Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are scheduled to adjourn the regular legislative session Sunday, April 28. A few weeks ago, Democrats' passed their operating budget out of the House of Representatives on a party-line vote with all Democrats voting “yes” and all Republicans voting “no.”
I have concerns with the majority party's proposal, as it would:
- increase spending by more than 19 percent, growing the budget by $8.6 billion, from $53 billion to $44.4 billion.
- increase spending by 70 percent, or almost $22 billion, since 2013.
- rely on $4.2 billion in new taxes and fees over four years.
The taxes proposed in the majority party's budget include a new capital gains income tax, B&O tax increase on certain services, a new graduated real estate excise tax, and elimination or modification of certain tax preferences.
The Senate passed its proposed budget last week. It sounds like there may not be the votes for a capital gains income tax in that chamber. Now the two chambers must negotiate the differences between the two plans in the final week so we can adjourn on time.
Legislation heading to the governor's desk
I have a few bills that have made it through the legislative process this session. They are heading to the governor's desk for his signature. Here is a breakdown of the legislation:
House Bill 1561 would make changes to the board overseeing the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) that was created in 2017. The Oversight Board was also created with the new agency. The bill would ensure at least five of the board members reside east of the Cascade Mountain range. We want equal representation from the eastern and western parts of the state. The bill would also add board members who have experience in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
House Bill 1605 would require traumatic brain injury (TBI) screenings for children entering the foster care system. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families would evaluate TBI screening tools to be included with other existing screenings for children in out-of-home care. It would also allow for treatment actions following identification of a TBI. The department would report back to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019.
House Bill 1866 would give child care centers until August 1, 2024 to comply with changes to professional development requirements being required of them. Child care is very expensive. Many child care providers are struggling to stay in business. We need to support them and help them succeed. This bill gives them extra time for compliance.
House Bill 1725/Senate Bill 5550 are the result of the pesticide application safety workgroup that met over the interim to review existing state and federal laws on pesticide safety and application. My bill, HB 1725, is not moving in the Senate. However, the companion bill, SB 5550 sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldana, has passed both the House and Senate and is heading to the governor's desk.
At the recommendation of the workgroup, the legislation would create the Pesticide Application Safety Committee. It would do a number of things such as track data on pesticide exposure, look at best practice techniques to limit spray drift and the incentives of new technology to the spraying industry.
Concerns with immigration workplace legislation
Last Friday night, April 12, the state House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 5497, which would establish a statewide policy regarding an immigrants' role in the workplace. Some of the bill has good intentions, such as expanding immigrants' career pathways and providing new business and trade opportunities.
However, I could not support this bill. There are some pieces of the measure I find very concerning.
- It would require the state attorney general, working with interested parties, to develop model policies limiting immigration enforcement in public schools, health facilities operated by the state or its political subdivisions, courthouses, and shelters to ensure safe access for Washington residents regardless of immigration or citizenship status.
- The bill would also require state agencies to provide services without considering a person's citizenship or immigration status, and to put in place secure information systems when individuals use state services and facilities.
- Finally, it would limit the exchange of information and joint immigration enforcement activities with federal agencies.
The public safety of our communities must be the top priority. If we are not safe in our towns and cities, nothing else matters. Why would we pass legislation that would prevent our local law enforcement from sharing information with federal immigration authorities? Why are we limiting immigration enforcement?
I recently attended the funeral of Kittitas County Sheriff Deputy Ryan Thompson, who was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant. He was a friend to many, a family man, a community member, and a great law enforcement officer. Kittitas Police Officer Benito Chavez was also shot and suffered a shattered femur. He faces a tough recovery.
If we are not going to share information among our law enforcement agencies, it could lead to more situations like this. A situation I hope to never see again. It was devastating to watch Thompson's one-year old son and three-year old daughter at the funeral service.
Both the House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the bill. However, the bills differ slightly. Before it can go to the governor's desk, they will have to work out the differences between the two bills.
Reports of my demise were premature, I am alive and well!
Many of you are aware I was taken to the hospital recently. I had been fighting walking pneumonia for several weeks. I was under medical care and on prescription medication. Because of the medication I was taking, the doctor told me to seek medical care if I experienced any of several symptoms, including dizziness.
I did become dizzy on the House floor and reached out to another legislator to provide transportation to a health care facility. In the process 911 was called and I was eventually taken to the hospital. Several tests were done including a CT scan. All the tests results came back negative.
It turns out I was depleted of electrolytes and dehydrated. I was given several IV's and sent home. I am definitely on the mend and feeling great.
I encourage everyone to make their health and well-being a priority. Not only for themselves, but for their families, as well. We work long and demanding hours in Olympia and it is important we take care of ourselves.
I want to thank everyone for their words of concern, encouragement and prayers.
I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you. It is an honor to serve the great people of the 13th District!