Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last Wednesday, April 29, legislators were called back to Olympia into special session to complete the unfinished work of negotiating and passing a two-year state operating budget for the 2015-17 fiscal cycle. Lawmakers passed several bills on Wednesday and then were released into what is known as a “rolling session.” This means that we essentially “roll” from one floor session to the next each day, but lawmakers are not on the floor. They've gone home while budget negotiators meet in Olympia to try to find agreement on the three budgets: operating, capital and transportation.
If and when agreements are reached on either the budgets or legislation that enable passage of the budgets, lawmakers will be called back to Olympia to take votes on the House floor. The Senate is also in the same type of rolling session.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm very disappointed the Legislature did not finish its business within the allotted 105-day session. The primary reason we are in a special session is because Democrats and the governor insist on raising taxes by as much as $1.5 billion, even though the state is bringing in an additional $3 billion — nearly a nine percent increase in revenue — and a record increase for the state — because of an improved economy in the Puget Sound region. But as I explained to Austin Jenkins on TVW's Inside Olympia program last week, many of the other counties outside of Puget Sound still have high unemployment. People cannot afford tax increases.
Let's also make this point very clear. With a nine percent increase in revenue, we don't need tax increases to balance the state budget. It's a matter of setting priorities — needs versus wants. Both budgets direct nearly a billion-and-a-half additional dollars toward K-12 education, which should satisfy the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision requirements.
Special sessions last 30 days. It's my hope budget negotiators will finish their business sooner than later and provide a compromise agreement that can gain a majority of votes in the House and Senate before the end of the special session.
Aside from the budgets, we did accomplish many things during the 2015 regular session. Many bills are now going to the governor after being passed during the regular session. Below, I would like to highlight four bills of interest that won legislative approval, have been signed by the governor, and will soon become law.
Contact my office with your questions, comments and suggestions about the budget proposal or any other matters relating to legislation and state government. It is an honor to serve and represent you!.
Top four bills of interest becoming law
More than 2,400 bills were introduced in the Legislature during the 2015 regular session. Of those, 309 passed both the House and Senate and were sent to the governor for his signature. While every bill is important to someone, here is my top four picks of measures of interest to our local area:
- House Bill 1052 – Requiring institutions of higher education to make an early registration process available to spouses and domestic partners of active military members.
This is a bill suggested by Christian Arciniega of Granite Falls, whose husband, Andres, is in the National Guard. Under this measure, beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, institutions of higher education that offer any early course registration to students must have a process in place to offer early course registration to students who are the spouses of eligible veterans or National Guard members who are receiving veteran's education benefits. Often, husbands and wives are at the mercy of their spouses' deployment schedule. This bill ensures they receive priority registration at our colleges and universities and furthers their ability to graduate on time. Signed by the governor on April 17. Read more about this bill here.
- House Bill 1282 – Addressing the crime of driving while license suspended where the suspension is based on noncompliance with a child support order. The Department of Social and Health Services can have a parent's driver's license suspended if that parent is six months or more behind in child support. This measure creates a misdemeanor crime in the third degree of “driving while license suspended or revoked” based on failure to be in compliance with a child support order. The suspension is lifted once the obligation has been fulfilled. Signed by the governor on May 1.
- House Bill 1285 – Requiring all newborns in Washington to be screened for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) using pulse oximetry. CCHD affects nearly 1 in 100 infants. Early detection and intervention is critical for a good health outcome for these infants. Signed by the governor on April 21.
- House Bill 2181 – Modifying the maximum speed limit on highways. Current state law generally sets the maximum speed limit for city and town streets at 25 miles per hour, county roads at 50 miles per hour, and state highways at 60 miles per hour. The state transportation secretary may decrease or increase the maximum speed on any segment of a highway, based on engineering and traffic studies that place a high value on safety. However, the maximum speed limit for any highway under current law is 70 miles per hour. Under House Bill 2181, the maximum speed limit could be raised up to 75 miles per hour. Signed by the governor on April 22 with a partial veto. Read more about this bill here.
Arlington student helps in the House
It was my honor to sponsor Luke Jankovic as a page in the House of Representatives. Luke is a freshman at Arlington High School and he's active in high school band and spring basketball.
Paging presents students with a unique educational opportunity to participate in the legislative process Their duties vary from ceremonial tasks, such as presenting the flags, to operational chores like distributing amendments during legislative sessions.
It was obvious Luke really enjoyed his time here. He seemed to be captivated by the legislative process and it was fun watching his interest.
Go here for more information about Luke and how to become involved in the House page program.
In your service,