Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Now that election season is behind us, I'm able to once again communicate with you via our legislative e-newsletter. Look for regular electronic newsletter updates in the coming weeks and months. Your concerns are my concerns and that is why two-way communication is so important with the people I serve in the 18th District.
It is also why I am joining my 18th District seatmates this Saturday, Dec. 6 in Battle Ground for a town hall meeting. See details below.
Education – The paramount challenge of the 2015 session
Within the allotted 105-days of the regular session which begins Jan. 12, the Legislature will need to draft and approve a two-year state operating budget. Education funding will dominate the 2015 session. We must meet the state's paramount duty to fund education in a manner that adheres to the state constitution and satisfies the requirements of the Washington State Supreme Court under the McCleary decision.
It has been suggested that the Legislature may have to appropriate an additional $2 billion or more for K-12 education to satisfy the court requirements. Further complicating this requirement is the recent passage of Initiative 1351, which aims to reduce teacher-to-student ratios. While the idea to lower class sizes was well-intentioned, the initiative provided no specified funding source to carry out this goal. This measure could cost the state millions and even billions more.
Funding education is a matter of priority. We need to fund it first before all other state programs. In the coming biennium, the state is expected to take in $2.7 billion of additional revenue. That will give us a head start in meeting our paramount duty without tax increases, which I do not believe are necessary.
If you would like more background and a timeline of the McCleary decision, click here.
Gun rights and Initiative 594
Since passage of Initiative 594, the measure which requires criminal background checks for those purchasing firearms online or at gun shows, several firearms owners have contacted me with concerns about this new law. I personally did not support it. I'm a member of the National Rifle Association and a very strong supporter of provisions within our national and state constitutions, which guarantee citizens' rights to keep and bear arms. This measure passed statewide with just over 59 percent of the vote, so it is the will of the people. That said, I do believe there are troubling provisions within it that need to be addressed, while upholding the intent of the law, which is to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands.
During this legislative session, I plan to meet with interested parties to see how we can work to improve this new law, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Please do keep in mind that under state law, initiatives approved by the people cannot be changed by the Legislature within the first two years of passage without a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. After two years, initiatives can be changed by the Legislature with a simple majority.
Join us and other 18th District citizens for a town hall meeting
As we get closer to the new legislative session, it's important for me to hear from you about the issues that matter most. This will be a critical session to determine issues, such as education funding, recreational vs. medical marijuana, improving employment opportunities, and transportation funding (including discussion of alternatives to the failed Columbia River Crossing Bridge project). Your input is vital! Please join me, Rep. Brandon Vick and Sen. Ann Rivers this Saturday, Dec. 6 for a town hall meeting at the Battle Ground City Hall.
WHAT: 18th District Town Hall Meeting
WHERE: Battle Ground City Hall, 109 S.W. 1st Street
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
For more details, please call my office in Camas at: (360) 210-4534.
District office in Camas has re-opened
I am very pleased to announce that my legislative district office in Camas has been re-opened. It was closed in August after my legislative assistant, Garrett Delano, was hospitalized following a motorcycle accident. Calls were redirected to my Olympia office during the closure. Garrett has made a remarkable recovery and he is back staffing my office in Camas. I encourage you to stop by with questions, comments or ideas about state government and legislation. The address and phone number of the district office can be found at the bottom of this page. You can also find out more about the re-opening from my news release here.
I am honored that voters are again returning me to Olympia to be their voice at the state Capitol. It is a great privilege and an important duty I do not take lightly. Please feel free to contact me any time you have questions, comments, concerns or suggestions. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"