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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature is now in its tenth week of this 105 day session. Last Wednesday marked the cut off for all House bills to be voted off the floor. It's important to note that select bills meeting the approval of the majority party were allowed to come up for a vote in our House Chamber.
For the most part, I played defensive, voting no on bills that expanded government, increased regulations, hurt small business and infringed on our constitutional liberties. I also joined my colleagues to amend some bills in order to improve them. There were a few good bills I voted for which had bipartisan support. Even though I get frustrated at times, it's not all bad news coming out of Olympia.
Over the past nine weeks, I have shared with you some of the bad bills and a few of the good bills we have heard. Thank you for the feedback you have provided.
As you know, I sit on four policy committees including:
- Community Development, Housing, Tribal and Veterans Affairs and State Parks
I am also an Assistant Floor Leader for my caucus. In that role, I assist our Floor Leader so that our speakers are identified and ready to stand up and speak to bills when the time is right. Even though I am very new to the legislative process, I have learned my role quickly.
Following last Wednesday's cut-off, we began hearing Senate Bills in our policy committees. We will continue to hear those bills over the next few weeks. Thanks to the conservative “Majority Coalition Caucus” in the Senate, the quality of the bills has gone up exponentially. It is my hope the House will embrace many of these pro-business reform bills so that we can get Washington working again. However, there is a good chance our Chamber will kill most of those good Senate bills and the Senate will kill most of the bad bills that came out of the House. Due to this political dynamic, my prediction is there will be very few bills that get signed into law. And I think that is a good thing for our state.
Gun Bill 1588 Ties Floor in Knots
As House Republicans, we found ourselves in an unusual position on the floor last Tuesday, March 12th. We experienced about ten hours of gridlock as the majority party worked behind caucus doors to garner partisan support for House Bill 1588, a bill that would have placed more firearm restrictions on law abiding citizens. I opposed this bill because I saw it as an infringement on our second amendment rights and another step to more gun bans. When the Oregonian newspaper reporter called to ask about the lack of floor action that day, I responded that it was a good day for Washington business. Since HB 1588 discussion took up most of the other party's attention, behind closed doors, it prevented a host of bad legislation from being voted on. In Olympia, that's always a good thing.
Fund Education First
As House Republicans, we unveiled our “Fund Education First” budget last week. The stand-alone, K-12 education budget would meet the expectations of the state constitution and state Supreme Court's McCleary decision. I am proud to say this K-12 education budget focuses on high standards, innovation and accountability.
Fund Education First is a solution first introduced by House Republicans in 2006. It would elevate K-12 education to the highest level in the budget process and ensure it is properly funded every budget cycle.
Proposed Substitute House Bill 1057 would increase K-12 education funding by $903 million for the 2013-15 budget cycle, with $817 million based on the McCleary decision and $86 million dedicated to other policy enhancements. It would include: $302 million for K-3 class-size reduction; $229 million to expand full-day kindergarten to 61 percent of school districts in the 2013-14 school year, prioritizing high-poverty school districts, and to all school districts in the 2014-15 school year; $158 million for full implementation of increased instructional hours for grades 7-12 by the 2014-15 school year; and $128 million for a 29 percent increase in materials, supplies and operating costs (MSOC).
The Fund Education First budget would also provide funding for I-1240 (charter schools), increased levy equalization funding, a longitudinal data system, health benefit rate adjustments, and a Career and Technical Education correction.
While much of the public discussion around the McCleary decision has focused on how much money should be spent, House Republicans believe it is vital to focus on how money is spent in the education system. This budget recognizes that we can't continue to feed a system that is failing so many of our children. Our plan directs dollars to the classroom first – where we know we will see the best return on investment in student outcomes. Fund Education First meets the expectations of the state Supreme Court and constitution, but more importantly the needs of children. The Fund Education First budget proposal includes bills that will improve our State's public education system:
- House Bill 1134 would authorize state-tribal education compact schools.
- House Bill 1424 would enhance the state's K-12 dropout prevention, intervention and reengagement system.
- Senate Bill 5237 would implement strategies to improve literacy skills for K-4 students.
- Senate Bill 5243 would establish policies to support academic acceleration for high school students.
- Senate Bill 5329 would create a state-funded required action process for the state's ten persistently lowest-performing schools.
- Senate Bill 5587 would modify the statewide assessment system to transition to higher-quality exams.
PSHB 1057 would dedicate $15.1 billion to K-12 education in the 2013-15 budget cycle. The amount for 2011-13 is $13.6 billion. It would also increase the percentage of the operating budget allocated to K-12 education from 44 percent in the 2011-13 budget cycle to 46 percent for 2013-15. We also believe our approach focuses on better student outcomes and real actions to close the achievement gap.
It's time to focus on the children in our education system. There are two very different approaches forming for the budget this year. House Republicans believe education should be fully funded first, and the rest of the budget can be prioritized in a way that does not require tax increases. The other side believes more taxes are needed and feel emboldened now that the taxpayer protection initiative has been thrown out. I will continue to lobby for the taxpayer.
As House Republicans, are working closely on the operating budget with the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, which has also said – along with Governor Jay Inslee – that tax increases are not needed to balance the operating budget. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will continue to keep you apprised of new developments as our state budget becomes final.
Thanks for Attending Our Town Halls
I was glad to see so many residents attend our town halls last Saturday at the Battle Ground City Hall and at Camas High School. We stayed long past our advertised one hour schedules so that everyone had a chance to tell us what was on their mind. A large number of citizens reminded us how unpopular the proposed Columbia River Crossing I-5 replacement bridge project is. Public school funding was also a common topic in both Battle Ground and Camas. One Camas resident also raised concerns about the proposed increase in coal trains on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line. I want to take this opportunity to thank our hardworking Senator Ann Rivers, her Legislative Assistant Liz Coleman, and my Legislative Assistant Garrett Delano for taking care of all the logistical details at our successful town halls. It is an honor to serve with such a dynamic and effective Senator and I feel very fortunate to have a capable assistant in Garrett.
As always, it's an honor to serve the citizens in the 18th Legislative District.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"
469 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7812 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000