On Monday, Jan. 11, the banging of the gavel on the House floor signaled the start of the 2016 legislative session. That means I'm back in Olympia until the beginning of March.
The weekend before session, Sen. Ann Rivers and I hosted town halls throughout the 18th District. Thank you to all who took time out of their Saturday to meet with us – these meetings were well attended and were helpful to Sen. Rivers and I as we made the trip up to Olympia to represent your interests this session!
Lawmakers have a number of issues to address this session, and they must stay focused in order to adjourn on-time:
K-12 education funding: A bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators have been working to ensure the Legislature meets the state Supreme Court's 2018 requirements from the 2012 McCleary decision. Of the concerns from the court was an overreliance on local jurisdictions for funding. Levy swap is an idea being discussed by members of the Legislature's education committees, but it has become more clear that more data will be needed to tackle this difficult issue.
Finding a solution for our invalidated charter schools: A few months ago, the state Supreme Court invalidated our state's public charter schools – it was terrible timing and unfair to thousands of students and families who have chosen charter schools as an alternative to our public education system that wasn't working for their children. There is a bipartisan bill I will be supporting that would bring back a form of the charter school system.
Department of Corrections' sentencing errors: The early release of thousands of prisoners since 2002 is unacceptable and has eroded public trust in government. So far, two deaths have been tied to the department's error. Those responsible for this error must be held accountable.
In addition, the governor has again proposed raising a series of taxes in his supplemental budget proposal, negating the promises he made on the campaign trail in 2012. These tax increases are unnecessary as the state has enjoyed record revenues due to a slowly improving economy. Revenues have increased approximately 10 percent without state government interference. We do not need to reach deeper into the pockets of taxpayers to fund basic needs and obligations. I will continue to fight for common-sense economic policy through my role on the House Finance Committee.
This session is a supplemental operating budget year, so no major policies or spending should be introduced this session – a supplemental budget is meant to address caseload forecasts and emergency appropriations.
This interim, I had the opportunity to meet with many individuals, local officials, businesses and others to hear about our communities' struggles and successes. From those conversations, a few things became clear – we must continue to standup for working individuals and families, lessen the burdens on businesses so they can create more, well-paying jobs, continue to improve public safety in order to make our communities' futures brighter, and continue to fight for a world-class education for Washington students. House Republicans are working on solutions to all these priorities, and I will continue to share information on those throughout session.
Here are two issues I'm working on this session:
Lessening the burden on local businesses: I am sponsoring a bill that will limit the number of times tax rates may change in a year, from four to three. While the idea may seem small, it would help businesses save time, resources and energy so they can focus more on what makes their business productive and successful.
Giving terminally ill patients a final chance: I am working on legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to, within certain parameters, have the option to use experimental drugs that could save or extend their lives. I truly believe if you have the right to end your life, you should have the right to try to save it, too. This law already exists in 24 states, and 18 more are considering it now.
I have additional bills in the works to protect the privacy of Washingtonians and to help make our state more business friendly, and I look forward to sharing more details soon.
In the coming days, the volume and flavor of bills before the Legislature will become more clear. I'll be sure to keep you apprised as session progresses.
This week in Olympia
You can always stay up-to-date on bill hearings and floor action during the legislative session by visiting leg.wa.gov. Here, you'll find committee agendas, information on specific bills, visitor information and much more.
On Thursday, Jan. 21, the House Judiciary Committee will be hearing a series of bills related to gun rights. Here's a list of the bills, with links to more information. The hearings begin at 1:30 p.m., and you can watch the hearings on TVW.
House Bill 2461: Concerning extreme risk protection orders.
House Bill 2372: Addressing the destruction of forfeited firearms in the custody of law enforcement agencies.
House Bill 2460: Providing local authorities with the authority to regulate firearms in certain public places.
House Bill 2481: Concerning short-barreled rifles.
Stay in touch
These email updates are a great tool for me to communicate with you during session. I hope these will serve as an opportunity for you learn more about how your Legislature is working for you. I encourage you to contact me if you ever have any questions, ideas or concerns. You can send me an email at Brandon.Vick@leg.wa.gov or give me a call at (360) 786-7850. And if you're ever in Olympia, please call my office so my legislative assistant, Peter, can set up a time for us to meet.
It's an honor representing you.