Dear friends and neighbors,
The 2017 legislative session is in full swing as lawmakers debate issues that will impact you, your family and our communities for years to come.
Legislators will come up with a solution to the final piece of the McCleary puzzle: overreliance upon levy dollars for basic education. We'll also be bringing solutions to help our economy continue to grow, preserve private property rights, improve state agency accountability, increase access and the affordability of higher education, improve our state mental health system, and much more.
Be part of the legislative process by taking my online survey. It will only take a few minutes to give me your opinions and thoughts on several key issues we're dealing with in Olympia.
HB 1107 removes the term “branch” from statutes referencing satellite higher education campuses. The state's satellite campuses have grown and changed and need to be able to break away from the term “branch,” as it sometimes has negative connotation to it. We've seen great development in our region with our local campuses and I'm happy to see this bill progress. It passed the House and awaits action in the Senate Higher Education Committee.
HB 1723 deals with occupational diseases for certain employees at Hanford. We've heard reports of workers dealing with certain diseases and ailments for some time as they work on cleaning up the Hanford site. My bill would create a presumption that certain diseases and conditions are occupational diseases for the purpose of industrial insurance coverage. I've taken some heat for this bill and there may be warranted changes made to its language as it is refined by the legislative process, but my stance has always been about protecting the workers. If there are people being sickened by their work at Hanford, they and their families need to be protected. You can watch a King 5 investigative report on this issue here.
Education funding update
The Legislature has invested an additional $4.6 billion in K-12 education in the last two budget cycles. This includes smaller K-3 class sizes, full-day kindergarten, teacher raises, and increases to materials and operating costs. The final piece of the McCleary puzzle is to end the overreliance of local levy dollars to fund “basic education.”
During this past year, an education funding task force met to gather as much information as possible and then to make recommendations to the Legislature. While the task force could not agree on a final set of directions, this was a good launching point for the session's top priority.
As such, both the House Democrat majority and the Senate Republican majority have released their plans and ideas for levy reform. To view the two plans in a side-by-side comparison, click here. To view a list of the major tax increase bills being proposed, click here.
It's important to note that this is just the first step in a lengthy debate. Negotiations will persist throughout session as legislators work toward adjourning on time. I'll keep you informed of the progress on this issue.
The Hirst decision and water issues
Many of you have contacted my office to discuss this issue and the uncertainty with building permits and usable water as a result of the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision. Please know that legislators are working to find a solution that can get the 50 votes needed in the House, the 25 votes needed in the Senate, and the one vote needed in the governor's mansion. Here are just a few Hirst bills: HB 1382, HB 1349, HB 1459, HB 1503, HB 1748.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved in your state government. I'll be having town hall meetings on Saturday, March 11. Stay tuned for more information.