Tag Archives: Sen. John Braun

Braun bill aimed at getting chronically absent students to re-engage with classes, resume path to graduation

OLYMPIA… Chronic absenteeism is among the major obstacles preventing Washington children from recovering from pandemic-related learning loss. Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, has introduced legislation to help school administrators, teachers and parents get students to show up to school and take part in class.

Senate Bill 5850 would provide support for students who are at risk for not graduating high school due to chronic absenteeism. Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island and chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, is co-sponsoring Braun’s bill. It’s based on a pilot program underway in the state’s Educational Service District 112, which serves southwest Washington.

“Nothing good happens when kids either don’t show up at all or do show up but wander the school halls without attending class,” said Braun. “The students who are already struggling to work at grade level risk falling so far behind that they may not graduate, which jeopardizes their future earning potential and quality of life. School administrators are frustrated because they feel ill-equipped to enforce attendance policies. And no matter how many billions of dollars go into K-12, some of that investment is effectively lost when desks sit empty day after day.

“Many students who chronically skip school or become ‘hall walkers’ are dealing with family issues, substance-abuse disorder, or mental-health issues. Others just don’t care to show up or they wander around as if school attendance policies mean nothing. This can’t continue,” Braun added. “Fortunately, it’s not a partisan issue, as no one opposes the idea of getting students back on track. This legislation is about improving the safety net in ways that will help school-age children to become students again – to reengage and resume their path to a high-school diploma.”

SB 5850, filed Dec. 15, will receive a formal referral to Sen. Wellman’s committee when the 2024 legislative session convenes Jan. 8. People who want to testify in support of this bill once it is scheduled for a committee hearing may do so in person or remotely.


Under Washington’s current compulsory attendance law, parents of students who are between 8 and 18 years of age must enroll them in a public school or private school, or they must provide the child with home-based instruction. If a child does not attend, the school district must designate and identify to the local juvenile court and to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) someone to coordinate school district efforts to address excessive absenteeism and truancy,

Under state law and OSPI rules, a student may be eligible to enroll in a statewide dropout-reengagement program if the student meets certain criteria including:

  • Has not met the high-school graduation requirements,
  • Is significantly behind in credits,
  • Has been recommended by a case manager, and
  • Is not currently enrolled in any high-school classes that receive state basic-education funding.

Summary of SB 5850:

  • Defines “students who are chronically absent” as students who miss 10% or more school days for any reason including excused and unexcused absences and suspensions.
  • Requires Washington’s nine educational service districts (ESDs) to develop and maintain the capacity to offer training and coaching for educators and other school district staff, including those designated under current state law, on the development of robust early-warning systems to identify and locate students who are chronically absent and connect them with necessary supports, subject to appropriations.
  • Directs OSPI to establish a grant program for community-based organizations and tribes to support students who are chronically absent, subject to appropriations.
  • Requires OSPI to allocate funding, subject to appropriations, to ESDs, school districts, and public schools to help eliminate barriers to high school completion for students who are:
    1. 16 to 21 years of age,
    2. are severely deficient in academic credits,
    3. unable to graduate high school with their peer group, and
    4. enrolled in a statewide dropout-reengagement program.
  • Specifies that OSPI must allocate funding on a per-student basis based on enrollment in a statewide reengagement program and that the funding be differentiated and include a base amount of funding for small and/or rural school districts.
  • Continues the grant program and per-student funding through December 31, 2026.


Follow the Washington State Senate Republican Caucus
www.src.wastateleg.org and @washingtonsrc.

Republican leader calls for new path toward housing affordability

20th District senator says Democrat colleague’s proposal
to reduce pain at pump also deserves consideration

CENTRALIA… The excessive financial windfall from Washington’s cap-and-tax policy should be used to address the affordability crisis facing the state’s homeowners and renters, says Senate Republican Leader John Braun.

As of last month, state government had already raked in $919.5 million from the combination of quarterly and other auctions of “carbon allowances” allowed under the cap-and-tax policy – formally known as the Climate Commitment Act. The state Department of Ecology announced Wednesday that nearly 8.6 million more allowances sold at a “settlement price” of more than $63 apiece at its third-quarter auction, held Aug. 30. The exact proceeds from that auction will be announced later this month.

