Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am always working to expand our email list to ensure constituents across the district have the opportunity to stay updated on legislative and state issues. I want to keep the citizens of the 13th District updated before, during and after the legislative session. If you have received this email without directly subscribing, you can visit my website by clicking here and sign up to receive my email updates. Please feel free to forward this legislative update to anyone you think may be interested in receiving these emails as well.
While the legislative session is over, I spend a lot of my time traveling around the district, I am also working on legislation for next year. The 2017 session was a success as I had seven prime-sponsored bills signed into law by the governor. However, I have a number of other bills, good pieces of legislation that did not make it through the legislative process. Many of them I will be working on again. Here is a brief overview of the bills:
Improving mobilization of state fire services
Once again we have had a very active wildfire season, with the Jolly Mountain fire burning in our region. I am constantly working on legislation to help us be proactive in combatting and managing wildfires. Part of that focus is two bills I introduced last year that did not get through the legislative process.
House Bill 1019 would expand the definition of “mobilization” so we can have state resources and services in position before a wildfire starts, rather than be reactionary and scrambling to line up resources as the fire grows. Every second counts when wildfires and emergencies hit, and by having the resources in place beforehand, we could be saving property, natural resources and most importantly – lives. The bill had bipartisan support and was passed by the House Public Safety Committee, but did not make it out of the House Appropriations Committee.
House Bill 1839 would provide a sales and use tax exemption to eligible fire districts for the purchase of fire and emergency medical equipment necessary to prevent and suppress wildfires. This is a good cost-saving measure for rural counties and fire districts who do not have big budgets. The bill did receive a hearing in the House Finance Committee.
Firefighters clearing brush on the Jolly Mountain fire outside of Roslyn and Cle Elum.
I will continue to work on getting these bills through the legislative process in the upcoming session.
Improving management and finding efficiencies in our agencies
As I have mentioned in previous email updates, the Legislature passed landmark legislation creating a new Department of Children, Youth and Families. I was directly involved in those negotiations and while it is a good first step, there is still work to be done. The new department will be dedicated to serving children and families. I still remain committed more than ever to finding efficiencies and improving management of our government agencies that serve our youth and families. Below is a description of some of the bills I worked on last year that didn't make it through the Legislature. However, two of them ended up being a part of the new agency legislation because of the strong bipartisan support behind them.
House Bill 2013 would have provided independent mediators to address child care licensing decisions. Language from this bill was also included in the legislation forming the new Department of Children, Youth and Families. Currently, the Department of Early Learning (DEL) investigates or acts as a mediator to their own child care licensing decisions. We want to make sure independent mediators are available to review adverse licensing decisions by the department. Having an agency investigating or mediating their own licensing decisions just doesn't come across as impartial and we want provide some balance and fairness to the process.
House Bill 1957 would establish community appeals boards that review licensing decisions of the DEL. This bill is similar to HB 2013 and is also part of the new agency. To ensure the department isn't reviewing its own appeals, language is included in the new law that would create community appeals boards to resolve adverse licensing and application decisions made by the department.
House Bill 2069 would have suspended certain rule-making of the DEL for two years. We want 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. With the DEL now part of our new agency, I will have to work on slightly different version of this legislation. However, the goal remains the same, no matter which agency we are dealing with. Rules and regulations need to be fair and effective.
House Bill 1656 was another piece of legislation that garnered sweeping support this year (the House bill passed by a vote of 95-2, but did not get through the Senate). The bill would have established a community aviation revitalization loan program aimed at improving Washington's smaller airports. I continue to work with Sen. Jim Honeyford, who has a similar bill, Senate Bill 5328. We have been working together to merge these two bills into one. Currently, the language in our bills is tied to the capital budget. Unfortunately, the capital budget has not passed, as it is tied to an agreement on the important Hirst water rights fix.
Support the aviation industry
An aviation bill that passed and has been enacted into law is House Bill 1400 – the aviation license plate legislation. The plates are available. How do you sign up or request an aviation license plate?
You can purchase your new plate through your local vehicle licensing office or the Department of Licensing (DOL). You can do it in person or online at Fly Washington aviation plates on the DOL website. The $28 from each plate will go to support infrastructure improvements at public-use airports in Washington state. The monies will support aviation-specific initiatives such as:
- airport infrastructure improvements to support statewide disaster response and recovery operations (i.e. wildland fires, earthquake, landslide response);
- economic development opportunities to enhance public access to airports, such as informational kiosks; and
- statewide aviation infrastructure-related awareness programs that promote public participation at airports.
Click here to find out more. Below is the first aviation license plate issued.
County fairs and parades
I attended many county fairs and parades in the 13th District this interim. Our county fairs are exceptional and extremely valuable to our young people. They teach our children working ethic and values. They help the economy of our rural areas and bring communities together. It is a lesson on agriculture for all visitors.
Rep. Dent in the Ellensburg Parade.
Lincoln County media tour
Rep. Manweller and I recently did a media tour through Lincoln County, meeting with editors and reporters of the Wilbur Register, Davenport Times and Odessa Record. We appreciate them taking the time to meet with us so we could give them an overview of the legislative session, answer their questions and discuss issues important to their region.
Reps. Dent and Manweller in the Wilbur Register newsroom during their Lincoln County media tour.
Still no agreement on a Hirst fix
We still do not have an agreement to fix Hirst – the flawed state Supreme Court decision from last October. The court ruled that in order for counties to comply with the Growth Management Act, they have the responsibility to ensure water availability for land-use decisions, instead of relying on the Department of Ecology (DOE).
I have said since the beginning of session back in January, this the biggest single issue we needed to address this year, and we have been unable to get a legislative fix passed. The Senate has passed Sen. Warnick's Hirst fix bill four times. Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House has refused to bring the Hirst fix legislation to the House floor for a vote. I am confident it would pass if we had the opportunity to vote on it.
The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) recently release a study detailing the devastating impacts of what will happen without a Hirst decision. Here are some of the figures from BIAW's study:
- $6.9 billion lost in economic activity each year in Washington, predominantly in rural communities;
- $37 billion in lost property values in areas impacted by Hirst;
- $346 million in property taxes shifted to other properties in Washington due to the decision;
- $392.7 million in lost taxes to state and local governments, annually;
- $452.3 million in lost rural employee wages due to the impacts of Hirst, annually;
- Nearly 9,300 lost jobs (FTEs) in rural Washington, annually; and
- $4.59 billion in losses to the construction industry, annually.
You can find the full study from BIAW here.
I continue to travel around the district during the interim. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. I am available to speak or meet with groups, organizations and tour schools or facilities. I look forward to seeing you.