Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In what seemingly has become the norm, budget negotiators were unable to come to an agreement on the 2017-19 operating budget before the end of the regular session. As a result, we are currently in a 30-day special session.
The reason for the stalemate is pretty simple. The majority party in the House is calling for $8 billion in tax increases over the next four years, and the majority party in the Senate is saying 'no.' The dynamic currently playing out is similar to what we saw during the 2015 legislative session, which required three special sessions and 176 total days. House Democrats called for billions in tax increases, but by the end of negotiations, they took the tax increases off the table because they realized they didn't have the votes (or support from the people) to pass them. I expect them to come to the same conclusion they did two years ago and work with Republican negotiators to pass a sustainable and fiscally responsible budget.
Along with ongoing operating budget negotiations, capital budget negotiators continue to meet as well. The $4+ billion capital budget funds the construction, maintenance and/or renovation of public schools, higher education facilities, state buildings, public lands, parks, and other assets. By all accounts, negotiations have been productive, and an agreement on a final budget will be reached soon.
Meanwhile, the 2017-19 transportation budget passed through both chambers earlier this month and is now on the governor's desk. As the assistant ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, I was at the table for budget meetings three days a week over the past couple of months. It was a collegial, bipartisan process all the way through, which I believe allowed us to produce a budget both parties could largely support. There are parts of the budget I don't agree with (we shouldn't be fronting the $75 million in cost overruns and traffic mitigation for Bertha's tunneling delays that Seattle agreed to pay), but it's still a good budget for Washington state. It pays for important projects and road maintenance, and also provides an increase in pay for state troopers.
I wanted to mention two projects in the transportation budget that are of particular interest to our area:
- The redesign of the I-90/Hwy 18 interchange, which had been scheduled to receive funding in a future biennium, is now scheduled to receive funding this biennium.
- The widening and extension of 204th Ave SE in Covington to connect Kent-Kangley and the intersection of SE 256th St/Hwy 18 will be allowed to proceed soon. I am hopeful this will speed up traffic congestion relief on Kent-Kangley. The widening of Kent-Kangley over Jenkins Creek is still planned for this year.
With fellow chairs and ranking members of the House Transportation Committee. From L-R: Rep. Harmsworth, me, Rep. Orcutt, Rep. Clibborn, Rep. Fey, Rep. Wylie, Rep. Farrell.
Latest legislative video update
I thought it might be informative to spend some time in my latest legislative video update talking about how bills progress during session. For example, a member of one party can propose a bill that doesn't get a hearing, but a nearly identical bill can be introduced by a different member, get a hearing, be brought to the floor and then approved. In other instances, bills can “die” in committee, but be deemed necessary to implement the budget and remain alive throughout budget negotiations.
There are a lot of things that are out of our control as legislators, which can be frustrating at times. However, it's truly amazing what you can get done if you don't care who gets the credit. If you have a few moments, I would encourage you to watch my video update here.
An update on ST3 relief
Earlier this month, I co-sponsored legislation to provide real relief for those burdened by the excessive taxes and fees of ST3. When those bills didn't move, House Republicans attempted to introduce five amendments to the 2017-19 transportation budget to accomplish the same goal. Unfortunately, none of the amendments were adopted by the majority party. Instead, a bill (House Bill 2201) was brought forward to provide a small rebate to folks who have seen a huge increase in their car-tab fees.
While I voted for the bill because it provides some relief, we could've done a lot more to alleviate the burden many are feeling. House Bill 2201 is still in the Senate, which means as of this email, not a single bill that would provide relief has made it through both chambers and to the governor's desk. I can assure you those of us in the House Republican Caucus share your frustrations on ST3, and will keep fighting to provide meaningful relief to you and your family.
REAL ID “fix” bill on the governor's desk
As you know, I've been critical of Senate Bill 5008, which is set to create a two-tiered license system that will delay REAL ID enforcement at airports until 2020. I don't view the bill as an adequate solution to our REAL ID compliance problem, which is an issue I discussed in a recent op-ed for the Auburn Reporter.
SB 5008 will require every law-abiding Washingtonian who wants to use their driver's license to fly domestically to deal with the hassle of waiting in long lines and purchasing a more expensive enhanced driver's license. The REAL ID compliance bill I introduced earlier this session (House Bill 2176) would have put current licenses into two categories – those valid for federal purposes (by showing proof of legal presence during application) and those that aren't — without imposing any additional costs on Washington residents.
