Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have a lot to catch up on since my last email update. On April 28, the last day of the regular session, the Legislature passed a new two-year operating budget. The $52.5 billion spending plan increases spending by $7.8 billion or 17.5%.
I did not vote for the operating budget. It is unsustainable. We have increased spending substantially over the last decade. In fact, since 2013 when Gov. Inslee came into office, spending has increased 70%. If we have any kind of economic downturn, like many are predicting to happen in the next 2-3 years, the Legislature will be forced to make painful cuts.
Despite record revenue growth and a $2.8 billion surplus, the majority party passed $5.5 billion in tax increases over the next four years. Here is a breakdown of the tax increases.
Government needs transparency
The final days of the legislative session were frustrating. Title-only tax-increase bills were introduced and passed out of committee, then brought to the House floor for a vote. A “title-only” bill is a bill that contains only a title, such as “relating to tax revenue” and then the actual bill language is added after the bill is voted out of the committee. Little or no time was provided for you, the public, to weigh in during the committee process. The lawmakers in the committees barely had time to review the measures themselves.
It should also be noted that the galleries where the public can watch debate were closed and locked up during floor action on the tax bills. We were told it was due to a perceived threat. However, later we found out there was no threat.
Finally, the 808-page operating budget was not made available to the public until approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and the Legislature passed it on Sunday night.
My bills signed into law
The governor signed a couple of my bills into law, a third important Senate companion bill, and other legislation I worked on to get through the legislative process. He also vetoed a bill I sponsored that passed the Legislature unanimously. Here is a breakdown of the bills:
House Bill 1605 will require the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to evaluate traumatic brain injury (TBI) screening tools to be included with other existing screenings for children in out-of-home care. It will allow for treatment actions following identification of a TBI. The department will report back to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019. This bill has been signed into law.
House Bill 1561 will make changes to the Oversight Board of the DCYF. The board was created with the new DCYF state agency in 2017. The bill will ensure at least five of the board members reside east of the Cascade Mountain range. We want equal representation from the eastern and western parts of the state. The bill also adds board members who have experience in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
House Bill 1866, which passed both the House and the Senate unanimously, was vetoed by the governor. The bill would have given childcare centers until August 1, 2024, to comply with the new requirements. The governor did issue a directive that gives childcare center directors and assistant directors five years to comply with new professional development rules.
However, lack of affordable childcare is a huge issue across Washington state. We need to work on more solutions to address childcare affordability and keep our providers in business. I will be working on this issue during the interim.
House Bill 1725/Senate Bill 5550 are the result of the pesticide application safety workgroup that met over the interim to review existing state and federal laws on pesticide safety and application. The Senate version of my bill was signed into law by the governor. I was co-chair of the workgroup, and Sen. Rebecca Saldana, the other co-chair, sponsored the Senate bill.
This was a bipartisan workgroup that took an in-depth look at a lot of different factors to address pesticide application safety and community concerns. At the recommendation of the workgroup, the legislation will create the Pesticide Application Safety Committee and look at tracking data on pesticide exposure, best practice techniques to limit spray drift, and the incentives of new technology to the spraying industry.
Other legislation important to our region
While I was not the prime-sponsor, I worked on a number of other important pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 5597 creates a workgroup on aerial herbicide applications in forest lands. The group will review existing best management practices, and, if necessary, develop recommendations to improve the aerial application of herbicides on state and private forest lands. With my background in aviation and aerial application, I was able to provide critical insight on this piece of legislation.
Senate Bill 5959 will help strengthen the state's livestock identification program. Sen. Judy Warnick was the prime-sponsor of the legislation. We worked very hard to come up with legislation that is fair and will allow the program to be sustainable.
The legislation expands the use of the electronic cattle transaction reporting system to all cattle and allows additional reporting of livestock moving out of the state. It also includes provisions to increase the Livestock Identification Advisory Committee from six to 12 members through July 1, 2023. It will also allow for a certification requirement for individuals who are interested in performing livestock inspections run by the state Department of Agriculture. Livestock inspectors will be trained in the reading of printed brands, microchip and other electronic identification tools.
Senate Bill 5370 will create an Aviation Coordinating Commission tasked with identifying a location for a new commercial airport. It passed the Legislature unanimously. I was a co-sponsor of the House version, House Bill 1683. Because of my aviation experience, I was asked to work on this bill. It created more interest statewide than any other piece of legislation I have worked on. In the end, I believe we passed good legislation that will accomplish the goal we are striving to achieve. The governor signed the Senate bill on May 13.
create an Aviation Coordinating Commission tasked with identifying a location for a new commercial airport. It passed the Legislature unanimously. I was a co-sponsor of the House version, House Bill 1683. Because of my aviation experience, I was asked to work on this bill. This bill created more interest statewide than any other bill I have worked on. In the end, I believe we have good legislation that will accomplish the goal we are striving to achieve. The governor signed the Senate bill on May 13.
House Page Program
I want to thank Daria Lawson and Justin Walker for helping us in the House of Representatives. They served as legislative pages the last week of the legislative session. I was happy to sponsor them. They delivered messages and documents to legislators and staff during their week at the Capitol and also attended the Legislative Page School.
To become a page, you must be between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, have a legislative sponsor, and obtain written permission from your parents and your school. For more information, go to our House Page Program website.
Odessa aquifer meeting
I recently drove to Boise to meet with U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Lorri Gray regarding the Odessa Aquifer project. The Bureau and stakeholders are working on a master service water contract that would cover 70,000 acres of water rights. The agreement would also include a water supply study to look for additional water resources. Things are progressing in a positive manner and I am hopeful there will be a contract agreement in the near future.
District office – stay in touch
My district office is now open. We are located at 326 S Cedar St., in Moses Lake. The office phone number is (509) 766-6525. I am available to speak or meet with groups, organizations and tour schools or facilities. Since the session has ended, I have participated in parades in Wilbur, Creston, Odessa and Moses Lake, done media tours, and met with many constituents and organizations about issues important to them.
Please do not hesitate to contact me in order to set up a meeting if you have a legislative issue or an idea you'd like to discuss. I love traveling the 13th District meeting with local officials, educators and constituents.
It is an honor to serve as your representative.