Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There are nine days left of session, and there is still much to do. Negotiations are underway regarding the operating budget, the capital budget and a transportation tax package. If the negotiators from both chambers can't reach an agreement on all three pieces by the April 26 session deadline, a costly special session is likely.
Here is a breakdown of both budget proposals:
With $3 billion in additional revenue for the 2015-17 biennium, we do not need to raise taxes. State spending has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, so it's important we make every effort to be fiscally responsible and spend within our means. We should not squander our opportunity to do that this year.
Last Tuesday was opposite house fiscal committee cutoff. This simply means that bills from the opposite house with a fiscal impact needed to be voted out of appropriations committees unless deemed necessary to implement the budget (NTIB).
Opposite house cutoff was Wednesday, April 15, meaning all Senate bills in the House and all House bills in the Senate needed to pass out of the opposite chamber unless deemed NTIB. The bills not deemed NTIB are now considered dead for the year.
An update on Joel's Law
In a 92-5 vote earlier this week, the House passed Senate Bill 5269, the Senate's version of Joel's Law. It would be a great mental health reform if signed into law by the governor. To view my floor remarks in support of the bill, click here.
The bill allows a mentally ill person's immediate family member(s) or guardian(s) to petition the superior court for their detention if a designated mental health professional (DMHP) decides not to detain them for evaluation and treatment.
The court must then render a final decision within five days of the petition being filed, and must transmit its final decision to the petitioner. The court may enter an order for initial detention if it finds, upon review of all provided information, there is probable cause to support a petition for initial detention and that the person has refused or failed to accept appropriate evaluation and treatment voluntarily. The court must provide the order to the DMHP agency, which is then required to execute the order without delay.
I have talked before about how meeting Doug and Nancy Reuter changed my life (read their story here). Had this kind of law previously been in place, their son Joel would likely still be alive.
Being an advocate for legislation such as Joel's Law is why I wanted to serve in the Legislature in the first place. My goal is to make people's lives better, no matter their background, and to provide them with as many opportunities to succeed in life as possible. This law will help many people who desperately need it.
Featured in “Wings”
I was recently featured in the Washington Pilots Association's “Wings” newsletter regarding my aviation excise tax bill, House Bill 1526. The bill was deemed necessary to implement the budget (NTIB), but rather than risking waiting for budget negotiators to include the bill in the operating budget, I decided to propose it as an amendment on the House floor. As I reported in my last update, it was one of the few Republican amendments that was adopted in the Democrats' operating budget proposal.
In the “Wings” column, the author, Mike Ennis, writes:
“Not wanting to take any chances, Rep. Tom Dent proposed an amendment to fund the transfer of aircraft excise taxes from the general fund to the aeronautics account during floor debate on the House operating budget Thursday night. Rep. Dent gave a great presentation on the importance of aviation infrastructure to Washington's economy, and explained why it is important to protect aircraft excise taxes for aeronautic purposes. This was followed by a nod of support from Rep. Reuven Carlyle, Chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee, who voiced support for Dent's proposal, and the amendment was adopted!
This means both operating budgets have the aircraft excise tax protection funded. There is still a lot of work to do, but I want to recognize how hard Rep. Tom Dent has worked behind the scenes on HB 1526. As a pilot himself, he understands aviation issues and has prioritized this legislation. It can sometimes take new legislators a few years to adapt to Olympia, but Rep. Dent has tackled this issue like a seasoned veteran.”
I want to thank Mr. Ennis for his kind words. I was grateful the bill was accepted as an amendment, and look forward to seeing aircraft excise tax funds being reallocated back into the aeronautics account.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with four members of the North Central Early Learning Collaborative, Alan Walker, Nancy Spurgeon, Maria Vasquez and Gaby Fernandez. We had a great conversation about making sure our children have every opportunity to succeed in life. We also talked about the importance of early learning. Mr. Walker wrote a great blog post about our meeting, which you can read here.
I also recently met with Menze Pickering, Miss Omak Stampede, and Katherine Merck, Miss Rodeo Washington. Pickering is on the left and Merck is on the right in the photo below. Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting with Terry and Loyal Leas. Terry is the president of Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake.
KIT Radio interview
Earlier this week, I spoke with Lance Tormey and Dave Ettl on Yakima's KIT Radio about several issues, including budget negotiations, “Joel's Law,” my airport excise tax bill, and the Kids Kaucus. You can listen to my interview here.
In my latest video update, I provide an overview of all the bills I introduced during the session. I also discuss the House and Senate operating budget proposals. Take a look!
Please continue to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns you may have. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at (360) 786-7932.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.