Under the cap-and-tax law, roughly $720 million in cap-and-tax proceeds are to be reserved for transportation purposes each fiscal biennium. Braun says the remaining auction proceeds, which could easily top $1 billion before legislators convene for their 2024 session, should be turned into financial relief for property owners and renters.

“While Republicans are determined to address our state’s affordability crisis, many on the majority side seem content to let the cost of living climb even higher,” said Braun, a Centralia resident who serves the 20th Legislative District. “The governor and majority Democrat leaders apparently believe they must discourage fossil-fuel emissions by any means available, even though their climate policy is functioning just like another one of the regressive taxes they often complain about. It’s obvious to everyone but Governor Inslee that cap-and-tax is the reason Washington has had the highest or next-to-highest gas prices since June – which are blowing up the budgets of working people and families, with low-income families hit hardest of all.

“As Democrats are clearly unwilling to join Republicans to reduce the cost of gas in our state, let’s at least bring housing costs down instead,” Braun said. “Take the excess proceeds from their cap-and-tax policy – meaning the money not promised for transportation – and commit those to providing property-tax exemptions and credits to renters, as Republicans had proposed during this year’s legislative session.

“Those who truly believe Washington’s tax system is regressive and are convinced that higher gas prices mean less consumption and therefore fewer emissions should jump at this. They can be true to their climate agenda while putting those carbon-pricing dollars to work making housing more affordable, especially for low-income people. It is inexcusable not to do this.”

Braun also voiced support for a new proposal from Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, that is aimed at reducing the cap-and-tax policy’s inflation of Washington gas prices.

“Senator Mullet has put a thoughtful package of ideas on the table. It appears to respond to concerns I’ve heard and also is in line with some of what a group of lawmakers proposed to Ecology in July. I appreciate that he also is proposing tax relief, in the form of a temporary reduction in car-tab costs, and following through on the fuel-cost exemption that was promised but has not been delivered to our state’s agricultural and maritime industries.

“Like our housing-affordability proposal, his deserves serious consideration sooner rather than later from the leaders on his side of the aisle. We must do better.”

STATEMENT: Just in time for summer driving, Inslee cap-and-tax scheme pushes Washington gas prices to highest in nation

CENTRALIA… The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Washington is now worst in the nation, and Senate Republican Leader John Braun says the state’s controversial cap-and-tax law is clearly the main driver of the price jump.

Braun, from Centralia, serves Washington’s largely rural 20th Legislative District. He offered this statement regarding the harm being caused to low- and middle-income Washington families, especially those in rural areas, by a law that functions as a gas tax while doing nothing to improve the state’s roads:

“No matter what you call it – cap-and-trade, cap-and-invest, or the more accurate cap-and-tax – this is also a case of bait-and-switch from Governor Inslee and the Democrats who currently run Olympia.

“Almost a year ago the governor defended this scheme by claiming any effect on gas prices would be ‘minimal’ or ‘pennies’ once 2023 arrived, and more of the law took hold. That was either ignorant or dishonest. A gallon of regular unleaded in our state cost $3.84 on average the first week of January. Today it’s $4.89. No one would call that ‘minimal’ or ‘pennies.’

“Those responsible for this harm keep trying to pin the shocking cost increase on the oil companies, yet I don’t hear them explaining why any oil producer would have incentive to raise prices in our state so dramatically in comparison to our neighbors. In Oregon you will pay $4.58 today, and $3.98 in Idaho. The Democrats’ cry of ‘price gouging’ just doesn’t stick when you set all the gas taxes aside and see Washington’s base cost is 20 cents more per gallon than Oregon and 54 cents more than Idaho.

“Midway through this year’s legislative session, as gas prices were falling most everywhere but here, Republicans again proposed a temporary suspension of the state gas tax. An immediate savings of nearly 50 cents per gallon obviously would have helped families lower their cost of living and employers lower the cost of doing business. But our Democratic colleagues showed no more empathy than they had in 2022, when Olympia had a $15 billion surplus and easily could have acted to make driving more affordable.

“If there is price gouging, it’s being done by the governor and his political allies. They have used the power of the state to turn carbon emissions into a commodity, as part of their crusade against fossil fuel and internal-combustion engines. And there’s no end in sight to the pain at the pump, just as the arrival of summer has people looking forward to some traveling and recreation. We must do better.”

