Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Throughout interim, I’ve spent much of my time traveling around the 39th District, meeting with residents and learning what I can do to help bring about positive change on a variety of fronts. This past Thursday, my day started with a presentation at the Rotary Club of Sedro-Woolley. I was able to provide an overview of the Legislature, discuss my legislative priorities, and answer a number of questions. I then joined Fire Chief Frank Wagner and City Administrator Charlie Bush on a guided tour of Sedro-Woolley, which helped me learn more about improvements being made and what’s still on the to-do list.
My next stop was up in Darrington to visit with Wyonne and other staff at North Counties’ Family Services. One of my top priorities, and what I believe should be a top priority for all lawmakers, is supporting our local nonprofits—especially those who do such amazing and selfless work for children and families.
My final stop of the day was at Darrington High School for the community meeting regarding the possible reintroduction of grizzly bears in the North Cascades. The meeting was hosted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service—one of five public comment sessions that have been held throughout Washington.
Prior to the meeting, I sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland that was also signed by my fellow 39th District lawmakers, Rep. Carolyn Eslick and Sen. Keith Wagoner. In the letter, we expressed our opposition to the reintroduction of grizzly bears in our region. It reads, in part:
While we respect the efforts of your department to conserve and protect wildlife in this country, we have thoroughly reviewed the proposal plan and have come to the conclusion that its implementation would negatively impact our local communities and ecosystems and put the public at risk.
During the National Park Service’s public comment period, we have received direct feedback from our constituents. They oppose this plan. The 39th District is comprised of a diverse range of stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Opposition is strong due to the increased risk that would be present for potential conflict between bears and humans.
Moreover, the North Cascades ecosystem is already home to countless wildlife species. The reintroduction of grizzly bears may disrupt the delicate balance of this ecosystem, potentially harming native species and habitats.
Our sentiments were echoed by many of those who spoke during the more than two-hour meeting on Thursday. In total, about 75% of the speakers were opposed to reintroduction. Even so, respect was given to all speakers, no matter what side of the issue they were on. That was great to see, and proof that we don’t need to let divisive issues divide us as people. We can disagree and still be respectful of one another.
If you would like to learn more about this issue, The Everett Herald did a write-up of the Darrington meeting.
Survey: Priorities for the 2024 legislative session
As we get closer to the start of the 2024 legislative session, which will get underway January 8, I want to hear from you. This survey, which should only take a few minutes to complete, will give me an even better understanding of what your priorities are and what you’d like me to focus on as your state representative. Thank you in advance for your input!
Washington’s cap-and-trade program should be repealed
Over the summer, Washingtonians saw gas prices rise above $5 per gallon and stay there for weeks. In fact, June marked the first time in our nation’s history that our state had the most expensive gas. Although prices have since moderated, filling your tank in Washington will still cost more than it does in 48 other states and the District of Columbia. The unfortunate reality is that’s not going to change any time soon. Misguided policies have driven up costs for drivers and will continue to do so as long as they remain law.
In 2021, Governor Inslee and the majority party championed Senate Bill 5126, a cap-and-trade program which is now requiring companies that emit carbon dioxide, including oil companies, to buy allowances at state auctions. When asked then if drivers could expect higher gas prices due to the program, the governor said: “This is going to have a minimal impact, if any. Pennies. We are talking about pennies.” We now know these allowances are adding as much as 50 cents per gallon in cost.
The chart below shows how Washington and Oregon had very similar gas prices for much of 2021 and 2022. However, prices diverged in January 2023 when the cap-and-trade and low-carbon fuel standard programs passed by the majority party in 2021 took effect.
While it is unlikely either of these programs will be repealed, that would be my preference. Keeping flawed laws on the books while Washingtonians suffer is not good governance. It’s nearly impossible to tweak bad policy enough to turn it into good policy. While repeal is my preferred outcome, I still support a plan developed by House Republican Reps. April Connors and Mary Dye to send excess revenue from cap-and-trade auctions to vehicle owners in the form of a check. I hope we can get that bill to the House floor for a vote during the upcoming legislative session.
Joint Transportation Committee bridge tour
In September, I had the opportunity to join my fellow lawmakers on the Joint Transportation Committee for a three-day tour of some of our oldest bridges in Southwest Washington. What I’ve always believed, and what was made abundantly clear by the tour, is that the Legislature is not doing enough to prioritize maintenance and preservation of our highways and bridges. Instead of focusing our time and energy on flawed programs like cap-and-trade, we should be intently focused on at-risk infrastructure. As the assistant ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, I will continue making that a point of emphasis.
Please continue reaching out to me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Sam.Low@leg.wa.gov, and my office number is (425) 800-4421.
It is an honor to serve you.