Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank those of you who were able to join us for our 9th District telephone town hall this week. I appreciated your involvement and the conversations we had help guide me as I make decisions on your behalf in Olympia. Here are the results of the survey questions we asked:
The state Supreme Court overturned the will of voters by voiding the state public charter school system. Should the Legislature pass a bill to ensure charter schools can continue to operate?
YES = 63.8%
NO = 23.8%
Need more information = 12.3%
The state Human Rights Commission recently ruled that transgenders could use the bathroom or locker room of the sex they “identify” with. What should the Legislature do?
Do everything possible to repeal the law = 70.8%
Work with the commission to address concerns and arrive at a compromise = 21.7%
Do nothing, I agree with the commission's ruling = 7.5%
Protections for tax increases and changes to transgender/bathroom rules fail in state Senate
The constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds legislative vote for tax increases we mentioned in our survey came up for a vote in the Senate recently. Unfortunately, after hours of heated discussions, Senate Joint Resolution 8211 failed to get the 33 votes required for passage. The vote was 26-23 (constitutional amendments require a supermajority legislative vote to pass the Legislature). I wouldn't be surprised if, once again, the public votes on a similar initiative in the future.
Also failing to receive enough votes to pass the Senate was a measure (Senate Bill 6443) to repeal the new rule allowing transgender persons to use the bathroom or locker room of their choice. We knew this correction had no chance of passing first in the House but had hoped the Senate could muster the votes to repeal this law. However, it failed 24-25. Again, there are rumblings of a possible statewide initiative on this issue as well.
On a lighter side, this little fella continues to show up on a regular basis. I call him my Western Washington “friend.” Not sure if he's trying to steal my lunch or if he just likes the view. This is just outside the window of my Olympia office in the state Capitol Building.
House Democrat budget raids rainy day fund and relies on tax increases
Forgive me if I sound like a broken record when talking about the House Democrat budget proposals from the last few years. But they continue to try the same old failed policies. In this year's supplemental budget – a time for very small adjustments or emergency expenditures like wildfires – they want to create new programs and increase policy spending. Their budget raids the state's rainy day fund for non-emergency spending and relies on about $120 million in tax increases. These new taxes include ones rejected by voters in the past – like taxing bottled water – or ones rejected by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee. The sad part is, while their budget needs these tax increases to balance out, the House Democrats won't take a vote on the tax increases. That's a bit disingenuous in my book.
I supported several amendments to try and reduce spending or direct dollars into more high-priority areas:
- Fully fund the Washington Charter School Commission, reversing the state Supreme Court's decision to eliminate public charter schools. The court overstepped their bounds and we tried to provide a charter school “fix” for the voters. The amendment failed.
- Rein in spending by the Department of Fish and Wildlife by reducing their “per-mile fence” costs. The Conservation Commission spends between $10,000-$15,000 per-mile to repair and replace damaged fencing. However, when DFW submits their requests to the Legislature, we see it in the $70,000 per-mile range. What's that fence made out of? We still don't have a good answer for this discrepancy. Our amendment failed.
- Require the Human Rights Commission to do a cost analysis on the controversial bathroom and locker room rules so businesses will know the cost of implementing and enforcing these rules. The amendment failed.
- Reduce the costs of textbooks and course materials for students at our four-year colleges and universities by giving grants to professors and faculty to create “open source” course materials. This continues the work we did last year to make college more affordable to more students. This amendment failed.
- Eliminate the requirement that land owners must open their lands to public access for hunting in order to receive reimbursement for wildlife damage. This is a big one in our district. I hear about this one a lot. The amendment failed.
- Require all new agency rules to sit idle for one year so the Legislature can review them if necessary. Our employers already face too many costly and confusing rules and regulations. And many of our agencies (Human Rights Commission) don't seem to be following the legal rule-making process. The amendment failed.
- Perhaps the biggest one of all – keep schools open by allowing teachers and staff to be paid from Rainy Day Fund if the state Supreme Court closes down the public school system. The court has proven to be unpredictable and constantly changing in their demands. There is fear they could take the unprecedented action of closing schools down if they don't get what they want. We tried to give the governor emergency powers to keep schools open in the event the state Supreme Court once again oversteps their bounds. This amendment failed.
The House Democrat budget is far away from the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget. I'm hopeful that over the next two weeks the two sides can bridge the gap so that the Legislature can adjourn on time. We can make the small, necessary adjustments in our supplemental budget while providing emergency funding for the devastating wildfires that burned over a million acres last year – without raising taxes or completely draining our state's reserves.
As always, thank you for reading my e-newsletter. Please pass this along to family and friends who might be interested. It's an honor to serve you in Olympia.