Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thanks to all who participated in my telephone town hall meeting last week. We had great participation from citizens who were able to listen and ask questions from the comfort of their own homes. I look forward to using this technology again in the future as a way to further communication between us. Here are a few quick details about the event along with the results of the survey questions we asked:
* Total Attendees = 5,758
* Peak Attendees (most on at any one time) = 532
* Calls Screened = 54
* Live Questions (those that we went on the air with) = 23
Question #1: The budget that passed last legislative session, and went into effect July 1st, is estimated to be in a 2.7 billion deficit. How would you address this shortfall in this legislative session?
A. No taxes increases at all, with more cuts to state government = 66%
B. Increase taxes, with minimal or no cuts to state government = 7%
C. A combination of tax increases and moderate cuts to state government = 19%
D. Not sure = 8%
Question #2: The Legislature made cuts last session, which areas do you believe need to be protected from further cuts?
A. Education = 28%
B. Public Safety = 14%
C. Social Services & Health Care = 14%
D. None: no areas of state government should be off the table = 45%
I wished we would have had more time to fit everybody in with their questions. But many were also able to leave me messages with questions, concerns, and even encouraging words – thank you!
Pine Lodge Corrections Center
Last weekend, I joined with other local elected officials in calling for a town hall meeting to discuss Gov. Gregoire's proposal to close Pine Lodge Corrections Center in Medical Lake. We had a great turnout with Pine Lodge staff and community leaders in attendance.
While I do believe the state needs to consolidate and cut in order to address our current $2.6 billion budget shortfall, the data that has been presented thus far shows clearly that closing Pine Lodge is a mistake that will cost us more money in the long run, eliminate precious area jobs, and negatively impact the local community.
Senate proposes legislation to gut the “will of the people,” setting the stage for tax increases
Senate Democrats are proposing to gut Initiative 960 which currently requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people in order to raise taxes.
Senate Bill 6843 is sponsored by Sen. Margarita Prentice from the South Seattle/Renton area. This legislation would suspend the protections voters approved in 2007 when they (overwhelmingly in the 9th District) passed I-960. In essence, the majority party will use a SIMPLE MAJORITY VOTE to do away with the TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY VOTE REQUIREMENT to raise taxes!
On the heels of the Senate's proposal, the majority party in the House then introduced House Bill 3176 which would be used to raise taxes once Senate Bill 6843 passes the Legislature. House Bill 3176 is 90 pages long and contains between $250-$300 million in tax and fee increases!
Both bills appear to have been placed on a “fast track” through the legislative process with quick committee hearings scheduled, limiting the public's ability to prepare and comment on the bills.
I want you to know that I am adamantly opposed to both of these bills. I do not believe the Legislature should engage in backdoor maneuvers to thwart the will of the people. And I do NOT believe that raising taxes is the answer to our state's spending problem. I hope you will join me in actively working against these two proposals.
Public safety bills prompted by local tragedies move forward in the House
With the passage of House Bill 1203 (in response to the Maurice Clemmons situation that happened in Lakewood late last year), the penalties for when relatives offer assistance to criminals will be increased. Other public safety bills that passed this week (which I strongly supported) include:
House Bill 1679 would increase benefits for law enforcement officers and firefighters who are injured in the line of duty and suffer permanent disabilities.
House Bill 2422 would expand and clarify the list of state and local agencies, and private individuals, that must be notified when a felon committed to a mental health facility escapes or disappears.
House Bill 2519 would enhance death benefits for the survivors of law enforcement officials who are killed in the line of duty.
House Bill 2625 would allow judges latitude to determine whether bail is appropriate for offenders arrested and in custody on felony charges.
House Resolution 4679 honors law enforcement officers who have given their lives in service to the citizens of Washington.
Hey – did you know…
The Legislature maintains a very helpful and user-friendly website for public use (www.leg.wa.gov). You can research legislation, find contact information for elected officials and state agencies, and look up committee hearings. You can even track a certain bill by clicking on the Bill Search tab and entering the 4-digit bill number. This website has the most up-to-date legislative information and is updated almost instantly to reflect when a bill passes a committee or floor vote. It is basically the same website used by legislators and legislative staffers.
You can also visit TVW's website (www.tvw.org) and watch live or archived floor debates, public hearings and press conferences. These are just some of the ways technology helps you stay involved.
Thanks for reading my e-newsletter. Stay tuned for further updates throughout session.