Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Tuesday, March 13, I'll be hosting a telephone town hall meeting from 6-7 p.m. During the hour-long call, I'll provide my thoughts on the 2018 session and take your questions on state legislative issues.
To participate, please call (253) 387-7963. I also welcome you to submit questions in advance. I look forward to speaking with you on Tuesday!
Session adjourns on time for the first time since 2014
Late Thursday night, we finished our work and adjourned for the year. It was an intense 60-day session with some highs, but a lot more lows. One-party control of the House and Senate unfortunately resulted in a lot less collaboration than we're used to seeing. In fact, House Republicans were almost completely shut out of supplemental operating budget negotiations.
Even so, the majority party didn't end up having the votes to implement new taxes this year. A capital gains income tax proposal died, as did a carbon tax proposal. I have no doubt they will be looking to pass both in the 2019 session, however.
Sexual assault bills killed by the Senate
One of the biggest disappointments of the session was House Bill 2585 being killed by the Senate. The bill would have simply helped rape survivors receive timely notice of the availability of rape kit exams at hospitals in Washington state. It advanced out of the House, 98-0, but languished in the Senate Rules Committee for weeks before ultimately dying. That's unconscionable to me. As I said in a joint press release with my colleague, Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, who saw his own sexual assault bill die this year:
“In Olympia, we talk a big game about standing up for the most vulnerable among us. Yet when it comes to something as important as helping sexual assault victims, we always seem to fall short.”
That's the harsh reality. Rarely have I been so disappointed and frustrated as a state legislator than I was this year. I spoke with the Kitsap Daily News about that earlier this week. You can read the piece here. The Washington Newspaper Publishers Association also covered our push to get these bills passed, and this radio report was sent to stations across the state.
It's these kind of losses that really take a toll on you. However, they also help you to better understand why eight House members would announce this year that they're not seeking re-election.
Now, I'm a fighter and don't plan on going anywhere, but the process in Olympia is broken. Instead of putting people before politics, too much of the time it's the other way around. That's wrong.
House Bill 2684 on the governor's desk
While HB 2585 was killed, my bill to provide better support for students in out-of-home care made it through both chambers, and is now on the governor's desk waiting to be signed into law. House Bill 2684 will require the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families to coordinate with school districts to ensure a smooth transition when students in out-of-home care are required to change school districts.
As you know, I care deeply about our at-risk students. I've introduced a number of bills since joining the Legislature to try and help them achieve success in school and in life. These children need advocates, and I am committed to being their number one advocate as long as I have the privilege of serving as a state lawmaker. As a former foster youth, this is personal for me, as I've written in several op-eds since joining the Legislature in 2015.
An overview of the 2018 supplemental operating budget
The biggest piece of the session, the 2018 supplemental operating budget, was approved 54-44 in the House and 25-24 in the Senate. It spends an additional $1.2 billion, of which more than 65 percent is allocated for K-12 teacher and staff salaries. While I understand why some lawmakers would support the budget, I could not. And the reason is two-fold.
First, we aren't doing enough to help our most vulnerable citizens. Although two of my amendments to help those with developmental disabilities were included in the budget, I believe we could have done a lot more. Secondly, we're spending almost all of the extra revenue we're projected to get over the next four years. At some point, the economy will take a turn for the worse. We know that. But instead of preparing for that eventuality, we continue to spend more and more money. That doesn't make sense to me.
A disappointing Tacoma Narrows Bridge deal
As I mentioned in a previous email update, one of the most important agenda items this year for our district was preventing toll increases on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (TNB). The TNB Work Group I was part of during interim came together and agreed the Legislature would need to fund $125 million in debt service increases in order to prevent toll increases beyond 2019.
We didn't get the $125 million. Instead, the deal we got was for $85 million in loans to the TNB account between 2019 and 2031, with a 25-cent toll increase occurring sometime after 2022.
The News Tribune praised that as a “big win” in an editorial on Thursday, but I disagree. We should have negotiated much harder to secure better terms and to ensure tolls would remain frozen. That's what Rep. Christine Kilduff's House Bill 2834 would have done.
Even so, the deal does provide time. I'm hopeful better negotiations next year will bring funding rather than loans to the district. I'll be working closely with Rep. Kilduff on trying to make that happen.
Although session is now over, please know I'm here to serve you year-round. Feel free to call or email me any time. I read every email you send, and always take your input into consideration. I also encourage you to contact my legislative assistant, Aaron Hallenberg, to set up a time to meet with me in district.
Speaking of Aaron, I want to thank both him and my intern, Alexis, for all of their help this year. They are rock stars!
It is an honor to serve you.