Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's Week 10 of the scheduled 105-day legislative session and our focus is back to the committee hearing process where the House is considering Senate bills, and vice versa.
Dead or alive?
Last Wednesday, March 8, was the house of origin cutoff. House bills not passed out of the House and Senate bills not passed out of the Senate by that date are now considered “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the cutoff dates. Of course, any dead bill could be “resurrected” at any time during the session.
Here are some interesting statistics:
- House bills introduced – 1176
- House committee statistics, including a historical perspective
- House bills passed the House – 376
- House Republican prime-sponsored bills that have passed the House – 122
- Senate bills introduced – 894
- Senate bills passed the Senate – 283
Here is also a list of notable bills, dead or alive.
Our next major deadline is March 29, which is opposite chamber policy committee cutoff. The Senate policy bills we are considering in House committees must have passed those committees by that date, or they are dead.
McCleary education funding talks move forward
Our focus has been passing bills out of the House before cutoff. However, we have also been consistently working behind the scenes to address the McCleary court requirements on education funding.
Both House Democrats and Senate Republicans have each passed their proposals through their respective chambers. The Education Funding Task Force, made up of representatives from all four caucuses in the House and Senate, have been meeting regularly. Our House Republican members on the task force include Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee. They have been working to draft a House Republican plan that would use the best of the other two education proposals, including higher pay for starting teachers and reforms.
This Thursday, March 16, the state's quarterly revenue forecast will be released, which will give us a more precise accounting of dollars available for budgeting. House and Senate budget proposals should come out soon afterward that include new education spending.
Sound Transit 3 assessments may chill support for major tax increases
There's enormous sticker shock throughout the Central Puget Sound region following voter approval last fall of a mammoth $54 billion Sound Transit 3 (ST3) package. For a $10,000 car, Sound Transit's car-tab fee went from $30 a year to $110 a year. ST3's property tax increases, $25 per $100,000 home value, went into effect Jan. 1. And then there's the ST3 sales-tax bump, 50 cents per $100 purchase, goes into effect April 1.
Once residents within the ST3 taxing district began receiving their bills, lawmakers' phones at the Capitol started ringing off the hook, with citizens seeking relief.
In a letter to House Speaker Frank Chopp signed by 12 House Republicans, they have asked the speaker to pass the following three bills:
- House Bill 1029 – Would improve the accountability of the Sound Transit board by requiring public election of Sound Transit board members.
- House Bill 1958 – Would require that Sound Transit boundary lines be drawn fairly so that no person is taxed without the opportunity to vote on the matter.
- House Bill 2132 – Would ensure that motor vehicle valuations are based in reality and that the interest of the taxpayer comes before the desires of Sound Transit.
You may remember back in December when Gov. Inslee proposed a state operating budget that would depend on $6 billion of tax increases, including on business, carbon and bottled water. However, due to the ST3 backlash, those Seattle-area lawmakers who would normally be advancing such tax increases for the governor seem to be cooling to the idea. Such enormous tax increases were always a non-starter in our caucus and with the Senate Republicans. We already have an additional $3 billion in new revenues coming in to the state. That figure is expected to increase when the revenue forecast is released Thursday. As I've always said, the state doesn't have a revenue problem — it has a SPENDING problem.
There goes the millions we spent for Puget Sound cleanup and salmon
Back in 2009, I wrote an opinion-editorial entitled, “It's time to put people ahead of fish.” In that article, I noted that the state of Washington had spent millions of dollars to provide cleaner water for salmon with no measurable results, while at the same time, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire was proposing deep cuts in the budget for essential human services. I believed the state's priorities were backwards.
Now, let's fast forward to today. On Feb. 9, heavy rainfall overwhelmed the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle and resulted in millions of gallons of untreated storm water and raw sewage being dumped directly into Puget Sound. King County's 63rd Avenue Pump Station in West Seattle also experienced problems, resulting in 330,000 gallons of stormwater and waste water going into Puget Sound. Nearly a month later, there is no timeline for this serious problem to be fixed.
Environmentalists have a long history of shutting down or curtailing the start-up of operations that would bring solid family-wage jobs to Washington. They have pushed hard for a carbon tax and exercised their power to get taxpayers to spend millions for the clean-up of Puget Sound and waterways to protect salmon. Curiously, they seem to be extremely quiet about what could be one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in our state. Where is their outrage?
Three of my Republican colleagues, Reps. Vincent Buys, Drew MacEwen and David Taylor, noted in a recent opinion editorial in The Seattle Times that there seems to be a double standard when it comes to environmental priorities. As they noted, “we find it odd politicians and groups historically ready to pounce on any threat to our water quality would go silent on this new environmental disaster.”
I welcome your thoughts and comments
As we move toward the final weeks of the 2017 session, it will be even more vital to hear from you. Please call, write or email my office. You'll find my contact information below. Thank you for the opportunity to serve and represent you!
In your service,