Republican State Representative April Connors (8th LD) joins us to discuss top priorities for the 2024 legislative session, including addressing overregulation for housing, ensuring energy access, and safeguarding the Snake River dams. Expressing disappointment in Democrats’ refusal to hear Let’s Go Washington Initiatives, Connors emphasizes the importance of citizen-driven change. She also discusses how overregulation has led to the housing crisis and highlights the solutions her bill (House Bill 2464) presents. Optimistic about its passage, Connors also discusses her bill (House Bill 2040), proposing a $200 gas rebate to offset the Climate Commitment Act’s impact.
What are the top three objectives you would like to see accomplished before the end of the 2024 legislative session?
As a result of overregulation, Washington has the fewest housing units per household of any state in the nation. Low supply has pushed the dream of homeownership out of reach for too many working families. We need to enact policies that allow folks to build more housing of every type.
Washington needs reliable access to energy. As the state moves toward electrification, we must ensure that Washingtonians have access to consistent and affordable energy. It’s critically important to industries across the state, but particularly in our rural communities.
Protecting the Snake River dams is another top priority. These dams are vital to agriculture and the power supply of the Northwest region. They’re essential to our economic prosperity and the survival of our communities. We can’t allow them to be breached.
Democrats continue to refuse hearings on any of the six Let’s Go Washington Initiatives, even though they were certified by the Secretary of State. What is your perspective on this, and what do you foresee happening with these initiatives in the future?
I am disappointed with the Democratic majority’s refusal to even give these initiatives a public hearing. Hundreds of thousands of Washington residents signed them and they deserve to be heard.
The Article II Section I of the Washington State Constitution could not be clearer: “Initiative measures… shall take precedence over all other measures in the legislature except appropriation bills.”
People are frustrated with high gas prices, new payroll taxes, and a crime. I am supportive of the initiative process, which is one way for citizens to enact change through the democratic process.
You have presented legislative solutions (HB 1633 and HB 2464) to provide relief to the ongoing housing crisis. In terms of housing affordability and accessibility, what do you believe are the main causes that have brought us to where we are today?
Overregulation. The state’s energy and building codes have added tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building a new home in Washington. Every year we see hundreds of new regulations – and these regulations add complexity and cost to homebuilding.
Your legislation, House Bill 2464, encourages more housing development to lower rents and increase accessibility. Can you expand on how your bill would address the ongoing housing crisis?
House Bill 2464 would amend the Growth Management Act (GMA) to allow counties to establish new manufactured and mobile home communities in areas outside of urban growth areas (UGAs).
Manufactured and mobile home communities provide a significant source of homeownership opportunities for Washington residents; however, these models are experiencing higher rents, low vacancy rates, and constrained supply.
Encouraging more development would lower rents and increase housing accessibility. Many residents of manufactured and mobile home communities are low-income and senior citizens. When rents go up, or these communities shut down, it can have devastating effects on these vulnerable residents. House Bill 2464 would get cut unnecessary government red tape and provide relief for those suffering from high housing costs and instability.
Your bill (HB 2464) survived the first major deadline (passing out its House committee) this week. What do you foresee the bill’s fate in the State House and Senate and – if it does not become law this legislative session – do you plan on pursuing the bill next year?
I am optimistic that we can pass this important pro-housing policy in the House and Senate and get it to the governor’s desk for his signature. Yes.
You also sponsored House Bill 2040 – the Carbon Auction Rebate (CAR) Program – which proposes a $200 gas rebate for Washington drivers, funded by surplus revenue from the carbon tax. Why did you propose this legislation and how would it mitigate the impacts of the flawed Climate Commitment Act?
When Washington was experiencing the highest gas prices in the nation, I did a survey asking my constituents how high prices have affected their day-to-day lives. Many of my constituents had to cut back on groceries, cancel family trips, or make other painful sacrifices.
The Climate Commitment Act has raised about three times more revenue than anticipated – increasing the cost of gasoline by about 50 additional cents per gallon.
House Bill 2040, also known as the Carbon Auction Rebate (CAR), proposed to use the $1.3 billion in excess revenue collected from the state’s new carbon allowance auctions to distribute an equal, one-time payment to all 6.8 million registered vehicle owners in Washington.
According to the most recent estimates, that rebate would amount to $214 per registered vehicle owner or up to $428 per two-car family.
Regardless of what happens with the CCA, the fact remains that the government now has more than $1.3 billion in extra cash. We should give that money back to the people.
Which political figure has most inspired your approach to governance?
The three political figures who most inspired my approach to governance are Slade Gorton, Dan Evans, and Ronald Reagan. As a highschooler with Future Farmers of America in 1984, I had the privilege of meeting members of Washington’s congressional delegation and listening to President Reagan speak in the Rose Garden.