Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you to everyone who has visited me in Olympia as we continue the work here in the Legislature. I appreciate all of your calls and e-mails as well. Hearing from you on issues most important to our communities helps me serve you better. Please, keep your feedback coming!
Below is a brief update on some bills I am working on this session and the issues that will be debated over the next several weeks.
As you know, I am very careful about introducing legislation because each bill costs money to produce and precious time to debate. In addition to the bills I co-sponsored this year, each of the three bills I prime-sponsored was requested by a constituent or a group with constituents in our communities.
House Bill 1304 would authorize the State Board of Education to approve online school programs in private schools. Although public online schools are allowed, current private school law does not allow online schools. This legislation catches our statutes up to the 21st Century to provide our parents and students another option in the education mode that best suits their needs. This bill was passed out of committee and is awaiting a vote in the House.
House Bill 1855 would clear up an issue that just arose for electrical contractors due to a new interpretation of existing rules by the State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Under the new rules, the person who knows how to test certain generators isn't allowed to do so. However, the person who is allowed to do the testing may not know how to do it. It is a complicated issue, but the bill is a simple fix that would allow the electricians who are already doing the work to continue doing it. This bill just received a public hearing, which I understand has finally brought L&I electricians together for discussions. My hope is that we can get this issue resolved as soon as possible so we can keep those electricians employed and the companies they work for in business.
House Bill 1877 is a bipartisan government accountability measure that would make the board of Sound Transit elected positions, rather than appointed. This would create a greater level of transparency and accountability to the people who pay for and are impacted by the decisions of the Sound Transit board. You can read my press release on the bill here. This bill has not yet received a hearing.
There was a lot of discussion this week about change in leadership at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the House Democrats' transportation tax package proposal, which includes a 10-cent gas tax increase and a host of other new and higher taxes and fees. I serve as the assistant lead member on the House Transportation Committee and have been closely following these developments. But, I want to hear from you! To let me know whether you support or oppose the gas tax increase proposal, click here.
The gas tax hike proposal concerns me because we already have the second highest state gas tax in the nation. If a 10-cent increase was put in place, we would have the highest state gas tax in the nation by far, more than doubling the gas tax in just 10 years. I believe before we take more from hard-working Washingtonians' wallets, we must make sure every transportation dollar is spent wisely and in a way that prioritizes the movement of people to work and goods to market.
I fully recognize the importance of completing several road large road projects in Washington state. However, the cost of building a mile of highway in Washington state is currently about double the average cost in other states. We simply cannot afford to waste our taxpayers' dollars on these projects without first getting the price down.
This objective is feasible. Here are just a couple of examples for us to consider: Last year, we passed a bill allowing the 520 Bridge project an exemption from the Shoreline Management Act, saving $165 million! And currently, for each acre of wetlands disturbed by a road project, we designate an average of three new acres of wetlands to protect, sometimes as many as 10 acres. This costs taxpayers millions – money that could be spent maintaining our transportation infrastructure.
Funding our transportation needs will be a topic of much discussion. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the proposals that come forward. I will update you in my next e-mail on the status of bills that affect our transportation system.
Childrens' Day in the House:
My grandchildren joined me on the House floor Monday, Feb. 18, as we celebrated and honored Childrens' Day and Veterans' Day.