Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We've hit two milestones since my last update. First, we moved past the halfway point of the 2016 session. Second, we passed house of origin cutoff, which means any bills that did not pass the House (and Senate bills that did not pass the Senate) are now considered “dead” for the year. The bills that did make it out of the House and Senate now head to the opposite chamber to be heard by their respective policy committees.
Last week, my bill to require the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to better communicate with foster parents was unanimously approved by the House. Under House Bill 2591, DSHS would be required to provide foster parents with timely and adequate notice of their right to be heard before each dependency court proceeding.
Unfortunately, many foster parents don't feel like they're treated as valuable partners in the system because they're not being notified of court hearings in a timely manner. That's a problem because one of the most valuable resources our courts have in making decisions in the best interest of a foster child are the foster parents themselves.
I worked hard on this bill, and reached across the aisle to get input every step of the way. While Rep. Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, and I agreed on the bill in principle, we did not initially come to an agreement on the right wording for it. I then reached out to Reps. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, and Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, and we came up with the magic words for an amendment to the bill that allowed it to move forward.
The process offered another example of how much we can do when we work together instead of letting partisan politics get in the way. House Bill 2591 is now in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee.
Another bill of mine, House Bill 2301, did not pass out of the House Higher Education Committee earlier this session. The bill would've restructured the State Need Grant program to fund grants for thousands more eligible students whose grants are currently unfunded. While there was an incredible amount of grassroots support for the bill, there wasn't enough interest from legislators in restructuring the program. I am going to keep working on the bill, and am hopeful it will pass during the next legislative session.
An update on the very first bill I passed as a legislator
Back in 2011, I introduced House Bill 1546 to create innovation schools and innovation zones focusing on arts, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in school districts. It was the first bill of mine to pass the Legislature and become law, and I'm happy to say I've heard very good things about its implementation. Next week, the House Education Committee will hold a work session on the bill, where we will discuss ways to improve upon what we started in 2011.
Town hall meeting tomorrow!
Tomorrow afternoon, I will be joining Sen. Fain and Rep. Sullivan to host a town hall meeting at the Golden Steer Restaurant in Kent. I'm really looking forward to it, because these town halls always provide an excellent opportunity to hear your feedback and ideas about how to solve the issues facing our communities.
WHAT: 47th Legislative District town hall meeting
WHERE: Golden Steer Restaurant in Kent (23826 104th Ave SE, Kent, WA 98031)
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 20 from 1-2 p.m.
I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!
Please continue to get in touch with me with any comments, questions or concerns you have. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7918.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.