Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We're now over halfway through the 60-day 2014 legislative session. Most of this week was spent on the House floor debating and voting on bills or in caucus meetings being briefed on legislation. We have until next Tuesday (Feb. 18) to pass House bills out of the House and on to the Senate. Any House bill that doesn't make it out of the House by Tuesday will be considered “dead” for the remainder of session unless it is considered “necessary to implement the budget” – NTIB.
I was very pleased to have Leah Swannack from Cheney High School serve as a legislative page last week. She is the daughter of Jill and Art of Lamont, WA. To read my press release on Leah's week, click here. To learn more about the House Page Program, click here.
Palouse Falls bill passes House
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about an impressive group of students (grades 3 through 6) from Washtucna that testified on my bill, House Bill 2119, to officially designate the Palouse Falls as the state waterfall. I'm happy to report the bill passed the House this week and will now work its way through the legislative process over in the Senate. Way to go, kids! You did a fantastic job and I hope your experience inspires you to do great things in the future!
If you want to watch the students testify in committee, click here.
If you want to read a short article in The Spokesman-Review about the students and their efforts, click here.
What I heard from you…
Two weeks ago, I asked what your first job was and what your experience was like entering the workplace for the first time. I received many responses – thank you! Here are a select few (I only included FIRST names):
- “I was 15 years old at the time. The farmer noted I was not the best apple picker but liked my attitude so he kept me on for the season. I was proud to have a job and brought the money to my family.” – David
- “So tired of freshly elected folks with pipe dreams vs. logical decisions. The governor's opinion of 'inconsequential tax exemptions' is going to hurt so many people. And raising the minimum wage is ludicrous! If folks want more money, get a better job!” – Rosanne
- “I had a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant for 65 cents per hour. What government never seems to learn is that 'markets dictate minimum wage.' The concept of a minimum wage dictated by the state is a joke. All it really does is eliminate jobs for those (young kids) who would like to enter the job market. I have two jobs that I could create if the minimum wage did not exist. I could hire two unskilled high school students in after school positions at a reasonable wage to run errands and do menial work. However, (I can't) because the market does not justify the State minimum wage.” – Robert
- “I was a part-time stockroom employee of an electronics distributor as a high school junior. The minimum wage was 75 cents an hour if I remember rightly.” – David from Pullman
- “My first job was weeding in a bean field with a hoe for 50 cents an hour. No sick leave, vacation time or even a surety that one would be working the whole week. The one 'benefit' was that one could fill up their water bottle from the well. Minimum wage is just the starting point usually and increases come after time in position and working experience. Upping the minimum wage any more just leads to more inflation of prices and small business not being able to employ as many people.” – Thomas
- “My first job was also as a bag boy in a grocery store. I made 75 cents an hour. This job taught me the value of a good work ethic. The jobs that helped you and I develop work ethics and build resumes are no longer available to today's youth.” – Frank
- “I worked for neighboring farmers, putting up hay, working for a big chicken farmer packing eggs and received the going wage at the time of 25 cents per hour. Usually lunch was provided. When jobs were not available I would cut cord wood on our farm and sell it for $2 per cord. After three years in the Air Corps I worked in a service station and was paid $1.25 an hour.” – Jim from Pomeroy
- “Hi, Joe. My question for you is how much was a gallon of gas when you entered the labor force? Today the minimum wage buys just over three gallons of gas. When I entered the work force minimum wage bought about eight gallons. Think about it.” – Ken
- “I was paid a bit over $1/hour flagging for Wen-Air Co. an aerial fertilizer and pesticide applicator business in North Central WA. Chemicals like DDT and 24D were eventually banned. Benefit package? What was that? I'm just glad I survived to tell this story!” – Jack from Pullman
- “I did babysitting for most of my high school years for 50 cents an hour. In my senior year, I worked at a store like K-Mart called Neisner's in update NY for 90 cents an hour and no benefits, plus I had to walk the two miles to and from work!” – Vivian
- “A restaurant just outside the north entrance to Yellowstone. I tended their big kitchen ranges, hauled in the coal, took out the ashes and garbage and generally did whatever they thought I could take care of without doing them more harm than good, I suppose. They paid me 50 cents and free eats, within reason, which I really liked!” – Bill
- “I think the minimum wage is disgustingly low. You won't have minimum wage earners responding to your e-mail newsletter because they likely don't have computers. You are out of touch with the vast number of your constituents. Either that or the minimum wage earners are working to [sic] hard at surviving to remember to vote.” – Cathlin from Clarkston
Thank you to everyone who responded. It was great to hear your stories.
