Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has been a busy couple of weeks here in the Legislature. I have been working hard on legislation that promotes job creation and our agriculture industry. You can view the full list of bills I have sponsored or co-sponsored here.
Supplemental budget proposals
On Monday, the House considered two proposals to begin balancing the remainder of the 2009-11 budget, which ends June 30.
The majority proposal, which ultimately passed the House, would take deep cuts in education while keeping large social programs intact. According to our constitution, the priority of the state is education, and I believe it should be prioritized in the budget as well. Not only that, the cuts to education in the majority's proposal would be retroactive, meaning schools would have to return funding they have probably already spent to hire new teachers and staff in the classrooms. Voters should have confidence in the budgets their lawmakers craft, and these kinds of practices lead to distrust. I voted 'no' on this proposal. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.
Instead, I supported an alternative proposal, sponsored by Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, which eliminates costly social programs which the governor herself has suggested we end in order to balance the budget. The Legislature must still craft a budget for 2011-13 which closes a $5 billion spending gap. Ending these programs now will make it easier to balance the next two-year budget. The illustration below compares the majority's proposal on the left with the alternative proposal I supported on the right. As you can see, one cuts much more from schools in favor of protecting social programs, while the other ends these programs to protect more in education. We must write budgets that are sustainable in the long-term. Writing a temporary fix is short-sighted and not beneficial for the future of our state.
Anti-gang proposal heard in committee
This week the House public safety committee listened to testimony on a bill to address gangs. House Bill 1126, which I support, would:
- create a grant program for gang prevention and intervention;
- enhance sentencing for criminal gang behavior;
- authorize action to address a pattern of gang-related activity within properties or buildings; and,
- authorize protection orders by local authorities against an identified gang member.
Several people testified with concerns that racial profiling would occur as a result of the bill. However, the state attorney general's office has worked diligently to ensure there is a high standard for proving someone is a gang member, and that civil rights and due process are protected. As you and I know, everyone our Yakima Valley communities are affected by gang violence. The goal of this legislation is to specifically target those who are proven gang members – regardless of race, class or clothing – who have committed crimes and belong to a proven criminal street gang. We are working to get this bill voted out of committee next week sometime. From there, it will have to be placed on the calendar to receive a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments and suggestions. It is an honor to serve as your state representative.