The 2018 legislative session is underway. It is an honor to be in Olympia for my first session representing the communities of the 39th District!
In even-numbered years session is short; 60 consecutive days, including weekends and holidays. This will make for a fast-pace. We have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. Working hard is important, but knowing where to focus will be critical as we review potential public policy in the coming days.
Here are a some of the key issues I'll be working on
This session, I have two great committee assignments. One of my passions is helping children get a good start in life, serving on the House Early Learning and Human Service Committee allows me to do that. And, the House Capital Budget Committee sets the infrastructure and construction funding priorities for communities across the state.
Capital Budget and Hirst
Regrettably, the Legislature did not pass a capital budget in 2017. The hold-up has to do with the state Supreme Court's controversial Hirst decision. The implications of the court's decision have the potential of eliminating all or nearly all new household or exempt wells in rural Washington. It may be the biggest rural versus urban issue our state has ever faced.
A study by the Building Industry Association shows the ruling, which makes it costly and difficult for rural property owners to obtain permits for new wells, may be costing the state nearly $7 billion dollars per year in unrealized economic development. During the 2017 legislative session, a few solutions were considered, but none of them were approved.
The governor's most recent proposal, heard in a joint special session last week, would limit new, previously-exempt wells up to 350 gallons of indoor use per day and cost homeowners at a minimum $1,500 or more.
Stay tuned. In the coming weeks I will be fully examining this new proposal and working towards a solution. We need a capital budget and a real fix for Hirst.
In the past four years, lawmakers in Olympia have made historic investments in K-12 education. $48 billion, to be exact. This includes pay raises for teachers and more critical resources for students. For the first time since the early 1980s, more than 50 percent of the state's operating budget is dedicated to K-12 education.
In 2017, lawmakers approved House Bill 2242. These changes, along with others since the original 2012 McCleary order by the state Supreme Court, appear to be enough to meet our constitutional obligation to fully fund education. However, in a recent announcement by the court, the changes simply don't come soon enough. The justices said the money for teacher and staff salaries needs to be spent earlier than planned. In the coming weeks, we will be looking at ways to resolve this issue.
Here are a few bills I'm sponsoring this session
The Youth Internship Opportunity Act would create a pilot program allowing qualified restaurant and grocery store employers to employ youth interns under special certificates at wages authorized by the Department of Labor and Industries. House Bill 2275 has been referred to the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee where it awaits a public hearing.
House Bill 2276 would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide better notification to communities before relocating wildlife. The change would be especially helpful for residents living in rural and mountainous areas of the state. As it stands now, public hearings often happen hundreds of miles away from the communities affected by the relocation of the animals. This bill is scheduled in the House Committee of Agriculture and Natural Resources for a public hearing Thursday, Jan. 11 at 1:30 p.m.
And finally, I've introduced a bill that would help consumers facing credit data breaches. House Bill 2277 will allow victims of a data breach, like the recent Equifax breach, to do up to three credit freezes and three lifts per year, free of charge, at each credit reporting agency. My bill is one of a handful making their way through the legislature this session. It has been referred to the House Business and Financial Services Committee where it awaits a public hearing.
House Page Program
I'd like to talk to you about a great opportunity students have within the Washington State Legislature, and that is to serve in the House Page Program. During the session, each legislator can sponsor several pages, and without a doubt, the experience of spending a week in Olympia becomes a lifetime highlight for them! Pages must be between the ages of 14-16. They must get permission from their parents and school. Pages are paid $35 a day. You can access the page application here. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Olympia office.
I work for you!
Although we face many challenges, I believe we have an opportunity to pass policies that will improve the lives of all Washingtonians and move our state forward.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. Better yet, if you are planning a visit Olympia, come see me. I welcome your feedback and questions. My contact information is listed below.
It is an honor to serve as your state representative.