This week, Gov. Jay Inslee announced he was suspending the death penalty while he is governor. This caught legislators off guard as many of us believe decisions this big should be left up to the Legislature where open debate from both sides of the issue can be heard.
I have two main concerns regarding the governor's actions:
1) He is doing this through his executive powers, and didn't approach the Legislature or have legislation introduced so we could go through the public hearing process and let the people's voice be heard.
2) There seems to be a lack of concern for the victims' families. A loved one has been taken from them in a violent crime, yet the governor is now telling them he will issue a reprieve to the guilty party if a death penalty case crosses his desk while he is in office.
Here is a list of the offenders currently sitting on death row in Washington:
1. Jonathan Lee Gentry convicted June 26, 1991 of fatally bludgeoning Cassie Holden, 12, on June 13, 1988 in Kitsap County.
2. Clark Richard Elmore convicted on July 6, 1995 of one count of aggravated first degree murder and one count of rape in the second degree for the rape and murder of Christy Onstad, 14, the daughter of his live-in girlfriend on April 17, 1995 in Whatcom County.
3. Dwayne A. Woods convicted on June 20, 1997 of two counts of aggravated first degree murder for the murders of Telisha Shaver, 22, and Jade Moore, 18, on April 27, 1996 in Spokane County.
4. Cecil Emile Davis convicted February 6, 1998 of one count of aggravated first degree murder for the suffocation/asphyxiation murder of Yoshiko Couch, 65, with a poisonous substance after burglarizing her home, robbing and then raping her January 25, 1997 in Pierce County.
5. Dayva Michael Cross convicted June 22, 2001 for the stabbing deaths of his wife Anouchka Baldwin, 37, and stepdaughters Amanda Baldwin, 15, and Salome Holle, 18 in King County on March 6, 1999.
6. Robert Lee Yates Jr. convicted September 19, 2002 of murdering Melinda Mercer, 24, in 1997 and Connie LaFontaine Ellis, 35, in 1998 in Pierce County.
7. Conner Michael Schierman convicted April 12, 2010 of four counts of aggravated first degree murder in the deaths of Olga Milkin, 28; her sons Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3; and her sister, Lyubov Botvina, 24, July 16, 2006 in King County.
8. Allen Eugene Gregory reconvicted May 15, 2012 of first-degree aggravated murder for the rape and murder of 43-year-old Geneine “Genie” Harshfield on July 26, 1996 in Pierce County. Originally convicted and sentenced to death on May 25, 2001, Gregory's case was overturned by the Washington Supreme Court on November 30, 2006. The original charge was upheld in a retrial and the death sentence was reissued on June 13, 2012.
9. Byron Scherf convicted May 9, 2013 of aggravated first-degree murder for the murder of Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl on Jan. 29, 2011 while she was on duty at the Washington State Reformatory Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County.
The governor's actions don't sit well with me. Currently, we have some constitutional lawyers looking into this situation to see if anything can be done. I'll keep you posted as I learn more.
Join me for a telephone town hall in February!
I will be hosting a telephone town hall for all 9th District residents on Wednesday, Feb. 26 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Just call toll-free 1-800-761-6268 and you can participate with your neighbors in this “Community Conversation.” These events have been very successful in the past and help me keep in touch with you. You can ask me questions, take my survey or just listen in from the comfort of your own home. I hope you're able to join me.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter. Feel free to pass it along to friends and family. It is an honor to serve you in Olympia.