STATEMENT: Republican leader cautious about drug-law ‘special’ session

CENTRALIA… State lawmakers have been called into a special session to continue work toward a new state law on the possession of controlled substances, after failing to come to an agreement before the regular legislative session ended April 23.

Senate Republican Leader John Braun offered this comment following Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation that the Legislature will reconvene May 16.

“The governor had indicated he would not call a special session until legislative leaders reached an agreement that is worth bringing in front of each chamber. To be clear, we’re not to that point yet, although there have been productive bipartisan discussions over the past week. In that sense his announcement today was unexpected.

“Republicans worked in good faith throughout the regular session toward a new law that will give drug offenders more incentive to enter and complete treatment. We remain committed to that. While I am hopeful for a better outcome this next time around, there is also reason to be cautious. The House Democrats will need to demonstrate a combination of bipartisanship and leadership that was missing during the 105 days of the regular session – especially at the end, when they failed to pass a proposal that was still far from reasonable, and Democrats from all corners falsely claimed that failure was somehow the fault of Republicans, even though we are in the minority.

“All along, Republicans have insisted on a new drug-possession policy that truly works for the stakeholders – law enforcement, the criminal-justice system, and local governments. They need more leverage to save lives, lift people out of the despair that goes with being addicted to drugs like fentanyl, and also reclaim our streets and sidewalks. That’s still the right path for the upcoming special session. We must do better.”

STATEMENT: Republican leaders call foul on Democrats’ late-session bid to raise property taxes

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-17

OLYMPIA… In what amounts to the ninth inning of the 2023 legislative session, more than two-thirds of the state Senate’s majority Democrats have slid an extreme tax-increase proposal into the lineup of bills still in play.

Senate Bill 5770 would raise the limit on increases in state and local property taxes to 3% per year, without voter approval. It would replace the 1% annual cap established by Washington voters in 2001 through Initiative 747, and reenacted by a Democrat-controlled Legislature in a 2007 special session after the state Supreme Court invalidated the I-747 law.

The 20 Democrats sponsoring the new tax scheme include five of the eight Democratic senators behind SB 5618, a similar tax increase that died in the Senate local-government committee in mid-February. A similar House bill, HB 1670, has been parked in the House Rules Committee since Feb. 23.

Because Democrats include the state property tax in the bill, which affects state revenues, it is exempt from today’s cutoff for non-budget legislation. Because it was filed today, SB 5770 is also exempt from a constitutional provision that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to introduce bills during the final 10 days of the session.

Sen. Lynda Wilson of Vancouver is Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. She offered this reaction:

“Governments can always find more ways to spend the taxpayers’ money, but come on – state government already takes more from the people than it needs, and local governments can’t plead poverty either. Over the past decade the 30 largest cities in Washington and state government itself have seen their revenue grow more than 6%, and county governments are not far behind. The high rate of inflation alone is having the opposite effect on family incomes.

“A survey by the Tax Structure Work Group created by the Legislature found people dislike property taxes even more than even an income tax. I keep introducing legislation to lower property taxes for everyone by exempting the first $250,000 value of a home from the state property tax. The Democrats keep killing it. This year they came up with a ‘me too’ bill to offer property-tax rebates, then killed it also. It’s revealing that most of the sponsors of that legislation are behind this new tax bill.

“The Democrats got their capital-gains tax. Their deeply unpopular payroll tax, which was delayed for reasons we can all guess at, is back on track for collection starting in July. They killed their own Senate bill to lift the property-tax cap to 3%, and now it’s back with a text tweak that keeps it alive through the end of the session. The Democrats keep claiming Washington’s tax code is so regressive, then they support a scheme to triple the growth rate of a regressive tax. On top of that, they drop hints in the bill that the tax would go to support public safety and criminal justice… as though they’re the party of law and order. Unbelievable.”

Senate Republican Leader John Braun of Centralia made this comment:

“Reducing the cost of living is a Republican priority for 2023, This tax would significantly increase the affordability crisis in our state. On average residents of our state already pay $6,220 annually in state and local taxes. That’s in the upper third nationwide, nearly $1,000 more than Oregon and nearly $2,100 more than Idaho. A property-tax increase not only means a higher cost of living, but when we talk about the need for housing people can afford, it also affects the ability of people to continue affording the homes they already own. Enabling property taxes to go up 3% per year instead of 1% is going to be the tipping point for some homeowners.

