Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for all your support throughout my first term as your state representative. I appreciated all your encouragement and feedback as we addressed issues that impact folks in the 47th District and statewide. I learned a lot about issues many of us never really think about and gained an in-depth understanding of how the Legislature really works. I have enjoyed serving you in Olympia, and look forward to continuing that service now that I am back home.
Please remember that I am your representative year-round. I welcome meeting with you and your community groups to speak about legislative issues or just to see what you're doing. Contact my office to schedule a meeting or to share your thoughts and ask questions. I am also available to assist constituents working with state agency bureaucracy.
I will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting on April 26 at 6:30 p.m. that I hope you can join. I will take your questions and listen to your thoughts on issues we dealt with in the Legislature. The information is below.
Below is a recap of the regular and special sessions that I hope you find helpful. Thank you, again, for the privilege of serving you.
47th District telephone town hall on April 26
I will be hosting a 47th District telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. Constituents are invited to call in and ask questions or simply listen into the community conversation. The call will last one hour.
To participate, call the toll-free number 1-877-229-8493 and, when prompted, enter PIN number 17556. Once on the call, you will be able to ask me questions. All you have to do is press star 3 (*3) on your telephone keypad and a staff member will assist you with asking your question live.
Telephone town halls have proven to be a great tool to reach you and empower you to participate in your government from home. Your feedback is always helpful to ensure I am serving you to the best of my abilities. I want you to know I am accessible and available to listen to your concerns and look at new ways of solving the challenges facing our state. The Legislature is designed to be the voice of the people and these calls help me connect with those of you who would not otherwise have the time to meet with me or attend a traditional town hall meeting. I look forward to hearing from you and hope you will join me on the call.
To schedule an appointment with me or if you need help dealing with, or finding a state agency service, please call my legislative office at (360) 786-7918 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The state budget: Bipartisan compromise on spending, reforms was refreshing
It was very refreshing to work in the Legislature when a bipartisan budget and reforms were negotiated. Many of you have likely heard me talk about my concerns with closed-door meetings of each side of the aisle. I continue to believe the best way to rebuild public trust in government is an open dialogue that includes feedback from both Republicans and Democrats, regardless of which party is in the majority.
I was pleased to see the bipartisan coalition form in the Senate because it finally allowed for good faith negotiations to find middle ground. Government reforms adopted will help us in future budgets, and the final state operating budget will actually spend within our means without reductions to K-12 or higher education.
While I voted for some of the reforms that were a part of the budget, I could not support the budget itself because I am concerned about the dangerously low ending balance of only $81 million. That's not enough to cover even a small downturn in our economy. I am also concerned programs we cannot afford today or tomorrow were not reformed or eliminated. You can read my column on the state budget and details on some of the key government reforms here.
Working across the aisle to improve education, serve our communities
During my first term as your state representative, I had two bills signed into law – both had strong bipartisan support. Working across the aisle to come up with legislation that moves our state in the right direction and allows for compromise during the process is something I truly appreciate about our form of government.
Innovations Schools and Innovation Zones
My first bill, the Innovations Schools legislation, was signed into law May 5, 2011 (see photo). You can read my press release on the legislation here.
House Bill 1546 authorizes the creation of Innovation Schools and Innovation Zones focusing on arts, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics within the public school system. The new law also:
- Directs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to establish a process for school districts to apply to Educational Service Districts to designate Innovation Schools or groups of schools as Innovation Zones;
- Places a priority on schools focused on the arts, science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
- Requires applications to be developed by educators, parents, and communities in participating schools;
- Establishes a time frame for applications, which must be able to be implemented without supplemental state funds; and
- Authorizes the OSPI and the State Board of Education to waive specified laws and rules using an expedited review process.
I appreciated the work both sides of the aisle did on this bill to make it work better as we find new ways of engaging students in their classrooms. The best part about this legislation is that it allows parents, teachers and administrators to be creative when designing a learning plan for students. This collaboration will serve our students well. I have often noticed when stakeholders are invested in the outcomes, it makes the programs better.
Small airstrip use liability changes
House Bill 2244, a bill to allow private property owners to give permission for visitors to use their private airstrips without fear of lawsuits, was signed into law on March 7 this year. The proposal was brought to me by a constituent in our district.
This bill provides legal immunity to landowners who allow public use of their land without a fee for aviation activities. Giving private airstrip owners assurances that they won't be sued due to an accident will encourage more of them to open up for public use. This, in turn, generates tourism and aviation activity that benefit communities statewide.
I am so grateful for one of our neighbors bringing forward such a common-sense idea for legislation. This constituent suggestion will help generate tax collections and create jobs around our state. Additionally, it was another great opportunity to solicit the help of Rep. Sullivan and Sen. Fain to work across party lines. House Bill 2244 will go into effect on June 7, 2012.