Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is an honor to be back at the state Capitol, where I am proudly representing the citizens of our beautiful 26th Legislative District!
The 2019 legislative session opened Monday, Jan. 14. This year's session is scheduled for 105-days, as lawmakers work to create a two-year state operating budget.
GOVERNOR'S BUDGET PROPOSAL TAKES CENTER STAGE ON OPENING DAY
During the first day of session, a public hearing was held in the House Appropriations Committee on Gov. Jay Inslee's proposed $54.4 billion two-year operating budget. Although no budget is perfect, I'm glad the governor's plan would increase funding to our most vulnerable population, including those with developmental disabilities. I am concerned, however, that although the state will take in an additional $4 billion because of a strong economy, the governor wants to raise taxes on businesses, sales of real estate, and implement a new capital gains income tax. I expect much discussion on this in the coming weeks.
COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS, LEADERSHIP AND ISSUES
Budget: I'm serving on the House Appropriations Committee, which considers budget issues, such as the governor's proposal mentioned above. This committee is known for long hours as we work to create a state operating budget for the next two years.
Health Care: I've also been appointed to a leadership position as assistant ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, which is in tune with my background in oral health. The governor recently proposed an in-state public health option plan, which is expected to soon dominate a good portion of debate in this committee.
Education: I'm also serving on the House Education Committee. After six years of the Legislature working to create a new education funding model under the state Supreme Court's “McCleary Decision,” a final fix passed last year that capped levies and put more of the responsibility for local funding on the state. Some have suggested re-opening the McCleary fix. While some adjustments may be needed, we need to give some time for the McCleary funding model to work.
School construction: I am also very concerned about the issue of school construction funding. The state has made it difficult for local school districts to qualify for state assistance. Combined with regulations and bureaucratic hoops that have driven up school construction costs, it is becoming more difficult for school districts to build the space they need to educate our children. I plan to begin a discussion to bring attention to this issue during this session. Keep watch in the Key Peninsula News next month for an article I've written on this issue that I will share in a later email update.
PORT ORCHARD TORNADO – THANKS TO THOSE WHO HELPED!
I wish to thank all of the volunteers and people who helped clean up, provided shelter, food and other assistance in the aftermath of the tornado, which was just down the street from my home in our Port Orchard neighborhood. I was thankful my home escaped damage, but there are others still trying to recover from the storm. If you are having difficulties and need advocacy with your homeowners' insurance, please contact my office.
CALDIER BILLS RECEIVE PUBLIC HEARINGS
I'm pleased several of the bills I have introduced received public hearings within the first two weeks of session. They include:
- House Bill 1016 – Concerning hospital notification of availability of sexual assault evidence kit collection. This measure would require hospitals to notify a rape victim within two hours of their arrival that they don't have rape kits or a provider trained in sexual assault examinations on the premises. Public hearing held Jan. 22 in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
- House Bill 1017 – Concerning salaries of nonprofit health carriers. The bill would allow ratepayers to set compensation and benefit levels of board members and the top five highest-paid executives of nonprofit insurance companies. Currently, the board of nonprofit health carriers can set the CEO's salary, and the CEO can set the board's salary. Both can be at exorbitant levels as they scratch each other's back, and they pay for those salaries by jacking up insurance rates against consumers who have no input. This bill would let the consumer enrollees decide the appropriate salaries of the companies' top executives. Public hearing was held on Jan. 22 in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
- House Bill 1018 – Concerning fair dental insurance practices. This measure would extend Washington's health insurance “Patient Bill of Rights” to dental insurance coverage. The bill of rights establishes fair health insurance practices by requiring insurers to have a utilization review program, prohibiting denial of coverage for care that was previously authorized, providing a grievance process, and requiring independent review for resolving disputes. Public hearing held Jan. 22 in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
- House Bill 1229 – Concerning photographs, micro-photographs and electronic images from traffic safety cameras and toll systems. If a child was abducted and taken across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, under current law, even though the toll cameras may have captured the image of the license plate, law enforcement is not allowed to access that information in their investigation. This bill would change the law to allow police, through the proper use of a warrant, to access those images so that people's lives could be saved and the suspect could be brought to justice. Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey brought this issue to my attention and testified at the public hearing on Jan. 21 in the House Public Safety Committee.
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Many issues are coming before us that could affect you and your families in the 26th District. I strongly encourage you to follow closely through my website, e-newsletters and live broadcasts on TVW.org. Please call, write or email my office with your questions, comments and concerns about state government and legislation. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!