Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are on the last day of the 30-day special session, but the Legislature is headed into double overtime beginning tomorrow morning. The major areas of disagreement between the bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and House Democrats continue to be the operating budget and state government reforms.
Many of you may be disappointed in this outcome, while some of you may appreciate one of the two distinct positions that have been taken on state spending. I understand the disappointment. We don't want Olympia to be like Washington, D.C., and I assure you that it is not. The talk of a state government shutdown feels a lot like our nation's capital, but I'm confident our disagreements at the state level will be worked out soon. I honestly believe everyone wants what's best for our state, but just have different views on how to get there.
Progress on the I-5 Skagit River Bridge
Steady progress continues on the I-5 Skagit River Bridge. Crews have removed most of the damaged parts of the bridge, but some debris continues to be embedded in the Skagit River. The National Transportation Safety Board has also completed the on-site portion of its investigation. You can find more information here.
Detour routes seem to be working well, but unfortunately 30-minute delays have been occurring during peak commute times. You can find travel times here. The Washington State Department of Transportation is continuing to monitor traffic flow.
The best news: the temporary bridge could be ready as soon as next week. A visual approximation of the replacement can be seen to the right. Here is a Seattle Times article on the progress of the project.
An important thing to remember is that local businesses are open. Please help spread the word and visit if you can. The state Department of Commerce is also helping out in this area. Every little bit helps and we cannot allow this accident to set our communities back. To date, everyone has come together. Let's do all we can to make sure it continues.
Honoring Washington State Trooper Sean M. O'Connell Jr.
The Washington House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring the life and service of Sean M. O'Connell Jr. yesterday. Sean was a trooper in the Washington State Patrol. He died from injuries he sustained when a truck collided with his motorcycle while he was directing traffic caused by the collapsed I-5 Skagit River Bridge on May 31. Sean leaves behind a wife, son and daughter. His passing is a reminder that our law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line daily for us. I'm personally grateful for Sean's service and accomplishments.
House Joint Memorial 4003, which I am a co-sponsor of, requests that the I-5 Skagit River Bridge be named the Trooper No. 1076, Sean M. O'Connell Memorial Bridge.
Bills that have been signed into law
While the operating budget has yet to be finalized, a lot of other work has been accomplished the last five months. There have been 2,080 total bills introduced in the 2013 regular and special sessions – with 1,102 introduced in the House and 978 in the Senate. These numbers will increase during the second special session. A total of 337 bills have been passed by the Legislature, so far, and have been signed into law by the governor. Some of these measures will only affect small groups of people, while others will have a broader impact. Below are some bills that deal with local government and control.
- House Bill 1045 waives the requirement of an engineering and traffic investigation when a city or town establishes a lower speed limit within a residential or business district.
- House Bill 1180 increases from $152,000 to $214,000 the lump-sum death benefit that is paid to survivors of Volunteer Fire Fighters' and Reserve Officers' Relief and Pension System members who die as a result of injuries or sickness that are the result of the performance of duties. The prime sponsor of this legislation is my seatmate, Rep. Elizabeth Scott.
- Senate Bill 5113 allows state, local or county law enforcement personnel to enforce speeding violations on private roads in condominium associations and apartment associations, so long as the provisions required for homeowners associations are met by the associations.
- Senate Bill 5099 will require the state Department of Commerce to adopt rules that provide local governments the authority to exempt police, fire and other emergency response vehicles, including utility vehicles used for emergency response, from the fuel usage requirement.
Special session part two
My hope is that the second special session of 2013 is short, focused and results in a no-new-taxes operating budget that emphasizes K-12 education. And if we can also pass meaningful reforms that help our public schools, and small-business owners and their employees, I will be even happier. Please stay tuned and feel free to share your thoughts will me. My contact information is below.
In your service,