refuses to support it when it’s aimed at uncovering wasteful or misguided spending he’s advocated for.
Citizens can write or call their legislators and the governor’s office and protest additional spending. Hold them accountable. They can also watch for bills that are expected to have a large fiscal impact and testify against them if they are heard in committee. People can still testify remotely.
Article 1, Section 1 of our state constitution, states that “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed….” Legislators, governors and courts need to be continually reminded that the people are ultimately the source of all power in the state.
For more information on Senator Braun and to contact his office, please visit his official website.