For the 2014 session, I will be providing weekly updates on your state legislature thanks to the generous support of donors like you.
Rep. Jason Overstreet has never lacked legislative ambition. Over the last three years he’s been in office, he has sponsored a diverse spread of legislation including bills allowing food producers to bypass certain health standards, increasing the penalties for mail theft, and of course, forcing county treasurers to accept tax payments in gold coins. Despite his lofty goals, he was unable to get a single piece of legislation signed into law last year.
This year is no different. He is the primary sponsor of twenty bills this cycle. You can break down his main legislative efforts into four broad categories: guns, taxes, “sending a message” and good ideas. As usual, click the bill number to read the actual legislation and see co-sponsors.
Overstreet has proposed a bill allowing for possession, transportation and transfer of short-barrelled shotguns and rifles (HB2475), traditionally defined as any shotgun or rifle under 16 inches. Currently, it is illegal to possess such a firearm in Washington state, but several other states allow it. One argument against these weapons is that they are easy to hide for such a powerful weapon.
Others would say it is simply a modification on current technology and using a shorter barrel is no different than adding a scope, simply a different configuration for your weapon. Overstreet’s bill does not allow for the sale of these firearms, just the possession and transfer of ownership.
Overstreet has also proposed a bill that would remove the ability of the governor to restrict gun possession during an emergency (HB2551). Currently, when the governor declares a state of emergency, he can forbid gun possession in public places. Overstreet’s bill would remove that power, so that when an earthquake or forest fire breaks out in your community, you can still keep your gun on your hip.
Finally, Overstreet has proposed removing the sales tax on firearms and firearm ammunition sold within the state (HB2529). There’s really not much else to say about this bill, it is pretty self-explanatory so I’ll pivot to the next category.
Overstreet has proposed several bills this cycle aimed at slashing the amount of taxes collected. He has proposed a bill repealing the estate tax (HB1099), which taxes inheritances of over a million dollars (so literally, an estate). He has proposed reducing the state sales tax in two different ways (HB1100) and (HB2393), capping the total amount of property tax collected each year (HB2392) and exempting transportation projects from local sales tax (HB1985) .
While the rest are pretty boilerplate conservative ideas, I want to drill down on the last one because it is a novel concept. The idea is that if the City of Ferndale is repairing a road, why should the city pay sales tax to themselves? In theory, this makes sense, but in practice, it is a little more complicated.
Most transportation projects go out to bid to private contractors. Those contractors build in the sales tax as part of their material costs for the project. If they don’t have to pay sales tax, they can still charge the city and pocket the difference. In essence, this is a tax break for local contractors, not a paperwork saving measure.
“Sending a Message”
When you speak with Rep. Overstreet, you can immediately see his passion for national politics and the bills he is proposing reflect that – speaking to broad national issues of the role of government. A snarky aside, if you are playing a drinking game while reading Overstreet’s legislation and choose the word “freedom” as your drink word, you are in for a world of hurt.
For instance, he is proposing a bill titled “The Incandescent Lightbulb Freedom Act” (HB2476), which would allow you to purchase inefficient lightbulbs if they are made here in Washington because, “the people of Washington state know better than the federal government what type of light bulb they prefer and should have the freedom to choose whether or not they wish to purchase and use incandescent light bulbs.”
Similarly, there is the perennial effort to force local governments to compensate private property owners whenever they act in the public interest to protect critical areas and wetlands (HB1166). He has sponsored a “Right to Life” bill that would confer full rights onto each “born and preborn person” (HB1257) and finally, he has proposed, “an act relating to acts of official oppression by public servants” (HB1454) that restricts the ability of law enforcement officers to search and seize your property, titled “The Washington State Freedom to Travel Act.” Naturally.
For that last one, it would actually be a good idea if it was better written. Right now, the legislation effectively limits any possible searches and can be interpreted so broadly that it will probably be thrown out in court.
Overstreet has also proposed a bill to require that all agencies delay any rule making that would cause an economic impact until the legislature has reviewed and approved it (HB1162). This is another legal nightmare in the making. Currently, when a bill is signed into law, it then is handed to various agencies who review the details of the legislation and propose rules on how this specifically would be carried out. They gather public and stakeholder input and then put those rules into effect.
By adding this extra step (do another economic impact study and then bounce it back to the legislature) you are severely limiting the effectiveness of our basic legislative process, delaying implementation of laws for at least another year.
Yes, Overstreet has proposed a few good ideas. He has submitted legislation banning the use of red light cameras (HB1455), which pump money out of a community and into the hands of out-of-state private security companies. He has sponsored a bill limiting the use of the unlawful detention provisions of the Patriot Act that Bush implemented and Obama continued (HB1581). Finally, he has drafted legislation protecting tow truck companies from lawsuits when they impound an unmarked police vehicle (HB2528).
All of these are relatively good ideas and solid pieces of legislation. I hope they pass.
There were a few bills that defied categorization. Overstreet is re-upping his effort to exempt “cottage farms” from gross sales limits (HB1135). Basically, we’ve created a class of agricultural production for small scale producers that make products in their own kitchen (think a small jam or honey business). Currently, they are exempt from many health and safety standards because it is a small operation, but Overstreet would remove the restriction on total gross sales, creating a loophole large enough to drive a jam truck through.
High schoolers can rejoice, Overstreet has proposed a bill eliminating the senior project requirement for graduation (HB2402). Currently, high schoolers have to do one year-long culminating project to graduate, usually with some sort of community service component. Overstreet, who home-schools his children, has actually drawn some bipartisan support for this bill stemming from the clumsy implementation of the project requirement.
His other two bills, eliminating the biofuel requirements and ceding our environmental regulation authority to the federal government, I covered earlier in the year.
That’s it for his current efforts. I will circle around in a few weeks to see if any of the bills have made progress toward getting signed into law. If you have strong feelings about any of Rep. Overstreet’s legislation, you can call his office here: (360) 786-7980.