We are now entering the final stretch of the 2014 session. In this e-newsletter I discuss the budget, my bills, the governor's suspension of the death penalty in Washington state and the recent telephone town hall that my seatmate Rep. David Taylor and I hosted.
I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to contact me via e-mail, letters and phone calls over the last several weeks. It's important for me to know your thoughts as we start to wrap up the session.
I also want to say thanks to James Juntii who served as a legislative page for me this week. Page duties are varied. They range from ceremonial tasks such as presenting the flags to operational chores like distributing amendments during legislative sessions. Each job is vital to the efficient operation of the Legislature. Thanks, James!
For more information about the House Page Program and how to apply, click here.
Again, thank for the honor and privilege of serving you in Olympia. If you have any questions or concerns, or need help dealing with a state agency, feel free to call me.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how close the House Democrat supplemental budget proposal was to the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (SMCC) budget proposal. The four-year balanced budget legislation that we passed last year requires each budget to be “balanced” out to four years. I believe this is one of the the main reasons for the similarities in the two budgets. While budget negotiations are ongoing, the starting point for each side is much closer than in years past. This bodes well for the Legislature finishing its business on time without wasting further tax dollars with multiple special sessions.
I joined with my House Republican colleagues in voting against the House Democrat budget. We felt the SMCC budget, while not perfect, was more closely aligned with our priorities of funding education first, public safety and protecting the most vulnerable. The House budget also seeks to raise taxes by $100 million (bottled water, e-cigs, etc.) and leaves too little in reserves to protect against unforeseen circumstances. In the end, the SMCC budget passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 41-8. In the House, the only “bipartisan” was the NO vote as one Democrat joined with all House Republicans in voting no. I think the final budget that is negotiated will look more like the SMCC budget than the House Democrat proposal. I'll keep you updated.
If you'd like to read a little more about the House Democrat budget, check out this article: “Republicans say House budget sets state up for future tax increases” – Daily Sun News
You can watch the entire three hour floor debate on the budget by clicking here. To view my closing remarks, scroll the timer forward to the 2:47:26 mark. Here is a small excerpt:
“Mr. Speaker, every morning and every night, there are people in my community – and yours – who get up and go to work. And they work as hard as they can. Those people need to be remembered, Mr. Speaker. They're the ones that are going to pay the bill. What they need and what they ask for, loudly and clearly, is to get a chance to catch their breath. What the people of this state are seeking is not more government and higher taxes, they're seeking a chance to put their lives back together again. They're seeking an opportunity to have some stability, predictability and sustainability. That's what they want us to have in this budget. And I'm still optimistic that we will be able to do that over the next nine days. Thank you.”
2SHB 1072 would allow a safety and skills program for agriculture workers, hopefully along them to transition from a “job” to a “career.” This bill passed the House 82-14 and then recently passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee. It is currently on the 2nd Reading Calendar in the Senate Rules Committee, meaning it is eligible for a vote of the entire Senate at any time.
HB 2596 would authorize rural counties to use sales and use taxes to purchase water rights. It died in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. This bill really started the dialogue on whether or not water banking is the right strategy for the future of water management in Washington state. I'll continue to work to find the best solution for future ground water management in our state.
Gov. Jay Inslee suspends the death penalty
Gov. Jay Inslee shocked the family members of victims earlier this session when he announced he was suspending the death penalty while he is governor. This caught legislators off guard as many of us believe decisions this big should be left up to the Legislature where open debate from both sides of the issue can be heard.
I have two main concerns regarding the governor's actions: He is doing this through his executive powers, and didn't approach the Legislature or have legislation introduced so we could go through the public hearing process and let the people's voice be heard. And, there seems to be a lack of concern for the victims' families. A loved one has been taken from them in a violent crime, yet the governor is now telling them he will issue a reprieve to the guilty party if a death penalty case crosses his desk while he is in office.
To view a list of the nine murderers on death row and the crimes they committed, click here.
Telephone Town Hall
I want to thank those of you who were able to join Rep. David Taylor and me at our telephone town hall on Tuesday night. We had over 2,900 participants and at one time had 757 listeners on the line at the same time. It was a great turnout. I really appreciate being able to hear from folks back home while I'm in Olympia. We talked about the governor's suspension of the death penalty, the potential gas tax increase, health care, education, the budget, and many more issues. Hearing your thoughts, concerns and solutions regarding the things we're dealing with in the Legislature is such an honor. The 15th Legislative District is very involved and very knowledgeable.
I also wanted to share with you the results of our survey questions:
1) Gov. Jay Inslee recently announced he is suspending the death penalty in Washington state while he is in office. Do you agree with his actions?
YES = 16.9%
NO = 83.1%
2) What is the number one problem that you, or someone you know, are experiencing with Obamacare?
Not able to keep my health insurance plan = 4.9%
Not able to keep my doctor = 6.6%
Had to switch health plans and am now paying more = 8.2%
Not enough options to choose from to fit my needs and budget = 9.8%
Problems with access to or delays with the state Healthplanfinder website or phone number = 6.6%
We've had no problems whatsoever = 14.8%
Does not apply to me = 49.2%
3) The state Supreme Court recently chastised the Legislature, saying lawmakers need to put more money into education and teacher salaries right away, despite the fact we spent over a billion dollars extra in K-12 education in last year's budget. Do you agree with the state Supreme Court's ruling?
YES = 17.9%
NO = 66.1%
NOT SURE = 16.1%