Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are less than one week away from the end of the 2014 legislative session. Since the Legislature passed a bipartisan, two-year state operating budget last year, policy bills have been the major focus of this session. Over the last few months, I have highlighted some of the good and bad bills in my weekly e-newsletters that have passed out of the House. As the dust settles and final bills emerge from both chambers and head to the governor's desk, I will provide a complete overview of major bills which become signed into law.
As you know, I am a member of the minority party in the House of Representatives. And, as such, it is difficult for members of my caucus to stop bills that raise taxes and fees, grow the size of government and increase regulatory burdens on Washington's businesses. We simply do not have the votes to halt these bills.
I want to recognize our friends in the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (SMCC) for being the backstop for many of those policy and tax-increase bills that would hurt our Washington families had they continued to move through the Legislature.
As evidenced in this session, a divided government can be a good thing. The SMCC has affected a new political dynamic in Olympia. In the short time I have been here, I have witnessed a more inclusive process when we all work together – Democrats and Republicans – to build supplemental transportation, operating and capital budgets. It is my belief that bipartisan coalitions are a superior way to govern.
I would also like to take a moment to thank all of the residents of the 18th District who took time out of their busy schedules last Saturday to attend the town hall meetings Sen. Ann Rivers and I held in Camas and the Salmon Creek area of Vancouver. Your input and our discussions during the events are very much appreciated and very helpful. Between the two meetings, we had a turnout of nearly 100 people.
It is your support and input that has helped me to move several bills through the House and Senate. I invite you to read on for more details of these and my other bills.
As always, I welcome your comments. It is an honor to represent you, the citizens of the 18th District.
Pike's election and local government bills gain unanimous Senate approval; One is heading to the governor, the other not far behind
I'm happy to report two of my bills passed out of the Senate this week.
- House Bill 2296 would require duplicate signatures on city and county petitions to be counted once, rather than thrown out completely. I introduced the first bill to bring city and county petition laws up to the same standards as state law, and to protect the rights of Washington voters when their intent is to sign a petition on initiatives and referendums. An amendment replacing language in the original bill was attached in the Senate, meaning the measure will return to the House for further action. I fully expect the House to concur with the Senate amendment and send the bill to the governor.
- House Bill 2298 would allow cities and counties to use capital project money to pay for security and technology improvements for new police and fire stations. The measure is the result of working with our Cowlitz County Commissioners in meetings over the summer. They were looking for flexibility in the use of capital project money that comes from the proceeds of the real estate excise tax. They wish to use this money for technology upgrades and infrastructure for police and fire stations. This measure is on its way to the governor.
For more information about these bills, read my press release here.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure to speak on Lars Larson's radio show to discuss some of my bills that have merit, but did not advance this session. I will continue to work with stakeholders and members of the other side of the aisle to address some of the concerns. It is my hope that with a few modifications, these bills could gain traction in upcoming legislative sessions. They include:
- School district territory – House Bill 2291 concerned the transfer of school district territory initiated by school boards of directors. This bill got a hearing in the House Education Committee. It would have required all affected school district boards of directors to first sign an agreement to change school boundary lines. I drafted this bill at the request of the Ridgefield School Board. I am very grateful to Board Member Jeff Vigue for traveling to Olympia to testify in favor of this bill.
- Regulatory review, reduction and reform – House Bill 2293 is a good agency review measure that would have allowed the Legislature to review new rules promulgated by state agencies. The bill would have directed the Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee (JARRC) to review any new agency rule when one of any of three triggers happens: at request of at least 15 legislators; at request of cities representing 50,000 residents; or if there is a $10 million statewide impact. I introduced this bill at the request of Clark County's largest business groups, including Clark County Economic Development Council, Clark County Realtors, Greater Vancouver Chamber and Clark County Building Industry Association. This bill got a hearing in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, but did not advance from the committee before the policy cut-off deadline.
- Accountability at the workplace against intoxication – Another of my priority bills is House Bill 2295 which would have limited industrial insurance benefits for injuries caused by use of intoxicating liquor or drugs in the workplace. This bill received a hearing this session in the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. In Washington, we appropriately punish drunk drivers with heavy fines and jail time. Yet, we incentivize this same behavior in the workplace! We do this by rewarding employees who violate written employment policies by providing generous time-loss benefits when they are injured on the job as a result of intoxication from drugs or alcohol. My bill would continue to provide medical benefits to the injured, intoxicated employee, but would forfeit time-loss benefits in this situation. Last summer, I convened a stakeholder group of Clark County business leaders to learn more about what I could do to improve Washington's business climate. This bill was a direct request from this group.
- Saving local tax dollars – House Bill 2299 also got a hearing in the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, but did not advance before the policy cut-off deadline. It would have permitted local governments to opt out of prevailing wage requirements on all projects valued at less than $5 million with a simple majority vote by the governing city council or county commission. Many people believe prevailing wage rules increase the cost of construction by as much as 30 percent. I introduced this bill because it would have saved our cities and counties money on construction projects and provided for more local control. I am grateful to current and former Camas City Administrators Pete Capell and Lloyd Halvorson and Washougal City Administrator David Scott for traveling to Olympia to testify in favor of this bill.
My district represents six small cities including: Camas and Battle Ground with approximately 20,000 residents each, Washougal with 14,584 residents, Ridgefield with 5,260, La Center with 3,044, and Yacolt with a population of 1,612. As your state representative, I will continue to work on important city issues by seeking creative solutions that provide financial relief and streamlined regulations. I will also continue to work to restore the Public Works Assistant Account and advocate for the restoration of local shares from liquor tax revenues. Our cities and counties are on the front lines of liquor law enforcement and it is only right that we restore their previous tax revenue levels.
Sine die expected next Thursday, March 13… maybe sooner!
As the Legislature approaches its constitutional 60-day limit of the regular session on March 13, there are plenty of rumors about when sine die would actually occur. The term “sine die” is Latin, meaning “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.”
Last year, the Legislature met in its regular session for 105 days. However, budget negotiations had stalled and we went into two 30-day special sessions, finally adjourning sine die toward the end of June. The governor called us back again in another special session in November to address tax incentives for Boeing and the aerospace industry. After being in session for more than six months last year, there's a real push for the Legislature to finish its business on time by next Thursday.
The differences between the Senate and House supplemental budget proposals are very few. While House Democrats have proposed some $200 million in tax increases, the reality is that will likely go nowhere, meaning that we should see final compromise supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets early next week to vote on. If that happens, some are predicting the Legislature may adjourn a day early.
I'm looking forward to returning to Clark County, re-opening my district office in Camas, and meeting with many of you across the 18th Legislative District. Hopefully, I will see you soon!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"