Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The big news since my last update is the Legislature was finally able to send the 2017-19 capital budget to the governor's desk to be signed into law. The $4.17 billion spending plan will fund hundreds of local construction projects in communities around the state, including 17 projects in the 26th District. I won't cover them all in this update, but I did want to highlight the following investments:
- $1 million for upgrades and repairs of Port Orchard Marina's breakwater. The project will involve concrete resurfacing, piling repairs, dock and float structural upgrades, repairs to outdated electrical systems, water line repairs, power upgrades and miscellaneous safety repairs.
- $515,000 to develop an assisted living community on the Key Peninsula. Construction on three cottages, each of which will be home to 10 residents, is anticipated to start by April 2018. The project will take approximately one year to complete.
- $464,000 to build a two-story, 5,800 square-foot early learning center at the West Hills STEM Academy in Bremerton. The early learning center will include two preschool classrooms that can serve as many as 80 children, as well as related meeting and office space.
- $248,000 to make environmental and public safety upgrades at the Longbranch Marina.
- $206,000 to develop a 17-acre sports complex in Gig Harbor, which will have lit and turfed baseball and multi-purpose sports fields.
- $150,000 for phase two of the renovation of the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton. Phase one began in the mid-1990s, which culminated in the Admiral's reopening in 1997. Now, further renovations and upgrades will be completed to give the 25,000 square-foot facility some new bells and whistles.
- $60,000 for the Key Peninsula Civic Center to purchase and install a new 100kW propane-powered generator and a 400-amp automatic transfer switch.
- $17,000 to help fund Fox Island's Emergency Preparation Plan, which you can read about here.
All in all, our district is receiving $17 million for projects that will make a real difference in our communities. For the full list of projects, click here.
Two town halls coming up on Feb. 17
On Saturday, Feb. 17, I'll be holding two in-district town halls in Port Orchard and Gig Harbor to provide my thoughts on the session and take your questions. Details are as follows:
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Location: Kitsap County Commissioners' Office, 4th Floor
Address: 619 Division St. Port Orchard, WA 98366
Time: 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Gig Harbor Civic Center Council Chambers
Address: 3510 Grandview Street, Gig Harbor, WA 98335
I hope to see you on the 17th!
The latest on my bills
House Bill 2585
Late last week, a public hearing was held on a bill I've introduced to ensure rape survivors receive timely notice of the availability of rape kit exams at hospitals in Washington state. Under House Bill 2585, hospitals that do not provide rape kit exams, or do not have a provider available, would be required to notify a survivor within two hours of their arrival to the hospital. Failure to do so would result in a civil penalty of $2,000.
During the public hearing, a woman named Hailee provided testimony about her recent experience seeking help at a local hospital the day after she was raped. She said she sat at the hospital for six hours and forty-two minutes before being told rape kit exams were not performed there, and that she would have to go to a different hospital for assistance.
It's disgraceful the way Hailee was treated by hospital staff, and it can never be allowed to happen again to another woman. While some believe the $2,000 civil penalty in my bill should be higher, it is my hope the penalty will provide enough incentive for hospitals to better care for and support rape survivors going forward. House Bill 2585 was voted out of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee earlier today.
House Bill 2684
Historically, there hasn't been a good process in place in our state for transitioning foster children from one school to another. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) often hasn't communicated well with the involved school districts, which has resulted in children being moved at the wrong time for their personal and educational growth. Fortunately, this responsibility is now under the purview of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).
House Bill 2684 would require school districts to coordinate with the DCYF to ensure a smooth transition when foster children change school districts. My bill was voted out of the House Education Committee on Tuesday.
House Bill 2787
One of the goals of the state's Developmental Disability Administration (DDA) is to help individuals with developmental disabilities gain employment. This is an incredibly important mission, but some of the policies currently in place fail many of the people they're supposed to help. Let me give you an example.
Some individuals with severe developmental disabilities simply cannot work. However, in order for them to receive community services, their families must prove that fact three times to the state. The state's verification process can cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of years.
To address this problem, I've introduced House Bill 2787. This bill would convene a task force to look at implementing better policies to ensure the well-being of these individuals is our first priority. The task force would consist of eight legislators, three family members of individuals with developmental disabilities, three individuals with developmental disabilities, a representative from the governor's office, the assistant secretary of the DDA, a developmental disability self-advocate, and a representative from the Washington Association of County Officials.
The task force would be required to meet at least three times between July and October of this year, and produce a report by December 1. The report would be required to include suggested policy, administrative code, or statute changes that would allow for better outcomes for recipients of supported employment or community access services. House Bill 2787 was voted out of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee earlier today.
Meeting with students from the UW School of Dentistry
Last week on Dental Action Day at the Capitol, I met with dozens of students from the University of Washington School of Dentistry. Many of them told me they are frustrated by the rising cost of tuition and the lack of dialogue from the university's leadership on the future of the dental school.
For in-state students, the cost of tuition and fees is roughly $65,000 per year. For out-of-state students, the cost of tuition and fees is approximately $100,000 per year. The shocking thing is out of all the tuition dollars provided by more than 370 dental students, just $7 million is returned to the School of Dentistry. We don't know exactly where the rest goes, so I'll be requesting an external audit to find out.
Two years ago, my seatmates and I worked together on an amendment to the supplemental transportation budget that added $2.5 million to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (TNB) account to prevent tolls from increasing. Last year, I introduced an amendment to the 2017-19 transportation budget to require the Washington State Department of Transportation to conduct a study regarding the potential conversion of at least two of the toll booths on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to unstaffed toll booths. These booths would exclusively accept credit cards for toll payment, which could save the state a lot of money per transaction. My amendment was adopted, but the governor vetoed it.
Right now, the state is being charged nearly $1 per toll transaction on the TNB. I think we can do a lot better than that. I'll be introducing a supplemental budget proviso to ensure when the contract is once again open for bidding, reduced cost per transaction is at the top of the state's priority list. I'm also continuing to advocate for the creation of unstaffed tolling booths. These booths work well at Sea-Tac Airport when you exit the parking garage, and they can work well on the TNB.
Another important issue is the funding that will be needed to prevent toll increases on the bridge going forward. During the interim, I attended a Tacoma Narrows Bridge Work Group meeting to discuss this and more with legislators from our district, as well as the 27th and 28th districts. The bottom line is while there won't be any toll increases this biennium, we will need the Legislature to provide $125 million to fund FY 2019 – FY 2030 debt service increases to prevent toll increases beyond 2019.
Working together to secure this funding is going to be imperative. The good news is we've done it before, so I know we can do it again.
My nephew visits the Capitol with his 4th grade class
A couple of weeks ago, my nephew's 4th grade class came all the way from East Port Orchard Elementary School to take a tour of the Capitol. My nephew was so excited to come visit me, he asked my sister to pack him the perfect lunch. I thought that was very sweet.
It's always fun to see students' eyes light up when they visit the Capitol for the first time. I certainly remember the first time I visited in 1986. Time flies, but that's a memory that sticks with you.
Last week, I had the honor of sponsoring South Kitsap High School student Katelynn Harmon as a page here in the state House. Katelynn's a great student who has a keen interest in photography and is also in 4-H. While serving as a page, she 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. Thank you for your service, Katelynn!
As our session nears the halfway point, please continue contacting me with your thoughts, questions or concerns. I also encourage you to contact my legislative assistant, Aaron Hallenberg, to set up a time to meet with me. I have an open-door policy and will always make time to sit down with you.
It is an honor to serve you.