There are less than three weeks left in the legislative session. Friday House Democrats' operating budget was approved on the House floor by a party-line vote of 50-48. Senate Republicans passed their budget a couple weeks ago. Now that the two budgets have passed their respective chambers, negotiations on the final budget are taking place.
The budgets are not very far apart – about $83 million – on education spending to fulfill the state Supreme Court's McCleary order. The difference is the Senate Republican budget uses existing revenue to pay for it, while the House Democrats' plan proposes raising taxes by $3 billion at a time when state revenues are at historic levels. Like any negotiations, I expect an agreement to be somewhere in the middle of what both sides are proposing.
Buffalo Soldiers Resolution
One of the best parts of being a legislator is the people you meet and learning about the issues that drive them. Everyone in Olympia is working on something and is motivated by a cause. This year I had the privilege of putting together a resolution for a great group of men who carry on an important piece of our history. They are the “Buffalo Soldiers.”
Rep. Dent and Buffalo Soldiers in his office.
More than 150 years ago when the United States was looking to expand their peacetime military after the Civil War, there was debate over the inclusion of African-Americans in the Army. Ultimately, it was decided to continue placing African-American recruits in segregated units. Two that were created, the 9th and 10th Horse Calvary Units, made key contributions to our country's history and became two of the most highly decorated units in American military history.
They were given the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers” by the Native Americans as an attestation to their valor in battle. The buffalo was a sacred animal to Native Americans, and they would not bestow its name on the soldiers unless they were worthy adversaries. The proud acceptance of the name “Buffalo Soldier” by the African-American soldiers was a badge of honor and pride for the troops.
Despite prejudice in and out of the military and being allocated the worst horses, clothing and equipment, the Buffalo Soldiers earned more Congressional Medal of Honors and had the lowest desertion rate of any unit in the Army.
Legislators and Buffalo Soldiers on the floor of the House of Representatives.
To honor the bravery and dedication of those soldiers, I presented House Resolution 4615 to a group still carrying on the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers.
These men are doing amazing work keeping their history alive and giving back to the community. They have a cadet program where they mentor boys and young men, teaching them history and giving them positive direction for the future. The Columbia Basin Herald recently did an article on the Buffalo Soldiers and the resolution. Click here to read it.
Buffalo Soldiers address legislators.
Beef Commission and aviation license plate bills pass Senate unanimously
Last week, two of my bills passed the Senate unanimously. They are now headed to the governor's desk for his signature. House Bill 2073 would prioritize the activities of the Washington State Beef Commission and House Bill 1400 would create a Washington state aviation license plate.
During the interim, I met with many people in the beef industry and there was strong support to improve the accountability and oversight of the commission's finances. The Beef Commission has done great work; this just ensures their priorities are set and they are using their funds efficiently and effectively.
With more than 40 years of flying experience, both commercial and recreational, I truly enjoyed working on my aviation license plate bill. It was my way of creating something to give back to an industry that has done so much for me and my livelihood. The proceeds of the license plates will go toward addressing the infrastructure needs at our public-use airports and our publically owned airports. It is just a small part of what we are trying to accomplish.
Sample of the specialty aviation license plate.
I have five other bills in the Senate Rules Committee. I am hopeful they will pass the Senate before we adjourn on April 23.
Department of Children, Youth and Families
As the ranking Republican on the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee, I am the lead negotiator for our caucus on House Bill 1661, which would create a new Department of Children, Youth and Families.
Our children's programs, including foster care, are broken. By moving the Children's Administration out of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and into the Department of Early Learning, we have the opportunity to establish more accountability and transparency in the system. This move would not only benefit our children's programs, but it would allow for much-needed oversight by reducing the size of DSHS.
It is a huge undertaking and there are many components to it, but I remain hopeful we can reach an agreement.
Rep. Dent helps a spectator get a better view at the rally for foster kids.
Telephone Town Hall – thank you
I want to thank everyone who participated in our telephone town hall last month. At our peak, we had more than 400 people on the line. We were able to take 22 questions live in the hour and had many others leave voicemails with questions or comments.
If you have any additional questions, thoughts or concerns about this email update or legislation we are working on in Olympia, please don't hesitate to send me an email at email@example.com or give me a call at (360) 786-7932.
It is an honor to serve you!