Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The gavel fell on the night of March 8 adjourning the 2018 legislative session. The Legislature was able to reach an agreement on all three supplemental budgets – operating, capital and transportation – to avoid a special session for the first time since 2014. It was a whirlwind of a session. We were able to pass a Hirst solution and capital budget in the second week. As the session progressed we dealt with many contentious issues and there were a lot of late nights. Like any session, there was some good and bad.
In this email update I will give you an overview of the budget, my three bills that passed the Legislature and some other issues we worked on the last month of session.
The operating budget, Senate Bill 6032, does some good things for education, behavioral health and higher education, We were also able to defeat the governor's carbon tax, and keep a capital gains income tax out of the spending plan. However, I voted against the budget. I am concerned about the rapid rate of increased spending – up 16 percent over the last biennium – and the property tax relief we could have provided taxpayers does not take effect until 2019. Republicans were also left out of the budget negotiations.
I did support the bipartisan capital budget, Senate Bill 6095. We were able to get $500,000 for the Grant County fairgrounds rodeo arena. The money will go to replacing the bleachers. There are some other projects for the 13th District including monies for the Damman School, Lincoln County E911 in Davenport, the Ellensburg rodeo project and the Roslyn Community and Cultural Center.
Rep. Dent with students from the Yakima Valley Technical Skills Center
Three bills passed the Legislature
I have three bills heading to the governor's desk to be signed into law. All three bills were passed unanimously by the House and Senate. Here is a breakdown of my legislation:
House Bill 1656 establishes a community aviation revitalization loan program. The program is aimed at improving Washington's smaller airports by funding needed capital and preservation projects. The legislation would also establish a task force to oversee and provide consultation of the program. The capital budget includes $2.5 million for the loan program.
House Bill 2561 authorizes the commissioner of public lands to direct the wildland fire advisory committee to review, analyze, and make recommendations on the wildfire prevention, response, and suppression activities. The committee would also evaluate the existing fire mobilization process and identify potential efficiencies or other reforms that may lead to a more effective, coordinated wildfire response.
House Bill 2785 establishes a foster parent “Bill of Rights.” The idea was brought to me by a foster parent group in district. The new law requires the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to provide foster parents with a list of foster parent rights and responsibilities at orientation before licensure, when they receive their license, and at license renewal. We want to make sure those who want to be foster parents and those who are licensed foster parents know what their rights and responsibilities are. The governor has signed this bill into law.
House Bill 2555 provides the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DF&W) the authority to issue permits to the Wanapum Indians for freshwater food fish for ceremonial and subsistence purposes. It did not pass. However, it did get amended onto Senate Bill 6713 – relating to fishing fees. The governor is expected to sign this bill. This is not providing preferential treatment to the Wanapum tribe. Other tribes have this authority and it does not give them the authority to fish commercially.
Rep. Dent speaks on one of his bills on the House floor.
Joint Memorial – Harbor maintenance tax
Late in the 2017 session I introduced House Joint Memorial (HJM) 4012. A joint memorial is a message or petition addressed to the president and/or Congress of the United States, or lead of any other agency at the federal or state government level, asking for consideration on a matter of concern to the state or region. My HJM 4012 requested Congress reform the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) to make sure federal tax policy is not putting our U.S. ports and maritime cargo at a disadvantage. The memorial also requested greater equity to ports through expanded uses of the HMT revenues. My HJM 4012 died in the Senate this year, but its companion bill, Senate Joint Memorial 8008, did pass the Legislature. We recently had a formal bill signing in the Secretary of State's office.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman signs Senate Joint Memorial 8008.
Legislative Public Records Act
A couple of weeks ago when the Legislature passed the Legislative Public Records Act, Senate Bill 6617, a number of people asked why I voted for it. When SB 6617 came up for a vote, I felt it provided more transparency within the legislative process than we had at the time so I voted yes. We needed a solution because the Thurston County Superior Court ruling threatened the privacy of my constituents and was unworkable. My party doesn't control the agenda so when we had a chance to vote on a fix that I believe offered more transparency I supported it.
The governor has since vetoed the bill so it is time to move forward. House Republicans delivered a letter to the governor stating we are committed to finding a solution that balances transparency but constituent privacy must be protected. The letter also requests a public hearing on a bill a member of our caucus introduced at the beginning of session, House Bill 2255 – The Legislative Transparency Act, but it was never granted a public hearing.
The court ruling has been appealed to the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, legislators and stakeholders we will be working on a new solution. I am hopeful with the governor's veto and some light being shed on some of the other options on the table, we can craft a better bill that balances transparency and protects the privacy of those we represent.
It was Beef Day at the Capitol on Feb. 22. This annual event is put on by the Washington Cattlemen's Association. I am proud to say some of the members of the association are from the 13th District. They grill up some great beef for elected officials and staff on campus, as a reminder that the farmers and ranchers work hard to feed our state, country and people across the globe.
The Beef Day grill.
I look forward to wrapping up everything in Olympia soon and spending more time in the 13th District. Please do not hesitate to contact me. I am available to speak or meet with groups, organizations and tour schools or facilities.
It is an honor to serve the 13th District!