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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It’s been two weeks since the 2024 legislative session adjourned sine die. Despite the many policy setbacks we’ve had in recent years as a state, we scored some major victories this session thanks to the people of Washington.

Three of the six citizen-backed initiatives, signed by over 800,000 Washingtonians, will become law in June: Initiative 2113, fully restoring the ability of police to engage in vehicular pursuit; Initiative 2081 establishing a parental bill of rights, which will ensure parents have access to student records; and Initiative 2111, banning personal state and local income taxes.

I was proud to cast my vote for the three initiatives and I supported all six. Sadly, the majority party chose to not act on the other three:

  • Initiative 2124 would allow people to opt out of the state-run, long-term-care program.
  • Initiative 2117 would repeal the Climate Commitment Act, the state’s new carbon tax program.
  • Initiative 2109 would repeal the state’s new capital gains tax.  

These three remaining initiatives will appear on the ballot in November.

Investments in the Tri-Cities

Our 8th District team – Sen. Matt BoehnkeRep. Stephanie Barnard, and I – worked together to secure $49 million for construction projects in the Tri-Cities, including:

  • $45.496 million for the Tri-Tech Skills Center;
  • $25 million for Energy Northwest (15th District);
  • $3 million for the HAPO Community Center;
  • $1.5 million for Columbia Valley Center for Recovery (16th District);
  • $240,000 for the Port of Benton Inland;
  • $235,000 for Emergency Communications Radio Microwave;
  • $174,000 for Renovations for Children’s Developmental Center; and
  • $150,000 for Pasco Agricultural Symbiosis Industrial Park (16th District).

These investments will create jobs, provide economic opportunity, and support the long-term prosperity of the Tri-Cities region — greatly benefiting our community for years to come. I am particularly pleased with the large financial commitment the state is making to the Tri-Tech Skills Center.

The final 2024 supplemental capital budget allocates a total of $1.33 billion, including $130.6 million in bonds. The plan makes significant investments throughout the state in K-12 school construction, behavioral health and substance abuse treatment facilities, and early learning facilities.

Pro-housing legislation signed into law

I am happy to announce that House Bill 2003, my legislation to encourage the construction of affordable housing on public lands, was signed into law on March 13th.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns more than 7,000 acres of “transition land” that it can’t use for timber harvests because of its proximity to existing development. It can also be challenging for the state to sell or use the land.

The new law aims to encourage lessees of these public lands to build affordable housing units. It exempts them from the state’s 12.84% leasehold excise tax when they commit to renting or leasing the housing units to low- and moderate-income households.

The exemption will last the length of the lease if a lessee commits to maintaining affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families and leases the land for at least 20 years.

As the state with the fewest number of housing units per household in the nation, Washington is in desperate need of more supply.

The high cost of housing is draining family budgets, pushing young workers out of state, and hurting our senior citizens. I am happy to see Republicans and Democrats recognize the urgency of our housing crisis and unite behind this commonsense, pro-housing policy.

House Bill 2003 is one of four bills I sponsored to improve housing policy during the 2023-24 biennium.

  • House Bill 1070 added an exemption to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) for residential leaseback agreements of up to three months. This bill was signed into law by the governor in April 2023.
  • House Bill 1633, also known as the “Home for Heroes” program, would have provided home down payment and closing cost assistance for critical workers like nurses, firefighters, law enforcement, military members, veterans, childcare providers, mental health professionals, and other first responders.  
  • House Bill 2158 would have amended the Growth Management Act (GMA) to allow cities and counties to expand urban growth area boundaries so that any parcel near a residential parcel with access to urban services could be developed for residential purposes.

The operating budget

The final operating budget appropriates $72 billion (NGF-O), a $2.2 billion increase over current 2023-25 spending.

I voted against this budget because it contains no meaningful tax relief for working families. It also fails to provide resources to address some of our state’s most serious problems, such as the fentanyl epidemic.

Nearly everything – including groceries, housing, childcare, and education – is more expensive today than it was a few short years ago. And while folks are hurting financially right now, the state is flush with cash from both traditional and new sources of revenue.

House Bill 2040, also known as the Carbon Auction Rebate (CAR), was one of my answers to this problem. This bill would have sent registered vehicle owners in Washington a one-time payment of $214 – or up to $428 per family – beginning in July.

Despite the grassroots support for this proposal and the national media attention, House Democrats did not give the CAR bill a public hearing.

Regardless of whether the Climate Commitment Act survives Initiative 2117 or not, we need to answer the question of what to do with the billions in extra revenue the state is collecting from the carbon tax.

I strongly believe that the climate goals of Olympia should not be achieved on the backs of the working people of Washington.

Attack on natural gas

House Bill 1589 has received a lot of media attention since we adjourned. This is the bill that would phase out natural gas for Puget Sound Energy customers. While this will directly affect our neighbors to the west, it represents a concerning trend toward eliminating an important fuel source that people use to stay warm in the winter and cook their food.  

Energy availability and diversity can be the difference between whether we have an economy in eastern Washington, or not. That’s why I voted against this poorly conceived policy, and remain a strong defender of our dams.

Contacting me

The Legislature may be out of session, but I am always available. Don’t forget to check my legislative Facebook account for regular updates.

If you have questions, concerns, comments, or suggestions, please contact me. I know that, working together, we can make a meaningful difference here in the Mighty 8th and for our entire state.

It is an honor to serve you!

Sincerely,


April Connors

State Representative April Connors, 8th Legislative District
representativeaprilconnors.com
434 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
april.connors@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7882 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000