Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature is in its sixth week – an exciting and fast-paced time right now because deadlines for legislation to move out of committee and await a vote are upon us. We will spend most of our time on the House floor voting on and debating bills, including tax and fee proposals. If you are tracking a particular issue or bill, now is the time to contact me with your thoughts and questions. You can also share your thoughts with me on the telephone town hall February 22. The details are below in this brief legislative update.
Telephone town hall meeting Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to participate in my telephone town hall meeting next Tuesday, Feb. 22. We are at one of the busiest parts of the legislative session, so it will be a good time to update you on what bills are being considered, hear your thoughts and answer your questions. My hope is this is a convenient way for you to connect with me and have your voice heard in Olympia.
The call begins promptly at 6:30 p.m. and lasts one hour. To participate, just call the toll-free number 1-877-229-8493 and, when prompted, entering PIN number 17556. Once on the call, you can press star 3 (*3) on your telephone keypad and a staff member will assist you in asking me a question directly.
As a new legislator, I'm really looking forward to hearing your views on pressing issues facing our communities and the state. There are a lot of serious decisions ahead with regard to education and the budget, among other things, and this two-way dialog will play a key role in the decisions I make on legislation. I represent everyone in the district. What you think is critically important to me serving the citizens in the 47th District to the best of my ability.
If you cannot participate in the call, please feel free to call, write or e-mail me with your questions and feedback. You can find all of my information on my legislative website.
Strengthening the economy
Another critical issue for our state is economic growth. If we are going to get Washington working again, we need to ease burdens on our employers. I am happy to report that two bipartisan bills were recently passed and signed into law that will reform our unemployment insurance system. Our employers pay into this system, and people who are out of work receive benefits. Unfortunately, our businesses have been overpaying into the system for too long. In 2010 alone, our employers had to endure a collective rate increase of $364 million.
Through Senate Bill 5135, businesses will avoid a similar type of rate increase in 2011. This will provide them more resources and certainty, which will hopefully lead to job growth. House Bill 1091 will offer a more stable and long-term fix to the system by recalculating unemployment insurance rates. This, too, will provide certainty to our employers as they move forward.
These measures are good for our businesses and our workers. They represent a lot of compromise and creative bipartisan work that I hope will be applied to solutions for our workers' compensation insurance system, permitting bureaucracy and other regulatory burdens.
Innovation Schools legislation passes committee
My Democrat colleague, Representative Hunt, and I both introduced Innovation Schools legislation this session. We both believe allowing schools flexibility is critical to our state's education system. So, to ensure the best chance of bill passage, we agreed to modify my bill to include language from both proposals. I am happy to report that by a vote of 20 to 1, Substitute House Bill 1546 passed out of the House Education Committee on Thursday. My hope is it will be considered for passage on the House floor soon.
It has really been enjoyable to lead a bipartisan team to advance this important education legislation. We're one step closer to enabling the parents and teachers who know their students best an opportunity to provide the best education for their kids.
Looking ahead in the process, Sen. Doug Erickson agreed to sponsor a companion bill in the Senate, and I have met with several other senators to ask for their support. Just because a bill gets passed by the House doesn't mean the work is done! I will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this legislation.
I hope you found this brief update informative. Next week, I will share with you some thoughts on the spending adjustments that are being debated this week along with an update on legislation I am working on and watching closely. Please feel free to contact me with questions, ideas or concerns.
Thank you for the honor of serving you.