Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are almost at the finish line! In less than 10 days, the 2016 legislative session will be adjourned. Monday was the deadline for bills in House and Senate fiscal committees to be approved. The next deadline is March 4, which is the last day for the House to pass Senate bills and for the Senate to pass House bills.
Last week, both the House and Senate passed supplemental operating budget proposals. Negotiators from both chambers can now come together to work out their differences and agree on a final supplemental budget. I voted against the House proposal because it relies too heavily on tax increases ($119.5 million) and also unnecessarily raids the state's rainy day fund.
I was, however, able to support the supplemental transportation budget proposed by the House. This is in part due to an amendment sponsored by my seatmate, Rep. Jesse Young, to add $2.5 million to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge account. His amendment was initiated because of the Citizens Advisory Committee's recent recommendation to not increase the tolls for Good to Go customers. Unfortunately, the Transportation Commission had planned to reject the committee's recommendation, and instead planned to increase the tolls by 25 cents. The additional $2.5 million added to the Tacoma Narrows bridge account would satisfy the Transportation Commission's concerns and prevent the tolls from increasing.
Although we were able to get this approved in the House transportation budget proposal, budget negotiations continue and are not yet finalized.
An update on my bills
I want to provide an update on the legislation I've sponsored this session to solve some of the problems facing our community and state. Of the 285 bills approved by the House, 97 were sponsored by Republicans. Of those 97, I sponsored the following five:
House Bill 1855 would waive local school district graduation requirements for at-risk youth with the goal of reducing the high school dropout rate for homeless and foster youth in Washington state.
House Bill 2429 was created out of a nonpartisan education task force I established during the summer. It would require the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to provide test results by June 15. This would allow students to take remedial courses during the summer, if necessary, and enable teachers and counselors to place students in courses appropriate for them.
House Bill 2500 would change state law to provide an opportunity for people to purchase stray livestock and not require them to be auctioned off. I introduced this bill after hearing the story of Runaway Ray, a partially blind Shetland pony found wandering the Key Peninsula by a local resident.
House Bills 1855, 2429 and 2500 did not make it out of their respective Senate committees before cutoff and will be reintroduced next year.
House Bill 2498 was inspired by a mother in Bremerton who spent months advocating for her daughter to get dental surgery. After finding a dentist who accepted Medicaid, the prior authorization sat on the Health Care Authority's desk for months while her daughter's face began swelling from a cyst. Her mother documented four pages of the various phone calls and hassle she received trying to get help. It wasn't until she contacted her 26th District representatives that her daughter was able to get the prior authorization approved and the surgery performed. House Bill 2498 has shed light on these types of problems in our Medicaid system, and showcases why dentists prefer to donate care rather than become Medicaid providers. Most dental providers do not want to deal with burdensome and unnecessary regulations like the prior authorization process.
House Bill 2501 would establish a work group to develop a method of medication coordination for mentally ill individuals when they are incarcerated. There is currently a system in place for medication coordination when mentally ill individuals become hospitalized. This bill would extend that coordination to local jails as well.
Last week, House Bills 2498 and 2501 received unanimous approval in their respective Senate committees, and are waiting to be passed off the Senate floor.
Gig Harbor girls scouts come to Olympia
I was recently contacted on one of my social media pages by a girl scout named Bella, who asked me if I would like to buy girl scout cookies from her. I said, “of course!” and invited her to come down to Olympia with her mom and some of her friends. They drove all the way from Gig Harbor to visit the Capitol and to deliver the cookies. Talk about customer service!
Please feel free to contact me anytime at (360) 786-7802 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My door is always open to hear what you think and to answer any questions you have.
It's an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.