Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now in Week 7 of the legislative session. Last Friday was policy committee cutoff – which means all policy bills that do not have any fiscal impacts or will not be part of the budget process must be voted out of their respective committees. Otherwise, they are likely “dead” for the session.
A number of my bills have survived the policy committee cutoff and are still moving through the legislative process. Below is a brief overview of some of those measures.
Aviation legislation on the move
With more than 40 years of professional flying experience, I have thoroughly enjoyed working on legislation related to the aviation industry. At this point, I have three bills flying through the legislative process:
House Bill 1018, which would increase the allowable grant amount the Department of Transportation may provide for general aviation projects from $250,000 to $750,000, passed the House 97-0 on Feb. 1. The maximum grant amount has not been changed in 35 years. The bill is now in the Senate.
House Bill 1656 would establish a community aviation revitalization loan program. Funding is needed for capital and preservation projects at public-use airports. This loan program would give us another tool to address those needs. It had a public hearing on Feb. 13 in the House Transportation Committee and is expected to be voted on by the committee this week.
House Bill 1400 would create Washington state aviation special license plates. Aviation has been such a big part of our state's history, dating back more than 100 years when Boeing established themselves in Washington. The photo below is an example of what the license plate would look like.
The bill made it out of the House Transportation Committee last week and could be voted on by the full House of Representatives at any time.
Elk and wildlife legislation
Anyone who travels Vantage Hill and lives in the 13th District knows about our elk problem. Last year, more than 60 elk were killed on Vantage Hill in highway collisions.
I am the prime sponsor of House Bill 1353, which would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DF&W) to conduct an elk management pilot project to explore various wildlife management actions to reduce highway collisions. The DF&W would work with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and it is specific to the Colockum herd in Kittitas County. The bill was voted out of the House and sent to the Senate on Monday.
I also have legislation, House Bill 1399, that would increase the amount DF&W can pay for damage caused to agricultural crops by deer or elk. It also expands the scope of eligible crops. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill and it is now being considered by the House Appropriations Committee.
Other bills on the move
House Bill 1924 – Concerning small forest landowners. This bill is intended to exempt small forest landowners from some of the provisions in the Farm Labor Contractor Act. People would be able to clean up their property more efficiently as they work to reduce wildfire risk and make their property more “firewise.” It would also modify how the Department of Natural Resources authorizes burning permits to small forest landowners. The House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee has voted this bill out of committee.
House Bill 2073 – Concerning the Beef Commission. This bill would prioritize some of the Washington Beef Commission's responsibilities – promotion, research and education related to health and disease control of beef, and promoting increased consumption of beef and beef products. It would also improve the oversight, transparency and accountability of the commission's financial operations. The legislation was the result of 10 months of hard work with ranchers, farmers and other stakeholder groups. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed this bill last week. I was able to meet with some of our future farmers recently. In the photo below are members of the Future Farmers of America from the 13th District.
House Bill 1819 – Reducing paperwork and documentation requirements in the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). By reducing unnecessary and time consuming paperwork and documentation requirements, agency staff and mental health professionals can spend more time working directly with patients and clients. The bill passed the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee and has been sent to the House Appropriations Committee.
House Bill 2013 – Providing independent mediators to address child care licensing decisions. Currently the Department of Early Learning (DEL) investigates or acts as a mediator to their own child care licensing decisions. This legislation would make sure independent mediators are available to review adverse licensing decisions by the department. The bill is currently in the House Appropriations Committee.
House Bill 1957 – Establishing community appeals boards that review licensing decisions of the DEL. This bill is similar to HB 2013. To ensure the department isn't reviewing its own appeals, this measure would create community appeals boards to resolve adverse licensing and application decisions made by the department. Unfortunately, this bill did not make it out of committee.
House Bill 2069 – Suspending certain rule-making of the DEL. The bill would suspend rulemaking of the DEL for two years. We need to make sure the current rules/regulations are being followed and are effective in accomplishing our objectives within the agency, before we implement more rules and regulations. The bill did receive a public hearing. While HB 2069 did not make it out of committee, it was a good discussion-starter regarding excessive rulemaking in our agencies.
Education funding plans
This week we are expected to have a floor debate on one of the proposed K-12 education funding plans to address the state Supreme Court McCleary order. There are a lot of details yet to be figured out and negotiations are still in the early stages. I am hopeful legislators will be able to work out a solution as the session progresses. Both sides have put in a lot of time and effort to find a solution.
Friendly faces in Olympia
One of the things I enjoy most about being a legislator is meeting with all the people, whether it is a friendly face from home, or a group or organization visiting the Capitol to talk about the bills they are working on. The 2017 Teacher of the Year, who happens to be from the 13th Legislative District, was recently in Olympia. Camille Jones is an elementary school teacher in the Quincy School District. She is a great person and is doing phenomenal work.
Honoring those who have served
Every two years, the Legislature holds a memorial service to honor the lives of former legislators who have recently passed away. During the service, a current legislator will light a candle of remembrance in honor of a legislator who has passed away. I lit a candle honoring former 39th District Representative Dianne H. Woody. She was appointed to the position in September 1977 and served until 1985.
The memorial is a great way to pay tribute to those who have served their constituents and all the citizens of Washington state.
I hope you find this update informative. Please continue to stay in touch with any comments, questions or concerns you have on any of the issues before us.
It is an honor to serve as your state representative.