Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After a 20-day special session, the fourth this biennium, the Legislature adjourned for the year March 29. While I had hoped the Legislature would adjourn on-time within the allotted 60 days, disagreements between parties over the supplemental budget pushed us into overtime. In the end, the budget makes a lot of wonderful investments in our students, the elderly and the mentally ill, but I ultimately could not support the agreed-upon plan due to the $191 million increase in spending and the lack of sustainability.
This budget does not set us up well for the future, especially since economists are warning of a possible recession in the near future. It relies too heavily on fund transfers and while it balances over four years as required by state law, it doesn't leave much in the 2019 ending-fund balance. Among the list of fund transfers, $16 million was swept from the Public Works Assistance Account. The monies from this account are used to help local governments with infrastructure costs like water and sewer.
Nevertheless, I am proud of the accomplishments we made on behalf of Washingtonians during the regular session, which adjourned March 10. We:
- Created a framework for K-12 education funding solutions in preparation for next year;
- Saved public charter schools after the state Supreme Court invalidated them last September;
- Addressed the teacher shortage and enhanced teacher recruitment;
- Required vision screening for students;
- Gave much-needed pay raises to the Washington State Patrol;
- Established a statewide Parent to Parent program to help parents of children with special needs;
- and more!
Bills signed into law
Two of my bills were signed into law last week. A big thank you to the members and stakeholders who helped me move this legislation through the process.
House Bill 2391 will align federal and state payroll laws. Read more about the bill in my latest press release, here.
House Bill 2711 will commission a study to determine the availability of sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) in Washington state and make recommendations for improvements. The idea for this bill came out of the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination, or “SAFE,” Task Force, which I co-chair. You can learn more about the bill here.
Another bill recommended from the SAFE Task Force was also signed into law. House Bill 2530 will create a statewide tracking system for rape kits. There are currently 6,000 untested kits in Washington. This is a positive first step for supporting sexual assault survivors, and I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation.
Capital budget projects for the gorge, Goldendale
Three projects along the gorge and one project in Goldendale received funding in the 2016 supplemental capital budget:
- $270,000 for restoration of the Lyle Activity Center;
- $172,000 for the Skyline Community Meeting Space in White Salmon;
- $155,000 for improvements to the Goldendale Senior Center; and
- $1,000 for a central alarm system installation at Mill A School in Cook.
These are important projects for our communities, and I'm glad the Legislature has made the commitment to invest in our district.
Local ideas becoming state law
The best ideas truly do come from people back home. Before session began in January, Goldendale's Neil Kayer alerted me to the fact that ranchers and other livestock owners were not allowed by state law to rescue their livestock during wildfire response. I worked with leaders in my caucus to craft a bill that would allow livestock owners to access public lands, in certain circumstances, to retrieve their livestock. The bill received the governor's signature earlier this month, and will go into effect this June.
House Bill 2925, which I co-sponsored, requires the Department of Natural Resources to allow livestock owners to access public lands for the purpose of retrieving or caring for livestock during a fire suppression response unless doing so would interfere with an active fire response. It also creates civil liability immunity for the state if a livestock owner accesses public lands to retrieve livestock during a fire response.
Keeping in touch
Though session has adjourned, I am your legislator year-round. Now that I am back home, I am looking forward to meeting with people in our communities and preparing for 2017. If you ever have questions, concerns, or ideas for how to improve state government, I encourage you to contact me. Your participation is crucial to moving our state forward.
Honored to serve you,