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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have finished our first week of the 2014 legislative session and are now into the second week. It has been an interesting and lively experience.
I plan to provide an update to you on a weekly basis between now and our scheduled date of adjournment on March 13. I welcome your comments and input as we make decisions over the next eight weeks that could impact the 18th District and the state of Washington.
My Camas office is closed for now and we have opened my office in Olympia. The phone number is (360) 786-7812. You are welcome to e-mail me at: email@example.com.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
Putting the brakes on the Oregon “Go It Alone” CRC concept
Even before the gavel fell for the opening of the 2014 legislative session, I was working the previous weekend to issue a joint letter with several other Southwest Washington area lawmakers to encourage Clackamas County Commissioners in Oregon to reject the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) proposal as it now stands. We sent the letter in advance of an Economic and Community Development Transportation meeting of the Association of Oregon Counties. I invite you to read the letter here.
It was also forwarded to Oregon legislators so there is no doubt how a majority of our local Washington lawmakers feel about the current CRC design and the Oregon “Go It Alone” plan. Recent correspondence from our Oregon colleagues indicates there is not sufficient support from enough Oregon legislators to approve any funding plan to move forward with the CRC. Even Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler has warned against issuing bonds because he doesn't believe there will be enough revenue from the tolls to pay for the CRC. Perhaps, in a few short months, everyone can agree the current CRC proposal is finally dead. Then maybe we can begin discussions on real transportation solutions that our respective communities can rally around.
Opening ceremonies cut short for illegal immigrant tuition assistance bill
No one in Olympia can remember a time when lawmakers voted on a bill the very first day. It happened last Monday as opening ceremonies were cut short so that the House could take action on House Bill 1817. It was pure politics to jam this bill through on the first day without public hearings this year. The measure would extend state tuition assistance to undocumented students. You can read more about this measure in my “Bad Bill” section below.
Governor's State of the State Address
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his State of the State Address. He called for eliminating tax breaks/exemptions (raising taxes), increasing the state's minimum wage (even though Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation), passing a transportation funding package (proposed to cost an additional 11 1/2 cents a gallon more at the gas pump), and addressing climate change (the governor's proposed low-carbon fuel standards could raise fuel prices by a dollar a gallon). Welcome to the bureaucratic world of Olympia, which largely disregards the concerns of citizens beyond the state Capitol! I'm fighting on your behalf to bring a voice of reason to the Capitol. We should be concentrating on increasing jobs and helping struggling families and employers — not driving our small businesses into Oregon!
Supreme Court orders Legislature to spend even more for education
Despite the fact the Legislature pumped an additional $1 billion into K-12 education last year, the state Supreme Court said Jan. 9 that it wasn't sufficient to meet the requirements of its McCleary decision. The high court said, “we have no wish to be forced into entering specific funding directives to the state, or, as some high courts have done, holding the Legislature in contempt of court. But it is incumbent on the state to demonstrate, through immediate, concrete action, that it is making real and measurable progress.”
I believe we have shown “real and measurable progress” by directing more money toward K-12 education than ever before. I support the House Republican proposal to fund education first in the budget before other programs, as education is the state's “paramount duty.” And I spent the past few months working with teachers, educators and school administrators who are on my Education Kitchen Cabinet reviewing what is needed to make our schools better. It isn't just about money. There are other reforms needed, including cutting bureaucracy to let teachers teach and getting parents involved.
Separation of powers – High court goes too far
I share the concern of many legislators who believe the state Supreme Court is overstepping its constitutional separation of powers by trying to write the state budget. It's the job of the Legislature to make the laws and appropriate money to operate state government. It's the job of the state Supreme Court to interpret the laws and the constitution. I agree that education should be our top priority, but the court has no business telling us what our timeline is. It is up to us to craft that budget and it us up to us to decide the timeline. The Legislature will do that when it is ready. We will have that debate. That's what we're here for.
A new committee appointment
I am thrilled to be named as a member of the House Local Government Committee. The appointment became effective on Jan. 13, the first day of session. I look forward to using my experience on the Camas City Council (from 2004 – 2007) to address issues and challenges facing our cities and counties. For more information, I invite you to read my press release here.
GOOD BILLS – My proposed legislation
Since last Wednesday, I have introduced 11 new constituent-request bills ranging from reducing highway littering to prevailing wage reforms. If you would like to read a description of many of my 2014 legislative proposals, you can download that document here. Go here if you would like to see all the legislation that I have sponsored.
Two of my prime-sponsored bills are scheduled for a hearing this Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 8 a.m. in the House Local Government Committee. I invite your input and encourage you to testify. They include:
- House Bill 2296 – This measure would address duplicate signatures on petitions in cities and towns. It would clean up an unconstitutional component and bring local petition signature rules in line with state law. The Cowlitz County Superior Court ruled current law is unconstitutional. With this bill, all duplicate signatures will be counted once.
- House Bill 2297 – This bill changes the definition of public facilities to include roadway, traffic and way-finding signage. It would assist our distressed counties to increase economic vitality to tourism areas by improving roadway signage. The measure comes at the request of Cowlitz County commissioners.
In my next e-mail update, I will provide a brief list and description of the new bills I've introduced.
BAD BILL – The Dream Act – House Bill 1817
On Monday, the first day, House majority Democrats took the unusual step of running a measure, House Bill 1817 – the so-called “Dream Act” – on the floor for a vote. The measure would make illegal immigrants eligible to compete for the state Need Grant as assistance for college tuition. It's the identical bill from last year that stalled in the Senate at the end of the second special session in June. I voted against it last year and I voted “no” again on Monday.
There are thousands of students in Washington who are legal residents of the United States and competing for these finite dollars to go to college. Why should we be adding undocumented students for eligibility when there is not enough money to go around for legal residents?
"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