When SB 5008 came to the floor for a vote, I stood up to express my frustration with our lack of concern for those who will be burdened by the policy. You can watch my floor speech here.
Finished business during the 2017 regular session
Bipartisan accomplishments this year include passage of the 2017-19 transportation budget, reforms to the Growth Management Act (GMA), economic development legislation, a measure to combat opioid addiction, legislation to prevent and respond to wildfires, and more. Below is a partial list of bills that have passed both chambers and been delivered to the governor or signed into law.
- School siting outside urban growth areas (UGA) (HB 1017) – Modifies the GMA so schools can expand and be built with urban services extended beyond the UGA boundary. Was partially vetoed by the governor to only apply to Pierce County school districts.
- Economic Revitalization Act (SB 5790) – Empowers rural communities that suffer economic deterioration to make economic development a priority in their GMA planning documents.
- On-site septic system inspections (HB 1503) – Allows homeowner inspections of septic systems instead of professional inspections.
- Expanded land use for freight rail (HB 1504) – Enables local governments east of the Cascades and in the Vancouver area to allow development along rail lines outside the UGA.
- Regulatory fairness (HB 1120) – Curbs ongoing compliance issues with the state's Regulatory Fairness Act.
- Wildfire prevention (HB 1711) – Makes forests more resilient to wildfires and helps with disaster response.
- Public records (HB 1594 and HB 1594) – Changes cost schedule and creates a grant program for local governments to modernize public records response.
- Workplace pregnancy accommodation (SB 5835) – Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant women in the workplace.
- Addressing voyeurism (HB 1200) – Criminalizes “upskirting” and other invasions of privacy.
- Teacher certification (HB 1654) – Constructs new rules for alternative route programs.
- Costs of course materials (HB 1375) – Requires community and technical colleges to provide information on the costs of textbooks and course materials.
- Extending levy cliff (SB 5023) – Extends current state education levy policy until Jan. 1, 2019.
- Distracted driving (SB 5289) – Prohibits the use of electronic communications devices for all persons operating a motor vehicle, subject to certain exceptions.
- Small business bill of rights (HB 1352) – Helps small business owners understand their rights.
- DUI (SB 5037) – Makes a fourth DUI a felony.
- Omnibus marijuana bill (SB 5131) – Makes several changes to recreational and medical marijuana laws.
- Opioid treatment (HB 1427) – Requires the adoption of rules relating to opioid prescribing, expands access to the Prescription Monitoring Program, and modifies the criteria for the siting of Medication Assisted Treatment facilities.
Unfinished business during the 2017 regular session
There are several bills that still demand attention this session, including the 2017-19 operating budget with a McCleary fix attached, the 2017-19 capital budget, a solution for the Hirst problem, ST3 car-tab relief and reforms, and more. Below is a partial list of significant bills that have been under consideration, but have not yet passed both chambers.
- 2017-19 operating budget, including a McCleary fix
- 2017-19 capital budget
- Hirst fix (SB 5239) – Allows for cooperation between counties and the state when dealing with water rights issues, in order to resolve the Hirst decision.
- Sound Transit car-tab relief and reform (SB 5893 and SB 5001) – Lowers car-tab fees through a new formula and makes RTA board elected.
- House Democrats' omnibus tax-increase bill (HB 2186)
- Internet/data privacy (HB 2200)
- Data taxation (HB 1904)
- Certificate of Need exemption for psychiatric beds (HB 1547)
- Creating the Department of Children, Youth and Families (HB 1661)
- Homeless housing surcharge increase and extension (HB 1570)
- Homeless housing investments/REET expansion (HB 1797)
- Equal pay (HB 1506)
- High school assessments/graduation requirements (HB 1046)
- Statewide Tourism Marketing Act (HB 1123)
- Increasing liquor revenue distributions to local governments (HB 1113)
As we begin this 30-day special session, I encourage you to continue contacting me with your questions, comments and concerns. My phone number and email address are below. I also welcome you to contact my legislative assistant, Roy Atwood, to set up a time to meet with me.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House.