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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are in the fifth week of a short, 60-day session. By 5 p.m. today, a lot of bad bills will no longer be in play and that's a good thing. However, hundreds of good reform bills will also end up on the chopping block. For the past week, we've spent long days and nights on the House floor. Our time is dotted with long periods of waiting, interspersed with debating and voting on an endless list of bills.
As members of the minority party, the only thing House Republicans can do is drop dozens of amendments on bad bills in an effort to make these measures “less bad.” But it's mostly futile, like putting lipstick on a pig. In the end, most of our amendments are rejected and it's still a pig!
We finished up for the day on Monday, sometime after midnight going into Tuesday morning. That evening was punctuated by a long debate about House Bill 2285 concerning a plan for the protection of the marbled murrelet. I had to do some research because this is a bird I'd never heard of.
The entire debate sounded like the spotted owl debacle, version two. You know the story; the Legislature, in its lack of infinite wisdom, decided to decimate our logging industry in dozens of rural communities across Washington in order to protect the habitat of the spotted owl. But years later, after the economic damage was done, we learned that another owl, the barred owl, was actually the largest predator of the spotted owl and that its declining numbers had very little to do with logging practices. The barred owl is native to eastern North America, but expanded its range to the West Coast where they began to prey on our own spotted owls.
Our side of the aisle experienced a terrible deja vu moment with the discussion surrounding the marbled murrelet, determined to prevent the future destruction of more rural families' way of life. House Republicans care about our environment and its critters, but we care about our working families too. We demonstrated Monday night that we are not willing to repeat the mistakes of the past. People matter! Families matter! Jobs matter!
You can listen to some of that debate in this radio report.
It is during these types of debates that I'm reminded of why you sent me here; to stand in the gap and fight for common sense solutions that protect our working families.
Additionally, I wish I could report on all of the great government bills that are advancing through the Washington State House of Representatives. I wish I could tell you how we are reducing the size of state government and reforming our state agencies. I wish I could tell you that we are lowering your property taxes that are set to explode this year. Alas, none of this would be true.
With complete and total control by one party, things will only get worse for our state's hardworking taxpayers.
One ray of sunshine comes with the passage of a lone Pike bill, House Bill 1606, which is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee on Thursday. This good transparency bill would require local governments to conduct a public hearing prior to raising car tab fees and sales tax in order to fund local road projects in Transportation Benefit Districts. Citizens deserve an opportunity to voice their opinions before these taxes are levied. I'm hopeful this bill will end up on the governor's desk soon.
Protect our protectors!
Lastly, I want to raise awareness around an important veteran's issue that is near and dear to my heart. I introduced House Bill 2915 earlier this session. The measure would prohibit a court from including disability-related benefits or Veteran's Administration (VA) compensation in gross income for the purpose of calculating child support obligation. I stand in strong support of requiring parents to meet their child support obligation. However, there are many veterans returning from the battlefield, only to find their former spouse has abandoned their marriage, hooked up with someone new and then demand nearly all of their former spouse's disability pay to fund their new lifestyle.
Since introducing this legislation, I am hearing from veterans from all over the state and the nation in support of this change. It is happening to both women and men who have served our country. The measure does not prevent a family court from including other compensation, it just prevents disability-related and VA compensation in child-support calculations. We must do all we can to protect our protectors.
In many cases, our disabled military heroes are being force to live on the streets because of this situation. It also contributes to the high rate of suicide among our veteran population. Sadly, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee refused to even give the bill a public hearing. I am hopeful that next session, this bill will get more support. We have too many homeless veterans. Their service should mean something. In my next newsletter, I will tell you about some of the phone calls we've received from disabled veterans across America.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this session. I never forget that I work for the people. As always, please contact my office if you have any comments, questions or suggestions.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"
469 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
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