“As much as I would like to dismiss SB 5770 as a late-session stunt, we must take it seriously. The senators sponsoring this bill include a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team, and one of the Democratic leaders on the Senate budget committee. Also, the Democrats have a history of approving big new taxes at the last minute, as our state’s banking industry learned in 2019 – the public had not even seen that tax proposal until there were 48 hours left in the session, and yet it was pushed through.

“The opening section of this bill suggests the tax would be used to help support special education. The Legislature absolutely should be supporting special education more, and I’m proud of the bipartisan work being done this year on that, especially in the Senate – but there is no way our special-education students should ever have to depend on the passage of a new tax. They’re covered under the constitutional mandate to support basic education that is the Legislature’s paramount duty. It’s wrong for the Democrats to use them to try justifying an unjustifiable tax increase.”

STATEMENT: Republican leader encouraged by Senate passage of bill to strengthen drug-possession law

OLYMPIA… Little more than two years after the landmark State v. Blake court decision, a bipartisan majority of state senators today approved legislation that would make possession and use of hard drugs a gross misdemeanor, and significantly restore the legal leverage that can compel people to seek and complete substance-use treatment.

Senate Republican Leader John Braun offered this statement following the 28 – 21 vote on Senate Bill 5536:

“The Senate passed a similar bill in 2021 but faltered when negotiating a compromise with the House. The much-weaker law that resulted took our state down a disastrous path that has destroyed countless lives and caused great harm in many communities.

“While there is still room for improvement, the legislation passed today is actually better than the first Blake bill that came out of the Senate two years ago. Charging drug possession as a gross misdemeanor is the same, but this carries the added leverage of a minimum sentence and is more detailed about how treatment services would be provided.

“Let’s be clear, however, that while this is a more thoughtful and responsive approach, it absolutely does not justify the two years we were forced to wait to reach this point. The experiment with decriminalization has been a mistake all along, and many of us made that argument from the start. If the Senate had held firm on the gross-misdemeanor penalty in 2021, think of the pain and suffering that could have been prevented, and how the streets and rights-of-way in our communities might look different today. The better policy regarding treatment services could have been added later, as a stand-alone bill.

“SB 5536 was refined with amendments at every stop on the path to this vote – by one committee, then a second, and today on the floor of the Senate. This is how to deal with challenging policy questions – be open-minded and allow legislators to offer and talk through ideas for improvement. The priority now is to avoid a repeat of 2021, and make sure this good policy proposal doesn’t get weakened before it reaches the governor. We must do better this time.”

The Blake ruling, issued Feb. 25, 2021, found Washington’s felony drug-possession law to be unconstitutional. Republicans have consistently been critical of the Blake response adopted during the 2021 legislative session, which effectively decriminalized the possession and use of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. It required first- and second-time offenders to be referred to treatment services instead of jail. Subsequent offenses could be charged only as a misdemeanor.

STATEMENT: Republican leader says California tax refunds make Washington Democrats look heartless

CENTRALIA… Tomorrow, middle-class households across California will begin receiving tax-refund payments to help with what one state official calls “inflated costs for everyday necessities.”

Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, responded by pointing out how in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic legislators have refused all year long to offer meaningful tax relief yet are on track to shower a select group of people with money that will help them contend with historically high prices.

“Democratic leaders in our state seem blind to the hardships being faced by families, especially those in the middle. Every time Republicans have tried to let the people keep more of their own money instead of giving it to the state, Democrats have said no. Gas prices are climbing again, but when we proposed an immediate suspension of the state gas tax, to save drivers 49.4 cents per gallon, the governor and other Democrats resorted to disinformation. They talk about making ‘targeted investments’ instead of offering broad tax relief, as Republicans would do. We’re seeing what that means: historically generous pay raises for members of public-sector unions, secretly negotiated by the governor.

“For years Washington has blindly mimicked California on energy and environmental policies that make living in our state less affordable. Now that California is putting money back into the pockets of its people, and acknowledging that they could use some help from government, Governor Inslee won’t follow and our Democratic colleagues in the Legislature are silent.

