Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The first few weeks of the legislative session have been filled with committee hearings and constituent meetings. The full House of Representatives has started to debate and pass legislation over to the Senate. Last week we considered some education-related bills including:
- a bill to streamline high school assessments by expanding some of the alternatives for students related to graduation requirements. House Bill 2214 would provide more flexibility to local districts and students;
- House Bill 1737 to help address the substitute teacher shortage across the state. It would allow school districts in need of substitute teachers to employ retired teachers without putting their retirement benefits in jeopardy; and
- House Bill 2366 that would set up a new education funding task force to find a solution to the state's overreliance on school levies to pay for basic education. It would also provide stability in education funding and some much-needed property tax relief to the people of Clark County.
Many different bills and issues are being debated this short session, but what is concerning are the issues the majority party in the House does not want to address. Many of them coming from overreaching court decisions and agency rulings.
Two-thirds vote for tax increases: Recently, a King County judge declared Initiative 1366 unconstitutional, despite it being the sixth time voters in Washington have approved an initiative requiring a two-thirds vote to increase taxes. In an effort to implement what the voters want, House Republicans tried a procedural move during floor action last week to bring up a bill that would send a constitutional amendment to the voters requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. Unfortunately, House Democrats defeated our attempt on a party line vote of 48-49.
Bathroom/locker room issue: I have heard from many of you regarding the Human Rights Commission's rule allowing people who identify as male to use women's restrooms and locker rooms and vice versa. The ruling lacks common sense and I, like many of you, are concerned about potential abuses of the ruling.
There is legislation being worked on that would repeal or amend the rule. However, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee has said she will not allow any bill to be heard on the issue.
There are also some concerns on if proper procedures were followed in adopting the new rules. Watch the executive director of the commission attempt to answer questions before the House General Government and Information Technology Committee. After watching the video, it is easy to see why there is a distrust with government agencies and unelected commissions. I will keep you updated on how this issue progresses.
You can also contact the commission and share your comments. Click “Human Rights Commission” for their contact information and email comment form.
Charter schools: In September, the state Supreme Court ruled our state's charter schools unconstitutional. Senate Bill 6194 recently passed by the Senate would fund charter schools with lottery money and address the problems that caused the court to rule the schools unconstitutional. There is bipartisan support in the House for a solution. However, no hearings have been scheduled and the governor has also been slow to express his support for charter schools and a legislative solution.
Department of Corrections' (DOC) early release of prisoners: The governor's office has been conducting an investigation to the early release of prisoners by DOC. However, the Senate has launched their own investigation, to avoid what would appear to be a conflict of interest, since the governor oversees our state agencies and appoints their department heads. Two deaths have already been tied to the early release. It is essential we hold state agencies accountable for these types of situations. We hope to get some answers as to how this could possibly happen over such a long period of time, and determine if any legislative action could help prevent this from happening in the future.
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.
With my business background, and as the ranking Republican on the House Business and Financial Services Committee, I am continually looking for opportunities to remove the barriers and burdens our employers and businesses encounter on a regular basis. I have three pieces of legislation that either streamline regulations or eliminate unneeded steps for some types of businesses:
- House Bill 2433 would update certified public accountancy laws;
- House Bill 2565 would reduce the frequency of local and sales and use tax changes; and
- House Bill 2584 would protect employers' financial and security information submitted to the Liquor and Cannabis Board.
All three bills should be voted out of their respective committees this week and continue to move through the legislative process.
If you have questions about any of the issues in this update or any others before the Legislature, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
It is an honor representing you.