Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now half-way through the 60-day session. We have yet to see a proposal by budget writers to balance the $1.5 billion shortfall. However, last week the House Republicans unveiled an education-only budget. It is built upon the principle that education should be funded first in the budgeting process (House Bill 2533), and not in competition with other parts of the budget.
Fund Education First
The education budget fully funds levy equalization and also includes reforms and accountability measures to provide taxpayers confidence their dollars are being used efficiently for the greatest benefit of students. The measures include:
- House Bill 1414 would allow school districts to waive certain unfunded mandates.
- House Bill 2165 would provide professional development for a new teacher/principal evaluation system.
- House Bill 2427 would implement revised teacher/principal evaluation systems.
- House Bill 2506 would provide flexibility and accountability for bilingual and learning assistance programs.
I encourage you to read more about the Fund Education First plan here.
Here's an update on other education measures I wrote to you about earlier:
- House Bill 2428 is now considered “dead” after it failed to move forward by the policy deadline. (Read more here.) The bill would have established up to 50 public charter schools in Washington, specifically in areas with failing schools. This would not affect our 15th District.
- House Bill 2479 is also considered “dead” after it failed to move forward by the policy deadline. The bill would have expanded waivers from five to 25 school districts wanting to waive the state's 180-day school year requirement. Bickleton, Lyle and Patterson school districts were among the first to apply for this waiver from our district. This is not something for every school district, but I do think it's an important option for those who want to apply.
- The policy of House Bill 2334 to expand an educator and principal evaluation pilot program to school districts statewide was similar to House Bill 2427. Unfortunately, neither moved forward in the process.
Many of you contacted my office in recent months about the way the new Discover Pass parks fee was implemented. Several bills are moving forward to address several of the concerns heard from constituents. This includes allowing a pass to be used on more than one vehicle, exempting certain outdoor recreation users who pay another kind of fee, and limiting the final cost to parks users. I'll keep you updated as these bills move through the process.
I have also heard from many constituents concerned about funding for critical area hospitals. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, I will fight to ensure these rural lifelines are funded in the state's budget. Access to these rural community clinics and hospitals are critical for those who live, in some cases, hours from a large hospital.
I have sponsored or co-sponsored several bills that are moving forward, including:
- House Bill 1297 would provide water rights holders 15 years to put their water to beneficial use, expanded from the current five-year period. This would incentivize conservation and reflects the realities of crop rotation, market demand and weather conditions. It is waiting for a vote by the full House.
- House Bill 2213 would update the definition of “improved property” to include agricultural structures and small bridges for the purposes of expanding fire protection on rural land. The bill passed the House 96-0 and is now waiting for a hearing in the Senate.
- House Bill 2509 would expand the Blueprint for Safety pilot program statewide to offer additional tools to employers so they can manage their work places more safely and productively. The bill passed the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee unanimously and could be scheduled for a vote by the full House soon. You can read more about the proposal here.
- House Bill 2456 would provide a timely and accurate response to livestock disease by ensuring we can trace diseases to the source expediently. This allows producers to respond quickly and assure the public their food is safe. The bill was approved unanimously by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and now awaits a vote by the full House.
- House Bill 2471 would simplify the background check process for those applying for a concealed weapons permit, offering just one application for state and federal authorities. The bill could be scheduled for a vote by the full House soon.
As always, please feel free to contact my office with questions, concerns or suggestions. I always appreciate hearing from you.
It's an honor to serve you.