“Within a matter of months, middle-income families in Washington will see a host of tax increases – from those taken directly out of their wages, to higher sales and property taxes, to increased costs of driving – all due to policies enacted by Democrats and signed by Governor Inslee in the past two legislative sessions. In that light, the choice to approve fat new labor agreements instead of helping families sends a clear message: Some people matter more than the rest. State employees do valuable work, but this makes  Inslee and any Democrats who support his selective giveaway of taxpayer dollars look heartless. Olympia badly needs a change in direction.”

New statewide crime numbers confirm importance of reestablishing public safety, says Republican leader

CENTRALIA… The state Senate’s Republican leader says new numbers showing crime has continued to increase across Washington should give legislators even more reason to focus on public-safety measures next year – beyond what the governor is belatedly supporting.

The 2021 Crime in Washington report has murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault up from the year before, with homicides reaching an all-time high. The corresponding 2020 report from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs had violent crime at a 25-year high, and the new statistics prove 2021 was even worse. Vehicle theft, burglary, larceny and destruction of property, all categorized as property crimes, are also up.

“The 2020 report led Senate Republicans to make the reestablishment of public safety one of our top three priorities ahead of this year’s legislative session. It’s frustrating to see how crime has continued to increase in one category after another, knowing how we were alone in advocating for public-safety legislation,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia.

“Until these new statistics came out yesterday Governor Inslee had been very quiet about the crime wave hurting families and employers across our state. Today we’re told he will finally engage on the need to recruit and train more officers. Yet the governor was nowhere to be seen months ago when we already knew Washington had the fewest law-enforcement officers per capita in the nation, and his allies in the Legislature were blocking our bill to help communities rebuild their depleted law-enforcement agencies.

“If the governor is truly beginning to come around to where Republicans already are on addressing the decline in safety in our communities, his actions will speak louder than his words. Otherwise, it will be fair to question whether his sudden interest in law enforcement is sincere or just for appearance’s sake.”

People also shouldn’t be misled by how yesterday’s crime report shows a 60% drop in drug/narcotics violation offenses since 2020, Braun explained. That’s because the 2021 law responding to the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision essentially legalizes hard drugs.

“The consequences of abusing hard drugs are still easy to see in many communities. It’s just that the radical change in the law, which the governor supported, has made it impossible for law-enforcement officers to do what they used to do – to engage and intervene with drug abusers in a way that could force them into treatment.”

Braun said the next Legislature needs to reform the anti-police laws adopted in 2021, which he said have been welcome news to criminals.

“It’s no wonder more and more people are feeling like they’re on their own when it comes to protecting their families and their property. If this year’s news reports are any indication, especially the shootings that seem to happen almost daily in the Puget Sound region, things are still moving in the wrong direction. There’s also been a lack of urgency to deal with property crimes like car theft. Those are not victimless crimes. Legislators need to be serious about putting the protection of our communities and the needs of victims first.”

STATEMENT: Republican leaders repeat call for action as inflation rates continue to climb

OLYMPIA… Another jump in price inflation at the state and national levels has Senate Republican leaders calling again for legislative action to provide financial relief to Washington families.


New numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show the June inflation rate in Washington was 10.1% higher than a year earlier, a full percentage point up from two months ago. Nationally, the inflation rate was up 9.1% for the same period, the highest in 41 years and up from 8.3% two months ago.

From Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia:

“The governor keeps rejecting any ideas for providing immediate financial relief to most families in the middle. All he will talk about is a 2023 tax credit that will be available only to some with lower incomes. It’s as though he doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, how people at all levels in our state are being hit by what is now double-digit inflation. This new report shows they have seen their real earnings shrink for 15 consecutive months.

“The state has a mountain of cash that is continuing to grow. Our colleagues in the majority should join us to end the government greed and get more dollars back into the hands of families. It can be done without harming a single state program or service. Republicans are ready to act. Where are the Democrats? The affordability crisis in our state affects their constituents too.”

From Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver and SRC budget leader:

“Budget leaders on the majority side seem stuck on what they call ‘targeted investments,’ which means showering more money on state agencies. The truth is, none of what they did this year to fatten state government will help the typical Washington family cope with an inflation rate that is continuing to grow, with no end in sight.

“Our Democratic colleagues don’t seem to realize that significant, direct tax relief – like a temporary suspension of the gas tax, which would let families keep more of their own money – should also be viewed as a ‘targeted investment.’ With prices up more than 10 percent that’s the best investment we could make to help Washington families. Legislators need to act.”