Sometimes the Legislature just goes too far      

Note: The following op-ed appeared in the Prosser Record-Bulletin and the Dayton Chronicle during the first week of March.

By Maureen Walsh

I’m sure many of you have been wondering, so let me explain why I voted against the Happy Meal bill. Senate Bill 6455 aims to address the alarming social problem created by the fact that children are being served chocolate milk or a cup of soda with their Happy Meals.

We all want our children to be healthy, but shouldn’t we let parents decide whether their kids can have a little soda or chocolate milk when they are enjoying their cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets? Do we really want to impose fines on restaurants that don’t make regular milk the “default beverage? This bill is a top priority for nutrition activists, and it is being pushed in multiple states this year. But the fact is, fast-food menu options are none of the government’s business in the first place and they certainly are not a priority issue for our Legislature.

Agenda-driven bills have become a trend in the Legislature as our urban colleagues use their majorities at the statehouse to advance an expansive vision of state government and intrusion into our personal lives.  Lately, it seems no problem is so big that it cannot be fixed with a new law. So many bills have been offered in the name of combatting racism, promoting “equity,” and reducing “income inequality” that it is a wonder Washington has any problems left to solve.

And when there is no problem to solve, don’t worry, the Legislature will invent one. The best example is the signature issue for the Legislature’s current leadership, the income tax. Advocates of higher taxes and spending say it would solve the alarming problem of an unfair tax code, which is about as phony a problem as anyone can concoct. I’ve never heard anyone outside Olympia complain about the distribution of the tax burden. They complain that they are taxed too much.

Since 2013, tax collections in our state have grown from $31 billion to $55 billion – a 79 percent increase. Still it’s never enough. Solving all the world’s problems gets expensive.

Unfortunately, many of these solutions reflect the interests of a narrow faction at the statehouse determined to re-engineer our economy and society to its liking. Government overreach knows no bounds.

For example, I think most of us support workers’ right to organize, but also believe it should be a matter between workers and employers. SB 6393, which fortunately didn’t make it out of committee, attempted to take that choice away from the state’s burgeoning new cannabis industry.  The bill attempted to base re-licensing a store on whether it has negotiated a labor contract. I believe that equates to legalized extortion.  The attack on that industry, and the hundreds of individuals in our state who have literally invested everything to be part of it, is unprecedented and unconscionable.

On a bigger scale, voters have told us twice they don’t want big new taxes heaped on gasoline to “encourage” them to drive electric cars. Yet we face a major debate in the waning days of the session on two bills that would essentially do the same thing. The governor’s low-carbon fuel standards bill (HB 1110) would raise the price of gas as much as 57 cents a gallon, and an even more pernicious proposal (SB 6628) would allow the Department of Ecology to adopt any regulatory scheme it wants. The people don’t want it, but apparently Olympia knows best.

It is time for the Legislature to get back to the business of managing our state programs and agencies effectively and efficiently.  That should be the Legislature’s primary focus and is certainly what the taxpaying citizens of Washington expect from their state government.