Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's an honor to serve you in the state House, bringing your priorities to the forefront. As we begin the fourth week of the 2017 legislative session, I want to provide you with an overview of what I've been working on, my committee assignments, and where we are with education funding – our top priority this year.
This session, I have the privilege of continuing to serve as the assistant ranking member on the House Transportation Committee. This committee considers the transportation budget, revenue sources for transportation funding, and issues relating to transportation policy and agencies, including WSDOT and the Washington State Patrol.
I remain on the House Education Committee, which considers all issues surrounding K-12 education, and also now sit on the House Rules Committee. The Rules committee considers all bills reported from policy and fiscal committees, and determines whether they make it to the House floor for a vote.
A word on education funding
As you may be aware, the most critical issue facing the Legislature this year is solving the final piece of the education funding puzzle. We've been hard at work on this issue since the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling in 2012. While the Legislature has allocated nearly $5 billion more for K-12 education since 2012, the overreliance of school districts on local levy dollars remains a major problem.
Unfortunately, the House passed a bill last week that would push back a deadline – from 2018 to 2019 – to reduce the amount of money school districts are authorized to collect through local property tax levies. I fully understand why many people involved in our education system support this bill. They want to be assured education funding from levies will not automatically decrease. I respect this view, but I think passing this bill sent the wrong message – that we're not confident we can come up with a comprehensive plan that fully funds education anytime soon.
The good news is the majority party in the state Senate just rolled out a comprehensive education funding bill Friday night. While I haven't looked at every detail of the bill yet, I am encouraged they released this proposal far earlier in session than we've ever seen before. That gives me hope we may actually be able to get this important work done on time!
Bills to keep an eye on this session
I've introduced four bills this session, two of which I've introduced in past sessions.
House Bill 1214 would restructure the State Need Grant (SNG) program to help more low-income students graduate from college with less debt at no additional cost to the state. This bill would encourage SNG recipients to complete their first two years of postsecondary education at a community or technical college, by funding them accordingly, before completing their degree at a more expensive four-year institution. It essentially requires the state to make the same prudent decision many of you have made. With the savings provided by the bill, thousands more students would get the SNG at no additional cost to the state! I introduced a bill to do this last year, but it did not advance out of the Higher Education Committee. House Bill 1214 had a public hearing in committee last week.
House Bill 1215 would create a more robust system for the establishment and operation of locally-authorized Innovation Schools in Washington state. This bill is modeled after the very first bill I introduced when I was elected to the House. While some Innovation Schools were established as a result of the passage of that bill, House Bill 1215 would create a stronger system to: (1) Meet the educational needs of a diverse student population; (2) Improve educational performance; (3) Implement evidence-based practices to reduce demographic disparities in student achievement; and (4) Provide local school communities and principals with greater control over decisions related to staffing, personnel selection and evaluation, scheduling, and educational programming. This bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Education Committee.
House Bill 1632 (companion to Senate Bill 5281) would restrict state Board of Health (BOH) rules that affect most on-site sewage systems (OSS) from: (1) Requiring private monitoring contracts in order to obtain a use permit; (2) Requiring easements for OSS inspection, maintenance or expansion; and (3) Requiring OSS replacement when repairs are sufficient to restore the previous functionality of the OSS. This bill received a public hearing in the House Environment Committee earlier today.
House Bill 1788 (companion to Senate Bill 5448) would require the board of directors for each school district in the state to adopt a policy that prohibits school staff from denying a student access to programs or services because their parent or guardian has refused to place them on psychotropic (mood stabilizing) medication. This bill would also prohibit: (1) School staff from requiring a student to undergo psychological screening unless their parent or guardian gives prior written consent; and (2) A child from being taken into custody solely on the grounds that their parent or guardian refuses to consent to the administration of psychotropic medication. This bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Education Committee.
In my first video update of the 2017 legislative session, recorded last week, I discussed what 47th District residents should expect to see from the Legislature, as well as my personal goals for the session. Take a look!
2017 March for Life Rally
Last week, the 2017 March for Life Rally was held here at the Capitol. I was so encouraged by the number of people in attendance and honored to have an opportunity to speak. While I am very pleased to see the national abortion rate fall to its lowest level since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, the number of abortions performed every year in the United States is still astronomical. I ask those of us in the pro-life community to continue to pray for those who are weighing a decision between abortion or adoption, and consider what each of us can do to help these individuals.
Please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns. 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.