Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the 38th day of the 2012 regular session; which means we are more than half-way done with the 60-days we have scheduled to be in Olympia.
Recent days have been some of the most demanding that we have had this session. Policy and fiscal committee cutoff passed, and those bills that were voted out of committee moved to the House floor. Last week we voted into the evening Tuesday through Saturday. This week started off the same way, with votes being taken into the night on Monday and Tuesday.
However, these long days of voting create camaraderie. Tactics used by the majority party to wear down our voice were unsuccessful in an atmosphere of teamwork. Myself and my fellow legislators spent a lot of time talking about how to improve government. When your elected representatives discuss the future and are undeterred in their convictions it is to the betterment of society.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that we have yet to really address the $1.5 billion shortfall. Although, as you can read in a press release last week, the House Republicans released a K-12 education budget. Our budget fully funds, among other things, levy equalization and school transportation. It also gives local governments more control of how funds can be used and lets schools waive unfunded mandates.
Our budget is one element of the “Fund Education First” concept which seeks to make government pay for education before other services. The idea of “fund education first” doesn't stop at the financial aspects of education; it also provides the resources to institute key reforms. These reforms would allow school districts to waive unfunded mandates, implement revised evaluation systems, address underperforming teachers, and add new professional development for educators.
By supporting reforms we are also ensuring that we are putting funds to good use, so that children in every community throughout the state get the best possible education. We can make our schools better and not only fund, but also reform, them within existing revenue. Fund Education First makes children our top priority. I am hopeful that this concept will be implemented this year even if our budget is not passed.
Bills on the Floor
One good bill I am happy to say was voted off the House floor is House Bill 2367, which I sponsored. This legislation would realign the Washington Dairy Products Commission district boundaries and give them the rulemaking authority to redraw their own lines in the future. My bill was unanimously voted out of the House. You can hear my brief floor speech and the supporting speech of Rep. Takko, regarding House Bill 2367. Listen here:
Unfortunately, we haven't seen many good bills. Most of the bills that we have voted on will do nothing to help businesses, the economy, or the public; moreover this legislation will further encumber citizens with more regulation and government control. A couple examples of the type of legislation we have seen is House Bill 2395 and House Bill 2368.
- House Bill 2395 would prohibit short-haul truckers from being independent contractors. This bill requires that truck drivers be reclassified as employees. I believe this bill undermines the American dream. A study showed 85 percent of owner-operators used to be employees and this bill would remove the benefit of ownership.
- House Bill 2368 would force community college districts to have a labor representative on their board of trustees. Washington is divided into 30 community and technical college districts. Each district has a board of trustees composed of five trustees appointed by the governor. Once a prerequisite is created, which requires a seat for labor, we have either started down the road of mandating the entire composition of these college boards or accepting they will now be blatantly biased.
Last night ended the onslaught of floor votes until February 28, when bills originating in the Senate will be debated.
Two bills that will not be coming to the floor this year, but are very important, are House Bill 2517 and House Bill 2518. You can hear my testimony on TVW. Both of these bills address exemptions in the State Building Code Act and State Energy Code. Through exemption; the bill removes some rulemaking authority from the Building Code Council regarding cold storage and equipment for industrial processes. The Building Code Council should not have jurisdiction over these elements of construction.
These measures are not likely to get voted out of committee this year. However, I intend to work on these issues through the interim and introduce similar legislation in 2013. Hopefully these ideas will get further in the process next year.
In closing I invite you to a town hall meeting this Saturday, February 18 with my fellow district legislators, Sen. Doug Ericksen, Rep. Jason Overstreet. The event will be held in the Lynden High School gymnasium located at 1201 Bradley Road. It will run from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. We hope that there will be a good turn out and I urge you to participate. We will share information on the 2012 legislative session and take questions. No RSVP is necessary.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance or would like to meet with me. The input you provide is important! Helping constituents is the aspect I find most gratifying about being a legislator. If you would like to schedule a time to talk about important issues and how I can help, please contact my Olympia office at (360) 786-7854 or via email.
It's an honor to represent you,
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