Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Due to election-year restrictions which put a “freeze” on legislative e-mail newsletter updates, it has been several months since you have received e-mail updates from me. Now that the elections are over, the freeze has been lifted and I can once again provide you with e-mail updates from my legislative office.
I believe communicating with those I serve is very important and helps me to do a better job for you. So please feel free to share this legislative update with your friends and neighbors. If they would like to sign up to receive these updates, simply click on this link to subscribe (or unsubscribe).
Also, you can keep track of 39th District legislative news through my Web site at houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. There you will find news releases, videos, photos and much more.
The 2011 legislative session will begin Jan. 10 and is scheduled for 105 days. As you know, the state is facing very difficult budget challenges. There's an immediate budget deficit of $1.1 billion during the remaining seven months of this fiscal biennium. The deficit for the 2011-13 biennium is now projected at $5.7 billion. At the urging of Republicans in both the House and Senate, the governor said this week she will call a special session before Christmas to deal with the immediate budget crisis. She told reporters earlier this week she would wait until Thursday (tomorrow) to decide the best date for a special session.
Below you will find an update on this and several other issues.
I invite you to contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government.
I appreciate the honor of serving you.
Special session on budget inevitable
We need to deal with the budget problems now, rather than waiting until Jan. 10 when the Legislature's regular session begins. For every 30 days the state waits to act, it costs taxpayers $300 million. That's why Republicans in both the House and Senate asked the governor to convene an immediate special session to close a $1.1 billion budget gap. (Click here to read a statement from House Republican Ways and Means Leader Gary Alexander regarding budget cost-savings measures.)
Today through Friday, the Legislature is meeting in Olympia to conduct its annual December “Committee Assembly Days.” That's when lawmakers meet in their respective committees to prepare for the coming legislative session. We thought it made sense to convene a special session during this time when lawmakers are already meeting in Olympia. Although the governor has indicated her support for a special session, she has met resistance from House and Senate majority leaders in her own party. (Click here to read the Seattle Times editorial on this issue.)
On Monday, Gov. Gregoire met with Democrat and Republican leaders and then told reporters a special session on the budget was inevitable. She said she would make an announcement on Thursday for the best date before Christmas to hold a special session.
Kristiansen continues as House Republican Caucus chairman
I'm honored to once again serve in my third term as chairman of the House Republican Caucus. I was re-elected to the position Nov. 19 during a caucus reorganization meeting.
As I noted in my press release (click here to read it), we have some major challenges ahead with the budget and the slow economic recovery, but I also see the upcoming 2011 legislative session as a great opportunity to reform government and implement policies that will help get people back to work in the private sector.
In addition to leading caucus meetings, my duties as caucus chair include working with Republican leaders on the House policy and budget committees to develop and manage Republican legislative policies, and help communicate proposed leadership actions to members of the caucus.
The House Republican Caucus is ready to move forward with substantive changes sought by the electorate, including smaller, more efficient and effective government, lower taxes, reducing regulatory burdens, and private-sector job creation. I'm looking forward to working not only with my fellow House and Senate Republicans, but also my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to solve the problems our state is facing, including getting this economy turned around.
Kristiansen, Pearson host Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn on tour of Monroe's Sky Valley Education Center
In June, my seatmate, Rep. Kirk Pearson, and I wrote a letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn outlining our concerns of a proposed rule change that would limit the flexibility of districts seeking to serve their communities with alternative learning programs. (Click here to read our letter.) Specifically, the rule change could affect the ability of the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe to continue its program.
Sky Valley is a unique school setting which employs a parent partnership program and focuses on individualized learning plans and experiences. Parents do a good portion of the teaching for the more than 800 students in this program, and the district does not maintain the same staffing ratio as in their traditional school program. The program is very popular among students, parents, educators and community leaders, and serves as a model of effective, cost-efficient learning alternative in our state.
Superintendent Dorn responded to our concerns, saying “Our intent is not to shut down any schools – but we do need to ensure that these compliance ratios are in place as required by the state Legislature as enacted through the state budget.”
I had discussions with the school district over the summer and decided in October to invite Superintendent Dorn to visit and tour the Sky Valley Education Center so he could see for himself the value of the program. We were delighted he accepted the invitation.
Last Thursday, we met up with Superintendent Dorn at Sky Valley and were given a full tour of the school program by Monroe Schools Superintendent Ken Hoover and Sky Valley Program Coordinator Karen Rosencrans.
The program is impressive and consists of seven different programs within the school, including a Montessori school for grades K-10, distance learning, parent partnership program, an online option and a parent co-op.
Dorn seemed to be impressed too. He told parents at the school, “I think our state needs this kind of innovation. We need more innovation like this.”
As we look to Washington's future during these times of budgetary challenges, we believe it will be important to find new, innovative, effective and cost-efficient ways to provide the highest quality education for our young people. The Sky Valley Education Center is a shining example of this, and that's why we will continue working to bring more awareness to Olympia about the importance of keeping this program intact.
In your service,