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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2016 legislative session is under way, and I am excited to be back in Olympia working on important issues for our district and state. This is a 60-day session and a supplemental budget year, which means we will be addressing emergency appropriations and other adjustments to the two-year operating budget we passed last year. With the terrible wildfire season we endured over the summer, it's important we find a way to fund the $178 million we spent putting the fires out. The Legislature has also received other supplemental requests we will be considering. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which considers budget items, I will keep you informed of our progress.

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, speaks in the House Appropriations Committee. Jan. 11, 2016.

Just before session began, I had the opportunity to travel with Sen. Judy Warnick and Rep. Vincent Buys to Denver for the annual State and Rural Legislative Summit. The summit is a Reps. Dent and Buys with Sen. Warnickcollaborative effort of legislators from all over the United States and Canada who come together to talk about agricultural and rural policy.

There were several valuable sessions during the summit, including “State Efforts on Water Quality.” In August, I was appointed to the Interim Task Force on Washington Waters by House Republican leadership. The task force was created through the capital budget, and was made up of five Democratic members and five Republican members. We worked through interim, looking at three areas in particular: storm water, flood control and water supply infrastructure in the state.

During the session at the Ag Summit, I was able to get further insights from leaders in other states dealing with serious water issues, which was incredibly valuable. As the assistant ranking member on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, I want to be as informed as possible about the problems facing our rural communities and potential solutions that can help.

A new committee appointment

I am proud to announce that I was recently appointed assistant ranking member of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee. The 11-member committee considers issues relating to early learning from birth to kindergarten, as well as a broad array of issues affecting children and families, including parent education, foster care, dependency, child protective services, children's mental health, child welfare services and family reconciliation services. One of my biggest passions as a legislator is helping young people who may not have had the best start in life. I am honored to have been appointed assistant ranking member of the committee, and look forward to continuing to develop and support policies that will enable all of our young people to get on a path toward success.

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, listens to testimony in the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee, Jan. 20, 2016.

Bills I'm working on

I am working on several bills this session, including:

House Bill 1888, which I introduced last year, would transfer all of the responsibilities regarding certification of alcohol and chemical dependency treatment from DSHS to the Dept. of Health. The bill needed more work, so I met with stakeholders over the interim to make several improvements to it.

House Bill 2413 concerns penalties related to late aircraft registration. Currently, state law sets the following penalties for late registration:

  • 60 to 119 days past due, the penalty is $100;
  • 120 days to 180 days past due, the penalty is $200; and
  • 180 or more days past due, the penalty is $400.

I think a potential penalty of $400 is excessive, so my bill removes the existing penalty structure and replaces it with a single $100 penalty if an aircraft registration is 60 days or more past due.

I am sponsoring several other pieces of legislation on agriculture tax preferences, wildfire issues, and more. If you would like more information, please give me a call or send an email, and I will be in touch.

Other important issues

Along with the above bills, I am continuing to work on improving the state of the mental health care system for our young people. I'm also working to put the host home program back in business as an alternative to foster care. Our foster care system still does not have the number of foster parents needed. If you or anyone you know would like to be a foster parent, please click here to get started with the application process.

No doubt by now you have heard about the ruling of the five-member, unelected Human Rights Commission that allows anyone, male or female, to use any restroom or locker room of their choice. As you can imagine, I have received many comments from people concerned about the HRC's ruling, and I share the concerns I've heard. For me, this is not about discriminating against transgender people, as some people may claim. This is about ensuring everyone feels safe when they use a public restroom or locker room. I am very concerned about predators taking advantage of this ruling, as they have in other states. I have co-sponsored House Bill 2782, which would reverse this ruling. There are also other bills seeking to amend and/or repeal the rule, but we are not sure if any of these bills will receive a committee hearing.

I-1366 ruled unconstitutional by King County judge

Earlier this week, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing ruled Initiative 1366 unconstitutional. The initiative, which was passed by voters last November, would decrease the sales tax rate 1 percent unless the Legislature sent a constitutional amendment to voters requiring a supermajority vote for tax increases. Washington voters have already approved six initiatives requiring a supermajority to raise taxes.

I recently signed on as a co-sponsor to House Joint Resolution 4215, which would create such an amendment. This morning, through a procedural motion on the House floor, House Republicans attempted to force a full House vote on the legislation. The procedural move failed on a party-line vote of 48-49, which means the measure itself is unlikely to be voted on by the full body.

Defending your 2nd Amendment rights

Unfortunately, there are several bills targeting gun rights this session. I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and am adamantly opposed to any new legislation that would hurt responsible gun owners. We do need to make sure we are doing what we can to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders and the mentally ill, but banning certain weapons or limiting magazine sizes does nothing to achieve that goal. In my view, personal responsibility, public accountability and self-discipline will do more to counteract gun violence than new, unenforceable laws.

Contacting me

Please continue to get in touch with me with any comments, questions or concerns. My email address is tom.dent@leg.wa.gov and my phone number is (360) 786-7932.

It is an honor to serve you.

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