Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now one month into the 2017 legislative session, and the first major milestone is right around the corner. Feb. 17 marks policy cutoff, which means bills that do not financially impact the operating budget must pass out of their respective committees or be considered “dead” for the year. One week after policy cutoff will be fiscal cutoff. Bills that do financially impact the operating budget must pass out of appropriations committees (Appropriations, Capital Budget and Transportation) or be considered “dead” for the year.
Since my last email update, Senate Republicans and House Democrats — the majority parties in each chamber — have released their K-12 education funding proposals. While each proposal takes a very different approach to funding education, both have significant increases in beginning teacher salaries. Senate Republicans have proposed bold reforms, including replacing the current educating funding system with a flat, statewide local effort property tax. The plan House Democrats put forward is much less reform-oriented, and would leave the current funding system in place. With Gov. Inslee's proposal already on the table (a multi-billion dollar tax package), negotiations will now get underway to develop one comprehensive education funding plan from the three proposals.
The Legislature has made drastic improvements since 2012, including teacher raises, smaller K-3 class sizes, expanded access to all-day kindergarten, and putting an additional $4.6 billion into K-12 education. We must now complete the McCleary puzzle by ensuring adequate and equitable funding for all schools, where the dollars reach the classroom and students have every opportunity to succeed — regardless of the Zip Code they reside in.
An update on my bills
I've introduced nine bills this session addressing a wide range of issues affecting the 26th District and the state. Below is a brief synopsis of each bill and where they're at in the legislative process:
House Bill 1314 would address one of the problems we have in our Medicaid system by requiring the Health Care Authority to establish fair auditing practices and helping preserve access to Medicaid providers. This bill received a hearing Jan. 27, and is scheduled to be voted out of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee later this week.
House Bill 1315, a.k.a. the “Runaway Ray” bill, would provide an opportunity for families to purchase stray livestock instead of requiring them to be auctioned off (background article here). The bill passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Jan. 31.
House Bill 1316 would add dental care to Washington state's Patient Bill of Rights and establish fair insurance practices. This bill received a public hearing Jan. 27 in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, and is scheduled to be voted out of committee later this week.
House Bill 1443 would require the Washington State Department of Transportation to convert at least two of the toll booths on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to unstaffed toll booths, saving $1.10 per transaction. The Kitsap Sun recently covered this bill in an article, which you can read here. House Bill 1443 received a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee Feb. 2.
House Bill 1444 would aim to improve graduation rates for at-risk youth by waiving local school requirements, while still requiring state standards to be met. This bill unanimously passed out of the House Education Committee Feb. 9.
House Bill 1448 would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for pregnancy-related or childbirth-related health conditions. The bill received a public hearing in the Labor and Workplace Standards Committee Feb. 6.
House Bill 1664 was inspired by teachers in my Education Task Force. It would waive the edTPA testing requirements for teachers in school districts with teacher shortages. This bill was wrapped into an omnibus bill, House Bill 1827, which received a hearing Feb. 7 in the House Education Committee. It is scheduled to be voted out of committee later this week.
House Bill 1883 would prohibit the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services from using hotel rooms or department offices to house foster children. The bill awaits a public hearing in the Early Learning and Human Services Committee.
House Bill 2110 is another bill inspired by teachers in my Education Task Force. It would reduce health care premiums for teachers with families — bringing the costs more in-line with what other public employees are paying.
House Page Program
I recently had the opportunity to sponsor student Ben Harper as a page here in the House. While serving as a page, Ben attended page school every day, delivered messages and documents to legislators and staff, and fulfilled other tasks critical to the efficient operation of the Legislature.
Each year, students from around the state apply to participate in the House Page Program. To become a page, applicants must have a legislative sponsor, be between the ages of 14 and 16, and obtain written permission from their parents and school. Pages earn $35 per day while serving in the program. For more information, click here, and if you know of anyone who would be interested in serving as a page, please send me an email.
Please continue contacting me with your thoughts and questions about the legislative session. I appreciate your input and am available by phone, mail or in person. I am truly honored to serve you.