Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last Friday marked our first major deadline of the 2017 legislative session — policy committee cutoff. Any non-fiscal bills that were not voted out of their respective committees are now considered “dead” for the year. Our next major deadline is tonight at 5 p.m. At that time, all fiscal bills will need to have passed out of appropriations committees or they, too, will be considered “dead” for the year. There are two exceptions to this rule. At any time, bills can be deemed NTIB or NTPB — necessary to implement the budget or necessary to pass the budget. However, most bills that don't make it out of committee won't receive this designation and will have to be tabled until next year.
The biggest issue on our plate this session remains coming up with the final piece of the McCleary education funding puzzle. In the House on Wednesday, we had the opportunity to vote on the House Democrats' education funding bill — House Bill 1843. The bill passed on a party-line vote, but not before our caucus had the opportunity to introduce seven amendments — including one I sponsored — in an effort to improve it. The amendment I sponsored was focused on increasing MSOC (Materials, Supplies and Operating Costs) funds for Career and Technical Education and Skill Center programs. I believe if we make these necessary investments, students will be better equipped with practical skills for our workforce. This would, in turn, close the opportunity gap. I made that case on the floor, as did several of my colleagues, but the amendment was ultimately voted down.
One amendment was accepted by the majority party — to ensure that funds for K-3 class-size reductions are actually going toward that purpose. However, the acceptance of that one amendment wasn't enough to compel me to support the overall bill. It simply has too many problems. It doesn't make our K-12 funding system ample, equitable or accountable. It doesn't address the core McCleary problem, which is the overreliance of school districts on local levy dollars. Finally, it doesn't have any meaningful reforms and doesn't focus on accountability.
As if that weren't enough, not a single person in the majority party was able to provide any details about how they planned on paying for the bill. I was glad to see many media outlets cover that fact in yesterday's newspapers. It's simply irresponsible to introduce a multi-billion dollar proposal without revealing how you're going to pay for it. Taxpayers deserve to know if they're going to be on the hook for billions of dollars in new taxes.
Budget negotiators will have their work cut out for them as they work to develop a comprehensive K-12 education funding plan that takes the best ideas from the plans currently on the table. I wish the majority parties in each chamber were closer together than they are, but it's clear there are two fundamentally different visions for how we address education funding going forward. I'm hopeful we'll still be able to finish our work on time in the 105 days we've been allotted, but it certainly won't be easy.
My latest video update
On Monday morning, I recorded my latest legislative video update. In it, I provide an update on my bills, discuss K-12 education funding, and also talk a little bit about the progress being made on an issue that's very important to me — foster care reform. Take a look!
Appearing on TVW's “The Impact”
After floor action on Wednesday, I headed over to TVW's studio with Rep. Monica Stonier to record a segment on House Bill 1509, which she sponsored. The bill would eliminate the 24-credit high school graduation requirement and establish a 21-credit graduation requirement instead. I voted against the bill coming out of the House Education Committee because I believe the elimination of one credit in English and Science would result in our high school graduates being less prepared for college, the workplace and life.
You can watch our discussion on House Bill 1509 here.
House Page Program
Every session, students between the ages of 14 and 16 have the opportunity to travel to Olympia and spend a week serving as a page here in the House. Participants in the House Page Program attend page school every day, learn to navigate the many buildings on the Capitol Campus, and help fulfill tasks critical to the efficient operation of the Legislature. If you know of anyone who might interested in participating in the House Page Program, please send me an email. For more information, click here.
Please continue to contact me with your comments, questions and concerns. My phone number and email address are below. I also welcome you to contact my legislative assistant, Roy Atwood, to set up a time to meet with me.
It is an honor to serve you.