Shift’s Newsmaker Interview is with House Republican Leader JT Wilcox (Yelm) on the eve of the start of the 2022 Legislative Session. Where the 2021 session was focused on the Democrats pushing an irresponsible and expensive liberal agenda, this year’s session appears to be centered on correcting the poorly developed liberal policies from the past. This includes the disastrous Long-Term Care payroll, the dangerous police reform bill, and the failure of the Democrats to place limits on Governor Inslee’s undemocratic abuse of emergency powers. Leader Wilcox discusses these issue and gives his thoughts on the lawsuit brought by both Democrat and Republican legislators against Governor Inslee for his repetitive abuse of his veto authority and the confusion created by the Democrats during the redistricting process. Finally, Representative Wilcox provides his optimistic thoughts on the 2022 elections.
The 2022 Legislative Session will begin next week, and it appears most of the attention is focused on cleaning up problems previously created by the Democrats. Let’s first discuss the disastrous Long-Term Care payroll tax, which was supposed to begin last weekend. Democrats are saying the necessary repairs are minor and that it should commence later this year or next, while nearly all Republican legislators are calling for a complete repeal. What is your guess for what will happen during the session?
It seems very plain that Democrats will delay implementation until after the election in a purely political move. They will propose some changes that will address the 10-year vesting, out of state workers and disabled veterans but all of these will significantly add to the cost of the program. I suspect that they will NOT allow widespread opt-outs which would kill the program since only the withdrawal of private plans prevented an even more overwhelming number of people from opting out. Representative Drew Stokesbary (R – Auburn) is offering the best solution, a total repeal of the bill coupled with a new plan that uses private sector partnerships to address the problem.
The media has been filled with incidents of law enforcement being unable to pursue suspected criminals due to last year’s passage of the Democrats’ “police reform” bills. Do you believe the Democrats are willing to make some necessary changes to their legislation?
Democrats have acknowledged some of the flaws and I believe will address those in the most minimal way. All of these problems would have been addressed by Republican amendments that were offered in 2021, BTW. Law enforcement and public outcry made a difference in this case by exposing the flaws of this deeply ideological approach.
After Governor Inslee vetoed sections of his climate bills last spring, both Republican and Democrat legislators stated he had overstepped his veto authority and immediately asserted they would file a lawsuit against the governor. The suit was finally filed last month. Why was there a delay? Also, since the vetoes broke an agreement Governor Inslee made with legislators, will legislators approach agreements with the governor differently?
Republicans approved the motion in Executive Rules Committee to file the lawsuits months ago but Democratic agreement came only in December. I believe the timing was calculated to make the least public impression and came the week after the Governor’s budget and policy roll-outs, again to prevent any disruption to their team. I would hope that lessons would be learned, but like everything else in life, it depends on whose ox is being gored. The Democrats who were hurt by this were the small handful of moderates and the majority of Democrats in House and Senate probably supported the Governor’s breaking of the agreement. Attention by Republicans, allies and much of the press played an important role in this ultimately, positive development.
You are likely tired of talking about the governor’s emergency authority which has been in effect for almost two years. During the 2021 session, Democrat lawmakers killed all efforts to bring reform to allow legislators to have their constitutional oversight on the governor’s actions. There are reports that some Democrats are willing to consider changes. What changes would you like to see made and do you believe some reforms will be made this year?
Representative Chris Corry (R – Yakima) dropped a new bill this week with bipartisan sponsorship. It is the bill I would want if I were Speaker with a Republican Governor. It recognizes that emergency powers are necessary but should always be temporary unless explicitly extended by a majority in the Legislature which should do it for limited periods only. No one who is independent could object to this. I sent a letter to the Speaker this week providing notice that we expect a hearing and passage through committee. If that doesn’t happen we will offer motions in committee for immediate consideration of the bill and will do the same if it does not get a floor vote. Every Democrat in the House will get an opportunity to vote on whether the bill should come before the House. Every Democrat could amend it. No one should avoid being on the record. Seven Democrats have publicly expressed support for Emergency Powers reform, and I name them in the letter.
Delay tactics by the Democrat members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission has led many people to propose changes to how legislative and congressional boundaries are drawn every ten years. Do you see any changes to the state’s redistricting policies passing during the 2022 session and what changes, if any, would you support?
Washington has one of the better redistricting systems in the US. It recognizes that anyone doing that work would be partisan and it lets both sides have an equal voice. It is subject to brinksmanship and brinksmanship leads to defective public transparency. I would support changes that provide more deadlines for public check-ins on the final process.
There are already people predicting that 2022 will be a good year for Republican candidates. Are you willing to make any predictions about gains you expect Republicans to make in November?
We should have high expectations of numbers approaching a majority or an actual majority. Results will depend on the national political climate, recruitment of candidates that reflect their districts, overwhelming fundraising and good execution on messaging and campaign plans by me and the other House Republicans. It will be a good year if the climate continues, and Republicans messaging resonates with voters who live in the swing districts who will decide the outcome. We have to be talking about things that are valued by people who live in Spokane, Vancouver, the Olympic Peninsula, Whatcom County and the suburbs and smaller cities around Seattle. Every other part of the state is important but the only way we can implement our important priorities are if we convince these swing district voters to trust us.
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