The 60-day legislative session ended on March 8. More than 300 bills passed this year and the governor has been signing many of these measures over the last two weeks. You can find a list of these bills here.
One of the primary responsibilities of the Legislature is to pass the three state budgets: operating, capital and transportation. Below are some details on these budgets, including links to more information and how I voted on each of them this year.
Supplemental operating budget
The supplemental operating budget makes midcourse adjustments to the two-year operating budget that is passed in odd-numbered years, such as 2017. The 2018 supplemental operating budget spends an additional $1.2 billion in the current budget cycle that runs through the middle of 2019. Much of this spending is dedicated to new K-12 salary allocations for the 2018-19 school year, behavioral health enhancements and a one-time property tax reduction of $.30/$1,000 of assessed value in 2019.
There are certainly good things about this budget. However, I have to look at the whole picture when I decide to vote on legislation. This budget passed primarily on a party-line vote, and I voted against it.
It is my belief we could have provided more significant property tax relief and this year – not next year. I also didn’t like the budget gimmick that was used to avoid directing state revenue to the constitutionally protected Budget Stabilization Account (also called the rainy-day fund).
The last five years we’ve seen great bipartisan collaboration on the operating budget, but this approach was abandoned this year. Both sides of the political aisle should be involved in this important legislation.
I voted for the 2017-19 and 2018 supplemental bipartisan capital budgets this year because they fund school construction, mental health facilities, higher education, salmon recovery, and other important projects in our state. To view a list of projects for the 39th District, visit this website, go to “Leg Districts” and check “039.” The capital budget did not pass last year because it was tied to the passage of a Hirst solution (water rights).
Speaking of water rights, the supplemental capital budget includes $2.5 million for studies in Water Resource Inventory Areas 3 and 4, as well as a task force to review water uses and make recommendations to increase available water supply in these areas. There continues to be water-availability problems in Skagit County and we must address them.
Supplemental transportation budget
Another example of both sides of the political aisle working together is the passage of the 2018 supplemental transportation budget. My “yes” vote on this budget was based on it keeping promises made to taxpayers on various projects around the state and addressing emergencies (including funding for emergency road repairs in the Town of Lyman). As we look ahead, we must continue to hold WSDOT accountable to ensure our scarce gas-tax dollars are being used effectively and efficiently.
Bills that will impact employers
- Prohibits an employer from, among other things, including any question on an application or inquiring into an applicant’s criminal background until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position.
- Exempts certain employers from the prohibition.
- Authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the provisions and impose penalties.
- Modifies the Equal Pay Act by defining “similarly employed,” referring to gender, modifying defenses, providing an administrative remedy, and making other changes.
- Prohibits discrimination in providing career advancement opportunities based on gender.
- Prohibits retaliation for certain workplace discussions about wages and other matters.
House Bill 1953 | Bill Report
- Adjusts penalty maximum and minimum amounts for Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act violations by specifying any higher amounts required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Prohibits an employer from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace, at work-related events coordinated by or through the employer, or between employees or between an employer and employee, off the employment premises.
- Provides that such agreement or waiver is against public policy and therefore void and unenforceable.
- Makes it an unfair practice under the Washington Law Against Discrimination for an employer to discharge or retaliate against an employee for disclosing or discussing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace.
- Allows settlement agreements to have confidentiality provisions.
- Provides that a provision of an employment contract or agreement is against public policy and is void and unenforceable if it requires an employee to waive the right to publicly pursue a cause of action under the Washington Law Against Discrimination or federal antidiscrimination laws or publicly file
a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency, or if it requires an employee to resolve discrimination claims in a dispute resolution process that is confidential.
Senate Bill 6471 | Bill Report
- Requires the Human Rights Commission to convene a stakeholder work group to develop model policies and best practices for employers and employees to keep workplaces safe from sexual harassment.
Save the date: Town hall meetings on Saturday, April 14
I’d like to invite you to town hall meetings I will be hosting with Sen. Keith Wagoner on Saturday, April 14. Here are details for the three events:
9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
Fire Station 31
163 Village Court
1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Crossroad High School (Commons Area)
205 North Alder Avenue
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
325 Metcalf Street
I think it is important to provide you access to your state lawmakers and share information on what’s happening in the citizen Legislature.
Staying in touch!
Please feel free to contact me any time with your questions about the legislative session and state government. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Olympia.