Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The scheduled 105-day legislative session for 2017 got under way Monday, Jan. 9 at noon. This begins my eighth term in the state House of Representatives. It is an honor to once again be sworn-in to serve the citizens of the 39th District. It was also an honor to be chosen once again by my colleagues to serve as House Republican leader.
Opening day ceremonies
On the first day of session, it is tradition that the Speaker and the Minority leader address the House and set the tone for the remaining portion of the session. In my role as Republican Minority leader, I called for both parties, Republican and Democrat, to put aside partisan concerns and work collaboratively to find solutions for the state of Washington. You can listen to a report of that speech here.
John Koster returns to the House
I'm pleased to welcome John Koster back to the House as the newest representative from the 39th District. As I mentioned in my e-newsletter last month, John previously served three terms in the House in the late 1990s, representing the 39th District, but left at the end of 2000 and went on to serve for several years as a Snohomish County councilman. He was elected in November to the 39th District House seat and took his oath of office on Monday at the same time I did.
Three broad-based priorities for 2017 session
As we enter the 2017 session, House Republicans have identified three priorities that will be reflected in our bills and amendments:
- Provide students with a world-class education.
- Empower families and strengthen communities.
- Protect taxpayers and hold state agencies accountable.
Some heavy lifting ahead for education
Every legislative session has its challenges. However, even the long-timers in Olympia believe the 2017 session may be among the most challenging in recent history. The Legislature has until 2018 to complete the requirements of the 2012 state Supreme Court “McCleary decision” ruling. That means the Legislature must act during this session to add the final pieces of the puzzle to satisfy those requirements and meet the state's constitutional duty to fully fund basic education.
In the last four years, the Legislature has provided an additional $4.6 billion for K-12 education. The remaining question of McCleary is how to end our overreliance of local levies to fund basic education.
No one has the complete answer yet. That's what the legislative process is all about. A group of House Republicans has been meeting throughout the interim on this issue. And members of the Education Task Force worked on concepts that will be considered this session. I expect all of this will likely play out like past budget negotiations. We'll see proposals from both parties and then it will be a process of public debates and final compromises.
Other important emerging issues
- ECONOMY – Make our economy work, not only for Seattle and Central Puget Sound, but for all of our suburban and rural communities that continue to struggle.
- PROPERTY RIGHTS – The Whatcom County vs. Hirst decision doesn't affect existing water rights, but it casts doubt on whether new wells for homes can be drilled anywhere in the state. We need to fix the problem created by this lawsuit.
- STATE AGENCY ACCOUNTABILITY – We've seen major failures at the Department of Corrections, Department of Social and Health Services, Washington State Department of Transportation, and Western State Hospital. While our public employees have been working hard, in most cases, their leadership has failed. We plan to work closely with the governor to demand accountability from the people he chooses to lead state agencies.
Last chance to “Check your 39th District Pulse”
During my e-newsletter last month, I asked you to take a survey to help me identify legislative issues most important to you. It's one of my ways of “checking the pulse of the 39th District.” I plan to close this survey next Monday, Jan. 16, and will bring you the results in my next e-newsletter. If you have not done so, please click here and take a moment to fill out my short survey to let me know what is important to you.
Stay in touch
Your Legislature works best to represent the people when you are involved. Please keep in touch with my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government and legislation. My legislative assistant will be happy to help you. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!
In your service,