Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I truly hope you had a wonderful Holiday season enjoying family, friends and good fellowship. As we say goodbye to 2013 and look forward to the changes, possibilities and successes of a new year, I wanted to send you a quick update on the upcoming 2014 legislative session and how you can stay involved in your state government.
Join me for coffee next week!
One of my favorite things about being your legislator is hearing your concerns and listening to you. I've had the opportunity to meet hundreds of wonderful people in our region. Your opinions and ideas help guide my decisions in the Legislature and have led to several legislative proposals. I would be honored if you would join me for coffee on Tuesday, Jan. 7 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Commons area of the CSA Building, 719 Jadwin Ave. in Richland to discuss the upcoming legislative session. With still much talk of a potential gas tax, the implementation of Obamacare and the continuing investment in education as mandated by the state Supreme Court, there is much to keep us engaged!
Are you on Twitter and have a question or want to share an idea to improve our state? If so, please join House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen and House Republican Floor Leader J.T. Wilcox in a Twitter Town Hall on Jan. 9. Both legislators will be answering your questions from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m.
You can ask your 140-character question about legislative issues using hashtag #solutionsWA or through our Twitter handle @WaHouseGOP beginning at noon on Jan. 9. This is just one more way to continue our two-way dialogue on how to make Washington a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Join your 8th District House members for a telephone town hall meeting
On Thursday, Jan. 16, my seatmate, Rep. Brad Klippert and I will be holding a telephone town hall meeting for all 8th District citizens. Please dial toll-free 1-800-761-6282 to participate. These forums act like a radio call-in show and serve as an excellent way for us to communicate with folks back home while we're in session. You can take part in answering our survey, ask questions over the phone, or just listen in from the comfort of your own home. These events have proven very successful in the past. I hope you can join us.
Issues for the 2014 session
BUDGET – For the first time in several years, Washington state lawmakers will not be facing a substantial budget hole when we first convene in Olympia. This is due to many factors. The economy is slowly rebounding and previous spending reductions in the budget have reduced the growth of state government to acceptable and manageable levels. Also part of this equation is the bipartisan nature of the budget that was finally passed at the end of June last year. I believe that neither party – Republican or Democrat – has all the answers. While we all have principles and priorities we hold dear, the art of compromise and working together has proven to produce successful legislation and balanced budget proposals.
In this spirit of bipartisanship, I am introducing legislation (House Joint Resolution 4211) this year that would require a three-fifths (59 of 98 House member and 30 of 49 Senators) vote in order to pass future operating budgets. This threshold for passing spending proposals will help ensure future legislators continue working in a bipartisan fashion and insulate citizens from extreme partisan ideology being implemented in our budgets. Because it requires an amendment to the state constitution, it would need to be approved by a vote of the people if it passes in Olympia.
HEALTH CARE – We're still seeing problems with the implementation of Obamacare in our state and around the nation. The Obama Administration announced on Nov. 14 that it would allow health insurance companies to sell existing plans for at least another year even if they don't meet the minimum standards set by the health care law. However, Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler doesn't think this is a good idea and has refused the President's request. To read more about this issue, click here to read an article by Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, our ranking member on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
GAS TAX – I know where most of you stand on the issue of a gas tax to fund more construction projects in our state. A survey last year during my telephone town hall as well as another online survey from a few months ago has provided ample data of what 8th District voters think about raising our state's gas tax. However, this issue continues to live on. I'll keep you updated on any new developments during the session as they emerge.
EDUCATION – Education has been one of my strongest passions and one of the main reasons I entered into public service. As the ranking Republican on the House Higher Education Committee and as a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, I've been able to have a voice in many aspects of the education debate. My goal is – and always has been – to work toward solutions that make education more accessible and more affordable at all levels. I was recently appointed to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) to share and gather information from other states. To learn more about this appointment and WICHE, click here to read my press release.
Obviously, these are not the only issues we'll deal with during the next legislative session. Energy, technology innovation, improving our state's jobs climate, keeping our citizens safe and protecting the most vulnerable among us are all issues that will be at the forefront of our efforts in Olympia. Again, I relish the opportunity to serve you in the state House of Representatives and appreciate the trust you have placed in me to be your voice in the Legislature.
As always, if you have any questions, concerns or comments, please feel free to contact me. And thank you for taking the time to read my e-newsletter and for staying involved.