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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This week was policy committee cutoff.  This is when all bills not pertaining to the budget or transportation must pass their respective policy committee.  We have these cutoff dates to help keep the process moving along and to avoid significant legislative logjams.

Increasing state agency accountability
I had hoped that one of my bills to provide legislative oversight to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) would move beyond the policy committee cutoff this year.  But the chair of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee would not hold a public hearing on it.

House Bill 1576 is common-sense legislation to help hold the OIC accountable for their actions and to review new authorities given to them.  I dubbed it the “look back, hold accountable” bill.

It's been standard procedure these past few years for the OIC to come before the Legislature and ask for more authority to make rules, enforce regulations, etc.  They say, “We need this new authority to achieve this new outcome.”  Yet even though they get the increased authority, we have no measuring tool to see if they actually achieved the outcome!

My bill would have simply provided a mechanism to see if the desired outcome was achieved.  If it wasn't, we would roll back the authority the IOC asked for.  In other words, achieve what you said you were going to achieve with your new authority; if not, we take that authority away.  It's tying words to actions and holding people accountable, something the OIC and other state agencies don't often like.

One Washington?  Not when it comes to poo in the water it seems
A King County sewage treatment plant had a pump malfunction last week that resulted in 260 million – yes, MILLION – gallons of untreated waste water being dumped into the Puget Sound.  Officials estimate that over 10 percent of that was raw sewage.

But that's not all.  The Seattle Times reports that over 50 million gallons of untreated waste water continued to dump into the Puget Sound for almost an entire week as officials scrambled to get things under control.

But that's still not all.  Another pumping station suffered a power outage yesterday, dumping an additional 330,000 gallons of waste water into the Puget Sound.

The scale of this environmental hazard is then compared to the Department of Ecology (DOE) bureaucrat hiking up into the hills trying to find a cow that relieves itself into a stream.  Or the consumer who can't use a certain brand of dishwasher soap because its chemicals supposedly put the entire state's water supply at risk.

The ridiculousness of this scenario is just astounding.  Believe me, I'll be reminding DOE of this massive raw sewage dump for the next decade every time they try to come after my hard-working constituents for supposed egregious activities that harm the environment.

Just say no!…to a state income tax
I cosponsored legislation this week (HJR 4207) that would amend the state constitution to prohibit a state income tax.  Voters in this state have said time and time again that they don't want a state income tax.  Yet the threat of one remains as the state Supreme Court stopped just shy of mandating one to fund education (despite no legal standing or authority to levy taxes).  We need to settle this debate once and for all and pass a constitutional amendment to protect tax payers.

Future lawmaker?  Just maybe…

It was a pleasure to host Samuel Tingstad as a legislative page last week.  Samuel is the son of Laura and Ed Tingstad and attends Pullman high school.  He plays soccer, football and basketball and he's also the vice president of his class, so he's getting an early start to a potential career in public service!  If you know of someone who would like to serve as a legislative page, please contact my office or visit the House page program website here.

Again, thank you for reading my e-newsletter.  If you haven't yet taken my online survey, please do so.  I'll be closing the survey soon and will report back to you on the results.


Joe Schmick

State Representative Joe Schmick, 9th Legislative District
426B Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7844 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000