Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There is less than a week remaining in the 2016 legislative session. Supplemental operating budget proposals have been voted out of both the House and Senate, and negotiators are currently working on a final budget. I was unable to support the House proposal because it relies on nearly $120 million in tax increases and raids the state's rainy day fund. It also removes funding for the Washington Charter Schools Commission, taking us one step further away from saving our public charter schools. Additionally, this budget would set us on a course to inadequately fund K-3 class size reductions. Therefore, in addition to the precise number we determine is necessary to fully fund education in the 2017-2019 budget, we would need to come up with an additional $487 million. I think $120 million in tax increases, raiding the rainy day fund for non-emergencies, not providing for charter schools, and the class size reduction shortfall make this an irresponsible budget proposal.
However, I was happy to support the House supplemental transportation budget, and was pleased to see it pass the House with strong bipartisan support. As the assistant ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, I was in every budget meeting and actively participated in a very collaborative effort with my colleagues. The process was open and the dialogue respectful, which is the way it should be. While I recognize the state's transportation system needs significant improvements, this budget is not the mechanism for those changes. Rather, I will continue to support reforms and a responsible budget that funds next year's operations for our current system.
One very important element of the transportation budget is an increase in state trooper pay. This is urgent because after the expensive training the state provides to them, many troopers have left the highway patrol for other higher-paying law enforcement agencies. Many more are poised to leave if things don't change. This budget brings trooper pay more in line with the pay they would receive from the police departments actively recruiting them. All of the finer details of the budget, including trooper pay, will be negotiated in the Senate, but I was happy to support the House proposal.
It is important negotiators continue their good work so we can adjourn on time.
House Bill 2591 unanimously approved in the Senate
My bill to require the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to provide foster parents with timely and adequate notice of their right to be heard at court hearings was unanimously approved in the Senate earlier this week. The current process is not working like it's supposed to, so my bill seeks to change that.
In addition to the requirement for notification of a court hearing, the bill would require a court to create written findings about whether or not:
- Foster parents were notified in a timely manner.
- The court received a caregiver's report.
- The court provided the foster parents an opportunity to be heard.
These accountability provisions make it far more likely courts will receive the valuable information foster parents can supply to determine the best course of action for a child.
In my latest video update, I discuss the main concerns that were raised by constituents at the town hall I hosted with Sen. Fain and Rep. Sullivan last month. I also talk about my thought process when voting for or against legislation. Take a look!
Governor's prayer breakfast
I was honored to have the opportunity to offer some words this morning at the Governor's Prayer Breakfast about loving your neighbor as yourself. The annual prayer breakfast is a wonderful time to gather with leaders from all over the state. My faith is of utmost importance to me, so it was an honor for me to participate this year.
After the prayer breakfast, I hosted several university students for a lunch with Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam. I think the students enjoyed having a conversation with two legislators with the same last name and faith, but from opposite parties and opposite sides of the Capitol rotunda!
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.