Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 regular session of the Legislature began Jan. 11 with a bang of the opening gavel. It ended Thursday night with a fizzle and none of the traditional Sine Die ceremonies as many lawmakers were out of the Capitol building and on their way home before the final gavel fell. That's because they knew that although the regular session was finished, the business at the Capitol was not.
Special session called as governor vetoes 27 bills
House Democrats and Senate Republicans had not yet reached agreement on a supplemental operating budget by the last day of session. So at 9:30 Thursday evening, Gov. Inslee called a special session, then made good on his threat to veto bills if a supplemental budget had not arrived at his desk that evening.
The governor vetoed 27 of 37 Senate bills he had received — much of it very good policy dealing with: disabled college students; economic development; out-of-pocket health care costs; industrial hemp; and the environment. It was unfair to everyday Washingtonians who worked hard to get these bills passed. The governor's action did absolutely nothing to help budget negotiations.
Why did the Legislature go into overtime?
Like last year, House Democrats have held onto an unreasonable budget position, holding the process up. They have proposed:
- Raising taxes by $120 million, an overreliance on the Budget Stabilization Account (aka Rainy Day Fund), not accounting for $487 million in K-3 class-size reduction, and giving up on the four-year budget outlook;
- They were the only ones who brought up the possibility of not having a supplemental budget; and
- They don't even have 50 votes to pass their new tax increases off the House floor.
A true supplemental operating budget is what we need
I support a true supplemental operating budget that makes mid-course adjustments and adheres to the Tom Huff principles I outlined in my e-newsletter last week. The Senate's budget is the closest to those principles because it would:
- Not raise taxes;
- Not use the Rainy Day Fund for non-emergencies. We should plan for a rainy day;
- Stay committed to K-3 class-size reductions;
- Fund policies to prevent and respond to wildfires;
- Address mismanagement at the Health Care Authority and Western State Hospital; and
- Honor the four-year budget outlook.
Negotiations will continue until an agreement can be reached on a supplemental operating budget. Hopefully, it does not take the full 30 days of the special session!
Supplemental transportation budget includes money for SR 522
The Legislature passed and sent to the governor a supplemental transportation budget that provides an additional $416 million for capital projects (including $325 million in re-appropriations) and $61 million for operating programs (including $20 million in debt service payments), for a total increase of $477 million. The revised 2015-17 transportation budget is $8.7 billion.
Nearly $225,000 was provided in the supplemental transportation budget for initial planning and work on State Route 522 between Paradise Lake Road and the Snohomish River Bridge in the 1st Legislative District.
Also, the state Transportation Commission is directed to look at the tolls on SR 405 and adjust the hours of operation and number of passengers to use the lanes for free. For 2017-19, the House plan is to add a northbound auxiliary lane between SR 520 and NE 70th Place and to add a general purpose hard-running shoulder northbound from SR 527 to I-5.
Unfortunately, this doesn't address the root problem for I-405: congestion during peak hours. Some of these changes could take as long as three years to implement. This is not enough for commuters who have suffered since September with WSDOT's disastrous toll-lane program.
Major accomplishments this session
While I'm disappointed there is not yet a budget agreement, there are plenty of accomplishments of the 2016 session to write home about. Here's a quick look of major bills of interest that passed the Legislature and were delivered to the governor:
- House Bill 2315 – Extending the Mortgage Lending Fraud Protection Account.
- House Bill 2323 – ABLE Act allowing individuals with disabilities to have investment accounts.
- House Bill 2375 – Creating the crime of electronic data interference/theft (cybercrime).
- House Bill 2394 – Parent to Parent program for parents of individuals with developmental disabilities.
- House Bill 2440 – Exempting certain youth host homes from DSHS foster licensing.
- House Bill 2445 – Banning certain flame retardants.
- House Bill 2458 – Allowing individuals to participate in state's surplus prescription drug donation program.
- House Bill 2511 – Allowing child-care providers to serve five-year-olds in the same group.
- House Bill 2539 – Clarifying application of inheritance exemption to real estate excise tax.
- House Bill 2591 – Notifying foster parents of court dates.
- House Bill 2681 – Allowing pharmacists to prescribe and dispense contraceptives.
- House Bill 2872– Increases pay for Washington State Patrol.
- House Bill 2875 – Establishing the Office of Privacy and Data Protection.
- House Bill 2928 – Allowing forest resiliency burning despite weather conditions.
- Senate Bill 6194 – Reestablishing charter schools in Washington.
- Senate Bill 6245 – Providing vision screening in schools.
For an entire list of major bills dead or alive from the 2016 session, click here.
Serving you year-round, even during special session
I work for you throughout the year. Please call my office with questions, comments, suggestions, or if you need help dealing with a state agency. You'll find my contact information below.
In your service,