Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As I'm sure you know, the Legislature once again failed to agree on a budget. As a result Governor Inslee called a 30-day special session for budget negotiators to arrive at a solution. The governor then followed through on his threat to veto legislation until an agreed-upon budget reaches his desk. This action is unprecedented in Washington state and frankly has not brought folks together. Instead, the governor has brought more frustration and disunity to a situation already fraught with both.
Many of you have contacted me with questions about specific pieces of legislation. You can click here if you want to view our updated list of dead/alive bills. This list is not necessarily indicative of bills I support or oppose; it's just a list of bills that have garnered attention in the media, from constituents back home or from entities here in Olympia.
This year is a supplemental budget year. Lawmakers should be looking at very minor tweaks to our two-year operating budget the governor signed barely eight months ago. Instead, House Democrats want to increase spending by nearly $500 million and proposed raising taxes by $120 million this year on things like bottled water and out-of-state shoppers. Their budget proposal raided the state's rainy day fund for non-emergency spending and they used a major accounting gimmick to balance the budget in the four-year outlook. In a nutshell, House Democrats used this session as another opportunity to increase the size and scope of state government and to take more money out of the pockets of hard-working taxpayers.
While I don't agree with everything I've seen in the Senate's proposed supplemental budget, I do agree with their overall approach of trying to live within our means. They don't raise taxes; they don't use budget gimmicks; their budget balances out in the four-year outlook, and they don't raid the state's rainy day fund for non-emergency spending.
Similar to last year, this special session hinges on one thing: should the Legislature raise taxes or not? What do you think? Shoot me an e-mail if you'd like to express your opinion.
Unelected bureaucrats say men can use girls' bathrooms and showers?
I've heard from many of you with concerns over the Washington State Human Rights Commission's recent ruling allowing transgenders to use whichever bathroom or locker room they “identify” with. As you might imagine, there has been a state-wide uproar about this issue, and rightly so.
Check out this committee hearing where the head of the commission was asked about the rules-adoption process by my House Republican colleagues. It was a very poor showing by the agency official and brings up more questions as to whether or not the law was followed when adopting these new rules.
I signed onto legislation repealing this rule; however, the Democrat chair of the House Judiciary Committee did not hold a hearing on any legislation dealing with this issue. I'm disappointed the voices of so many were silenced by the will of so few. I have a feeling we've not seen the end of this issue yet as there are rumors of a potential initiative to negate these new rules.
Voters want it to be difficult to raise taxes
Six separate times in the past 22 years, citizens have voted to require 2/3 of the House and Senate to agree before raising taxes! In each instance, either the courts or the legislature has meddled with the will of the people to negate this important taxpayer protection. It's time for a constitutional amendment! I cosponsored House Joint Resolution 4215 to do just that. Earlier this session, we tried a procedural move on the House floor to bring it up for an immediate vote, but were denied by majority Democrats. The Senate then tried to pass similar legislation (SJR 8211), but it failed (26-23) to receive the two-thirds vote required to send a constitutional amendment to voters.
You can click here to see a list of bills I sponsored or cosponsored this year. I had high hopes for one piece of legislation in particular; however, despite strong bipartisan support including the chair and vice chair of the committee that heard the bill, it died. HB 2685 would outlaw the brutal practice of female genital mutilation, something officials estimate between 9,000 and 25,000 young girls and women in our state are either suffering from or at risk to have imposed on them against their will. You can read more about this bill, why I sponsored it and the bipartisan support it received here.
Holding state government accountable
Government, at all levels, needs to be held accountable. It's impossible to restore the public's trust in their elected officials if the executive branches of government are allowed to fail with no consequences. This session, the state Senate exercised its constitutional oversight authority by not confirming WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson. While some on the other side of the aisle or in the mainstream media want to cry politics, the fact remains there have been too many missteps and too many unanswered questions within WSDOT to allow the status quo to continue.
In addition, the head of the Department of Corrections, Secretary Dan Pacholke, resigned as a result of his agency's early release of 3,200 inmates, resulting in the deaths of two innocent people. The governor and the state Senate will continue with their investigations into this matter, but suffice it to say it doesn't look good for DOC and those who knew about the “computer glitch” allowing inmates to be released early. Again, holding state government agencies accountable is part of our job as members of the legislative branch. There are built-in checks and balances in our form of government; however they mean nothing without the willpower and fortitude to use them.
Honoring our National Guard
I had one of the highest honors of my legislative service this year when I was asked by my colleagues to give a speech on the House floor honoring our men and women in uniform. Whether involved in military deployments overseas or assisting in local emergencies like the Oso Landslide, the heroic actions of our Washington State National Guard cannot be overstated. These men and women put their lives on the line to protect and serve us. That thought is humbling to say the least.
As an example of the service and sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and their spouses, we had a special visitor shortly after my floor speech. In January, Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, a Green Beret and member of the Washington National Guard, was killed in Afghanistan when his unit came under fire by the Taliban. He left an infant son and wife, Alexandra. During our caucus meeting, Alexandra came in to meet with members and talk to us about her fallen husband. It is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. There was not a dry eye among the 60 or so Representatives and staff. It was a stark and very real – very human – reminder of the men and women who stand at the ready to protect you and me and our freedoms, and the price they sometimes pay. So I do not say this lightly; please pray for our men and women in uniform and if you see one or know of an active duty service member or veteran, tell him or her “thank you.” You can read more about Sgt. McClintock here.
Taylor Sharp visited Olympia and served as a legislative page in the House of Representatives. Taylor is the daughter of Jeff and Ericka Sharp from Sultan and attends Sultan High School. It was a pleasure hosting Taylor and seeing her walk around the state capitol campus delivering documents to other legislators and staff. I trust her experience in Olympia will shape her life and know she will be continue to serve her community in the future. Thank you, Taylor!
I also had a wonderful intern this year from the University of Washington. Jessie Gamble worked with me, Rep. Matt Shea and Rep. David Taylor on a variety of projects. She is an extremely intelligent student who was efficient, trustworthy and a lot of fun to work with. She is a member of the UW Students for Concealed Carry and I know with her passion, commitment and character she will go on to make a difference in her community. Thank you, Jessie. It was an honor and a privilege to work with you this session.
And thank you for reading my legislative update. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns about your state government. It is an honor to serve you in the state House.
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7816 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000