Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for allowing me to serve you in Olympia. The 2017 legislative session is underway and is scheduled to end April 23. While I spend my weekdays in Olympia, I make every effort to travel back to our beautiful district on the weekends to see family, friends and constituents, conduct in-district meetings, and work in my businesses.
The political landscape in Olympia hasn't changed much from last year — the state House of Representatives is closely divided with a Democrat majority, and Republicans still hold a slim majority in the Senate. That means there's a great opportunity for balanced, bipartisan solutions to advance again this year.
The priority of both chambers is to resolve McCleary. McCleary refers to the 2012 decision in which the state Supreme Court said the state was failing to meet its constitutional obligation to fund K-12 education. The decision also called into question the way we fund basic education, and said we needed to end our overreliance on local property tax levies. We've made a lot of progress since 2012, and more than 48 percent of the budget is now dedicated to K-12 education. We've also achieved:
- smaller K-3 class sizes
- full-day kindergarten
- teacher raises
- increased funding for materials, supplies and operating costs
The deadline to comply with the Court is 2018. Recently, the majority parties — House Democrats and Senate Republicans — released their K-12 investment plans. It's now time for all four caucuses to work together on a comprehensive solution.
State of the State
It was an honor to be chosen by my colleagues to deliver the Republican perspective to the governor's state of the state address. Click on the image above to watch it, or click here.
We have a lot to look forward to as a state, but some challenges remain. I'm optimistic we can all work together to make our state an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
Travis Alert Act
It's a privilege to once again be sponsoring the Travis Alert Act this session. Last year, Threasa King, a mother to a wonderful autistic child, came to me with an idea that would keep people like her son, Travis, safe in emergencies. That idea formed into a bill. Unfortunately, the bill timed out in the Senate last year even though it received near-unanimous support in the House. I've reintroduced it this year, and am hopeful it will be enacted into law.
House Bill 1258 would allow people to optionally submit information pertaining to one's disability to the Enhanced 911 program so dispatchers could deliver critical information to first responders during emergencies. It would also create a training program for first responders, providing instruction for how to best respond to emergencies involving persons with special needs.
During the public hearing Jan. 19, Ryan Beckett, a realtor in Yakima and father to an autistic boy, testified in favor of the bill. Here's what he had to say: “I didn't hesitate to testify on behalf of the Travis Alert bill. It would give families like mine a real sense of security in an emergency situation.”
Due to dangerous road conditions, Travis and his family couldn't make it to Olympia to testify on the bill. Travis did write a letter of support, which you can read here. I couldn't have said it better myself! This bill would save lives.
Protecting those who protect us
Attacks against police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge this summer, as well as previous ambush-style attacks in Washington, underscore the heavy responsibility these men and women shoulder to keep our communities safe. These officers put their lives on the line on a daily basis. Let's maximize the penalties for those who target our law enforcement and send a message loud and clear that we appreciate them and are grateful for their service.
Last week, I introduced a bill that would do just that. House Bill 1398 would make crimes and threats against persons because of their occupation as law enforcement officers a hate crime. Louisiana has already passed similar legislation, and several other states are looking to do the same this year. I'm fortunate to have bipartisan support for this bill, including several past and present officers, and law enforcement groups throughout the state.
Why is this important? Because we know attacks have been directed at our law enforcement officers intentionally — because of their occupation. The FBI reports 41 officers were targeted and killed in 2015. And, according to a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, deadly shootings of officers were up 78 percent during the first six months of 2016 compared to the first six months of 2015.
Other bills I'm working on
House Bill 1200 — Under current law, a person must prove he or she was engaged in voyeurism for the purpose of arousing or sexual gratification. This bill would eliminate that provision, and create a crime of voyeurism in the second degree. Two years ago, a teacher at Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington was caught “up-skirting” students during conferences. This is unacceptable. I've sponsored this bill before, and I'm optimistic this will be the year it's enacted into law.
House Bill 1246 — This bill would require seat belts on new school buses. I would not sponsor this legislation without a funding source that does not divert funds from the state operating budget or our schools. Funds from 'stop paddle' violations would cover the costs, as well as assist law enforcement agencies in providing additional officers in school safety zones. In just one day in May of last year, there were 1,566 drivers reported illegally passing school buses, and with each violation costing the driver $419, we should be able to accumulate sufficient funds. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that, without seat belts, children are like “clothes in a dryer” when riding the bus to and from school. Let's send a consistent message to our children to buckle up, regardless of whether they're riding in a car or a bus. The bill received a public hearing Jan. 30.
House Bill 1247 — This bill was brought to me by Larry Jose from Goldendale, who came to testify on the bill Feb. 2. Currently, Oregon extends their disabled veterans state park passes to veterans who are residents of other states, including our state. House Bill 1247 would reciprocate by making Oregon veterans eligible for Washington's lifetime disability pass to state parks. By passing this bill, not only would we be recognizing the contributions of all veterans, regardless of their residence, but we would also be encouraging disabled veterans to recreate in our beautiful state.
Larry and I discuss the bill in my recent video update, which you can watch here.
House Bill 1329 — Currently, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries imposes a $1,000 fine if you fail to use a licensed installer on a mobile or manufactured home installation. My bill would lower that fine to $250 for the first infraction and would not be able to exceed $1,000 on subsequent fines. The bill passed out of the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee, of which I'm the assistant ranking Republican, and is awaiting consideration in the House Rules Committee.
House Bill 1539 — This bill, known as “Erin's Law,” would establish a task force to develop an age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention curriculum for grades K-12. The bill has passed in 28 other states so far, and was passed by Congress in December. The funding for the implementation of this important program and training to protect our children could be paid for with federal dollars. We will be eligible to apply for federal money beginning July 2017. Schools already teach kids about the dangers of drugs and how to stay safe in fires and natural disasters. The ability to detect which adults you can and cannot trust is a critical lesson, too.
Taking lead on housing, veterans' issues and tribal affairs
I've taken on a new role this session as the ranking Republican on the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee. The committee considers a variety of issues, including accessible and affordable housing, homelessness, veterans, tourism, and government relations between the state and tribes. I'm looking forward to bringing an eastern Washington voice to the committee.
It's a great fit for me. As the CEO and general manager of a hotel, I'm looking forward to working on solutions that boost tourism and continue to propel our state economy forward. I'm also committed to helping our veterans. With my One Business, One Vet bill, which led to the creation of the YesVets program in 2015, 921 veterans have been hired across the state to date, and 402 have been become registered employers.
I want to hear from you!
It's an honor to be serving you in the state House once again. Thank you for this privilege! As I spend the next few months in Olympia, I want to hear from you back home. Please call, write and email me and my legislative assistant. We stand ready to help and look forward to working with you.
Honored to serve you,