State Rep. Tana Senn addressed the Florida school shooting, while Sen. Lisa Wellman promised property-tax relief, as lawmakers met the public in a Bellevue school gym.
Wednesday was “one of the worst days” state Rep. Tana Senn has experienced in the Legislature, she told constituents in a Bellevue public-school gymnasium Saturday as lawmakers heard from voters at town-hall meetings across the Puget Sound region.
“There was the shooting in Florida,” said Senn, D-Mercer Island, referring to the killing of 17 people by a 19-year-old at his former high school. “And at the same time, common-sense gun legislation died in our House of Representatives.”
About 60 people from the 41st Legislative District turned out to pepper Senn, and her fellow Democrats, Rep. Judy Clibborn and Sen. Lisa Wellman, with questions about issues ranging from firearms-safety and reproductive rights to public education and property taxes.
Replying to a constituent who asked about protecting Washington children, Senn acknowledged that bills to place some restrictions on purchases of assault-style rifles and to allow the Washington State Patrol to destroy confiscated guns have failed to advance in Olympia.
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“It was really frustrating and in my mind — actually more in my heart and soul — just crushing,” the lawmaker said. “We do not have the votes in the House right now.”
Some gun-safety measures are still alive in the Legislature this session, Senn noted, mentioning a bill that would ban bump stocks — the kind of rapid-fire trigger modification the gunman in October’s deadly Las Vegas shooting used.
But the lawmaker said state Democrats need to win larger majorities in the Legislature to pass more sweeping laws.
“You have three representatives who agree with you,” Senn told the Somerset Elementary School crowd.
“But our district is surrounded” by swing districts, she added, calling gun safety a “suburban-moms issue” and telling voters to lobby their friends in other communities.
“Parents are worried to send their kids to school. How is that tolerable?” she asked.
Senn, Clibborn and Wellman each voted last year against Washington’s school-funding plan, which is partly responsible for property-tax hikes across the region.
Still, the Democrats are hearing from homeowners with concerns about the plan to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision. Critics say the plan relies too much on property taxes and is too hard on the Seattle area.
The bill for a Bellevue house of median assessed value this year is 21.6 percent higher than the median last year, according to the King County Assessor’s Office.
“As a retired teacher, I’m now looking at the bomb about to drop when my property taxes arrive,” said Bruce Becker.
Though Becker is glad the Legislature is allocating more money to public education, the Mercer Island homeowner urged the lawmakers “to do something that will lessen the effects — make it a little easier on us.”
A Senate budget proposal coming this week will include about $400 million in property-tax relief, Wellman said, vowing to pursue legislation next year that would make property-tax deferrals available to more homeowners in high-cost areas.
“We cannot keep relying in this state on property and sales taxes,” she said.
There’s a proposal in the House for a capital-gains tax that would raise new money to reduce property taxes, Senn noted.
Wellman was later cornered by constituents who were upset over her co-sponsorship of a bill to repeal an anti-affirmative action law enacted by state Initiative 200 in 1998. That bill isn’t advancing this session, the senator said.