Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, the House passed its first two bills of the 2015 legislative session. One was a supplemental operating budget (HB 1105), which provides funding for the Eastern Washington wildfires and Oso landslide, an increase in mental health treatment capacities, children's services and other emergency services.
While I am certainly supportive of the programs and services the budget aims to address, I have concerns with some of the methods of funding. As written, the bill taps into the Budget Stabilization Account, the state's rainy day fund. I'd like to see these expenditures come out of our general fund and save dollars in the rainy day fund for exceptional circumstances needing immediate attention.
The bill now goes over to the Senate where it will, no doubt, receive some revisions. I'm looking forward to the legislation coming back to the House for a final vote and hopefully will be able to support it at that time.The investments provided in the bill are critical to so many families and individuals throughout Washington, especially our mentally ill.
HB 1258, or “Joel's Law,” was the second bill we passed. It would provide family members of mentally ill individuals who pose a serious threat to themselves or others the opportunity to petition the court under the Involuntary Treatment Act. The bill is named after Joel Reuter who, in 2013, was shot and killed by police after suffering a serious episode with bipolar disorder. Due to barriers in the present mental health system, Joel's parents were unsuccessful at getting their son the help he so desperately needed. The Legislature has been working on this legislation for the past two years and I was happy to support it.
An update on my legislation
Four of my bills received hearings this week. On Tuesday, the House Technology & Economic Development Committee heard HB 1381, aimed at keeping the Alcoa Intalco Works smelter operational. It would extend an existing preferential tax rate to aluminum smelters to promote and preserve employment and keep the market competitive, especially after the drop in the worldwide price in aluminum. It's important we maintain these jobs, which are so important to Whatcom County as well as the rest of our state.
The committee also heard HB 1289, my legislation to streamline the process of making efficiency updates in our state energy conservation code that we update every three years.
Two of my other bills were heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. One (HB 1267) allows some of our local raspberry farmers who switched to water conserving irrigation methods in the mid-1980s to transfer their water savings to other fields without losing valuable water rights. This is a bill I have ben working on the past few years and the Department of Ecology supports the bill.
The other bill addresses Lynden's ability to get water rights credit for cow water, which is the evaporated water created when drying milk into powdered milk (HB 1338). Currently, the city of Lynden is at its capacity for the amount of water is can withdraw from the Nooksack river for its residents. Because this cow water is now from the river, the city is looking to utilize it to offset an increased water-use from the Nooksack river.
You can receive information on all of my bills and where they are in the legislative process by visiting my website and clicking “Sponsored Bills.”
If you have an idea, question or concern regarding state government, I hope that you will contact me by writing me an email or letter or giving me a call. As session progresses, it's important I hear from you.
It's an honor to represent you!