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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you are doing well as our communities, state and country deal with the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As the coronavirus continues to spread, I want to make sure you have access to updated information and some helpful resources. I sent out an email update a couple weeks ago with some initial information, however, House Republicans have created a website that provides extensive information and links. I urge you to check it out and share with others who may need assistance or are looking for information. Click here to access it. You can also click on the following links to take you to a specific section:

We plan to keep this website updated frequently. If you have immediate questions you can always call the Department of Health hotline at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

I am working to ensure our first responders and health care workers are able to find child care. Some school districts are providing it, but not all. It is important we help them as much as possible as they are the ones on the front lines battling COVID-19.

I urge everyone to be safe and practice social distancing. It is important we follow this so we don't overwhelm our health care system. If you are 60 years old or over, I urge you to stay home. Your health and safety should be your first priority.

Legislative action

One of the last bills we passed during the session was to help with the coronavirus crisis. House Bill 2965 takes $175 million from the rainy day fund for state and local agencies to fight the disease and another $25 million to help businesses hurt because of the shutdown. It allows employers who have employees receiving unemployment insurance benefits because of the virus outbreak to have those charges be reimbursed by the state.

The legislation also helps our senior high school students. The state Board of Education will be able to grant emergency waivers to high school students who won't be able to meet certain graduation requirements if their schools are closed for an extended time.

Finally, stay safe. This is a difficult and unusual time for everyone. However, the folks in the 13th District are tough and resilient. If we support each other, take care of those around us and be compassionate, we will get through this together.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or I can provide any guidance.

2020 Legislative Session update

I know everyone's focus is on the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. However, I feel it is important to update you on what happened during the legislative session. I heard from many of you this session on a variety of issues and want to report back to you.

I was able to get two bills through the legislative process in the short session.

Providing regulatory relief for early learning providers: House Bill 2556 would create a community-based training pathway for licensed child care providers to meet professional education requirements associated with child care licensure. The measure would also require the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges to develop a plan to allow community-based training to qualify for college credit. This is good news for early learning and child care providers. It is also great for parents. I have heard from many providers and parents concerned about affordable and accessible child care. The bill awaits the governor's signature.

Ag Forestry legislation: House Bill 1187 would eliminate the requirement that eligible conservation district-sponsored fish habitat enhancement projects follow design standards established by the Washington Conservation Commission through an interagency agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Instead, to provide a more efficient process, conservation districts would approve the fish habitat enhancement projects. I am also waiting for the governor to sign this bill into law.

Senate Bill 6068, sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnick, and the companion bill to House Bill 2236 I sponsored along with Rep. Alex Ybarra, passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support. This legislation keeps proven tax incentives for large airplanes undergoing modification work in Washington. This is a huge deal for our region as we continue to become a global hub for aviation and aerospace.

Budgets

I did not support the supplemental operating budget. I have been very concerned the last few budget cycles about how quickly our spending has increased. This budget will have increased state spending nearly 75% since 2013. In the wake of an economic downturn with the COVID-19 crisis, we could be in a very tough budget situation in the next biennium. The budget passed on a party-line vote with all Republicans voting “no.” Reference the chart below to see how quickly our budget has grown.

Capital budget

The supplemental capital budget is a strong, bipartisan effort, passing both the House and Senate unanimously. We were able to secure funding for a number of projects in the 13th District including:

  • $2 million for the Roslyn Housing Project;
  • $2,463,000 at Central Washington University for security improvements;
  • $290,000 Grant County Fairgrounds;
  • $100,000 in the Port of Quincy Intermodal Terminal Infrastructure;
  • $375,000 for the Washington State Horse Park and Covered Arena;
  • $128,000 for the Our Lady of Fatima Community Center in Moses Lake; and
  • $75,000 at Telford Helipad.

Transportation budget

The supplemental transportation budget was also a very bipartisan budget, with only one “no” vote between the two chambers. There were some challenges due to the shortfall caused by I-976. However, we worked together to ensure projects were taken off hold that had been paused by the governor, prioritize special needs transportation and limit any impact to preservation and maintenance.

Republicans had asked that the will of the voters be honored by implementing $30 car tabs into law. While we were not able to get it through the legislative process, the latest court ruling has upheld the initiative. However, this is probably not over. Stay tuned…

Comprehensive sex education bill

In my last email update, I shared with you my concerns with the comprehensive sex education bill (Senate Bill 5395). Since then, the bill has passed the Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature. As I stated before, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction's (OSPI) approved curricula is very disturbing and I believe inappropriate for K-6 grade. It also takes away control from our school districts.

The last week of session, there were hundreds of people at the Capitol to protest the bill and request the governor veto the measure. I appreciate hearing from all of you who contacted me about this issue and others. Your input and feedback is important to hear as lawmakers make important decisions impacting our communities and state.

The Informed Parents of Washington Rally on March 11, protesting the sex ed bill.

I hope you will contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments, whether it is regarding the COVID-19 crisis or legislative and state issues.

My district office is not open yet, due to the COVID-19 situation. Please feel free to email me at tom.dent@leg.wa.gov or call my legislative phone number at 509-607-0156.

It is an honor to serve the great folks of the 13th District and Washington state.

Sincerely,


Tom Dent

State Representative Tom Dent, 13th Legislative District
RepresentativeTomDent.com
437 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
tom.dent@leg.wa.gov
360-786-7932 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000