Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Policy committee cutoff is exactly one week away. That means any bills without a fiscal impact that do not pass out of their respective committees will be considered “dead” for the session when the clock strikes 5 next Friday night. With this deadline quickly approaching, now is the time to start contacting lawmakers about legislation that's important to you. Your citizen legislature relies on your feedback, and I encourage you to make your voice heard.
Thankfully, five of my bills have been heard in committee, one has passed the committee process and one will be up for executive session next week. I discussed those bills in my last update, which you can read here.
An update on K-12 education funding
In my past few email updates, I've been sharing with you the progress the Legislature is making on McCleary, the state Supreme Court K-12 education funding case. The good news is majority parties in the House and Senate have released their proposals. You can read a side-by-side comparison of the two, competing proposals here, as well as a comprehensive overview here.
There's a lot to be encouraged by with the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus' plan. It's reform-focused, would keep quality teachers in our classrooms, and replaces districts' overreliance on local levies with a constitutional funding source — a flat, local effort property tax. The state Superintendent of Public Instruction, formerly a Democrat House member, said recently the Senate plan “shows that Republicans are serious about solving the funding problem” and that the proposal is “very comprehensive.”
On the other hand, the House Democrats' proposal does not emphasize reforms and, perhaps most importantly, doesn't offer a plan to pay for their proposal. Here's a list of potential tax increases they've proposed in the past they could impose.
Both proposals have passed their respective committees on party-line votes.
Neither plan is perfect. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which works on the state operating budget, I look forward to continuing to work on these proposals the next few months. If you have concerns about either plan, I'd love to hear from you. My contact information is below, or you can simply reply to this email.
The latest on the Hirst Decision fix
In the House, a number of proposals have been introduced to address aspects of the Hirst Decision, in which the state Supreme Court effectively jeopardized future development in rural communities throughout Washington. I explained a few of those bills in my last update, here. A public hearing was held this week on those bills, and you can watch the full hearing here. During the hearing, the Department of Ecology acknowledged Hirst has been “an enormous hardship for families that looks like it could be getting worse the next few years.” Despite that, they testified against the solutions we've proposed to fix elements of the high court decision. And when they were asked to bring solutions to the table, they said “we've come up empty.”
I've been encouraged thus far this session by the bipartisan commitment to restoring certainty to families, builders, developers and landowners. There's going to be disagreement, but it's going to take multiple voices at the table in order to reach a scientifically sound solution that reduces burdens on the average home builder and land owner, while still protecting our habitats.
I'm happy to announce that I was recently appointed to serve on the House Environment Committee. That means I'll be able to get another bite at the Hirst apple as the committee works through Growth Management Act policies, which are at the heart of the Hirst Decision.
Talking agricultural education with Mt. Baker High School FFA students
Earlier this session, I had the pleasure of meeting with Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from Mt. Baker high school. Every year when I meet with FFA students from various schools throughout Whatcom County, I'm always impressed by these young leaders' dedication to promoting agricultural education in their communities.
I always make a point to meet with constituents when able when they make the long drive down from Whatcom County to Olympia. If you're planning a visit, be sure to call my office to schedule an appointment. As session progresses, please keep in touch with your ideas, comments and questions. I look forward to hearing from you!