Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you enjoyed your summer. It has been a busy interim for me. I am continually meeting with constituents, participating in legislative tours and serving on work groups and task forces. This email update will touch on some of the meetings, tours and issues I have been working on.
In September, legislators representing Yakima and the surrounding area had an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion put on by the Yakima Chamber of Commerce.
Foster care was one of the many issues we discussed. As I shared at the forum, we need to build and retain relationships with our foster parents. I was a foster parent for many years. We need to continue to improve our foster care system as thousands of foster homes are still needed for children.
The Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) has released a new plan with the hope of improving foster parent engagement through licensing, resources and communication. I can assure you, I will be watching this plan closely and looking at any legislation we can to strengthen our foster care system.
For more on the panel discussion read the Yakima Herald article here.
I continue to serve on the Oversight Board for the DCYF. We meet on a regular basis. We knew the creation of a new agency would be a monumental task. The Oversight Board is in place to change the culture of the agency overseeing children, family services and programs, while ensuring there is transparency and accountability.
AeroTEC contract and Boeing in Moses Lake
Local business AeroTEC received some fantastic news a couple weeks ago. AeroTEC, which does aircraft modification and certification, has been selected by aerospace manufacturer Rolls Royce to modify a 747 to design and create a test bed aircraft for certification of aircraft jet engines at the Moses Lake facility.
Also, if you live in Grant County, you are probably aware Boeing has parked more than 130 737 Maxes at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake. It is part of the 737 Max recovery effort.
I believe with Boeing utilizing the Grant County International Airport and the news about AeroTEC, it will benefit our economy and increase aviation awareness and opportunities for Grant County and the entire state.
After the legislative session, I was appointed to the Aviation Coordinating Commission because of my strong aviation background. The commission is tasked with identifying and exploring the feasibility of another Sea-Tac-like airport. We had our first meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 30. The meeting went well. I will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this commission.
Forestry Aerial Application Task Force
I am also serving on the interim task force created to look at aerial herbicide applications in forest lands. Our group has been reviewing current best management practices, and developing recommendations to improve the aerial application of herbicides on state and private forest lands. We have a couple more meetings before we must make our recommendations to the Legislature on Dec. 31, 2019. My background in aviation and aerial application has provided some important insight on this issue. I am hopeful our recommendations are the result of bipartisan, collaborative work of the task force.
New child care rules detrimental to our state's care providers
New rules put in place by the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) for childcare providers are making it very difficult for our child care providers. The new rules went into effect on August 1, requiring more education requirements that may end up causing some providers to close their doors. We have already seen many go out of business because of the increased rules and regulations.
Last session my legislation, House Bill 1866, would have given child care centers until Aug. 1, 2024 to comply with changes to professional development requirements being required of them. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed the bill, despite it passing the Legislature unanimously.
I am working on new solutions for the upcoming session to keep our child care providers in business and ease some of the burdensome and unnecessary regulations.
Lack of affordable child care has become a major problem across the state. According to a news story from the Yakima Herald, just in Yakima, the number of licensed child care providers dropped from 416 to 352 in the last year.
Here are some other headlines from around the state on this issue…
- Lack of accessible child care costing state economy — and possibly Yakima County — significantly (Yakima Herald, Oct. 22, 2019)
- A day care closes as the state imposes new regulations (The Wenatchee World, Sept. 6, 2019)
- Spokane child care providers worry new state requirements will close in-home providers, limit future workforce entries (The Spokesman Review, Aug. 16, 2019)
- Some child care workers worried about new state regulations (Kitsap Sun, Aug. 3, 2019)
- Child care costs may skyrocket under new licensing standards (The Columbian/The Daily News, Feb. 12, 2019)
Wildfire and forest health
We were fortunate this wildfire season to avoid any major catastrophic fires. While the major wildfire season is over, the work to reduce wildfire risk and manage our forest ecosystems continues during the fall and winter seasons. In early October, I visited an active prescribed fire burn site, not far from where the Jolly Mountain Fire took place a couple years ago. It was a great opportunity to see the work agencies and organizations are doing protect our communities and improve the management of our forests.
Sprague Lake level
Over the last few years, Sprague Lake's water level has crept above normal levels and stayed there, flooding homes and impacting property use. I put together a meeting in Sprague not long ago that included ranchers, property owners, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Ecology and local elected officials. It was a very productive meeting. A solution will not come overnight, but everyone is on the same page moving forward as we address the lake level.
Joint Transportation Committee tour
I serve on the Joint Transportation Committee, which recently toured areas to learn more about fish passage issues. I had a chance to see firsthand why replacing these culverts can be so difficult – from the design phase to final construction. The courts have ordered Washington state to replace these obstacles to fish migration, now the trick is to do this as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Parades, rodeos and other local festivities
Even with all the legislative work and meetings I make sure to find time for the local parades and rodeos. I was able to attend parades in Warden, Quincy, Odessa, Thorp, Harrington, the fairs in Grant, Lincoln and Kittitas counties, and of course, the Moses Lake rodeo and Ellensburg Rodeo and parade.
Participating in the small town festivities is one of my favorites parts of my job. It is great to see folks and the local support for the communities in the 13th District is great!
I enjoy sharing my experiences with you. Please feel free to share these updates with friends, family and other constituents who may be interested. It is critical people know what we are working on in Olympia. Encourage folks to subscribe to future updates by clicking this link.