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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2016 legislative session is underway. Much of the attention will continue to be on education and what the Legislature is doing to address the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling.

It is difficult to predict what may happen with McCleary this session. The court continues to move the goalposts and may do so again. This despite the historic progress we made the last three years:

  • smaller K-3 class sizes;
  • MSOC money;
  • teacher raises; and
  • investing an additional $2.9 billion in K-12 education last year.

A bipartisan group continues to work on a plan to meet the 2018 deadline and has introduced legislation this session to keep the discussion and possible solutions moving forward.

Rep. Paul Harris on the floor of the House of Representatives.Charter schools 

Legislation has been introduced to address the state Supreme Court ruling in November, that called our state’s charter schools unconstitutional. There is bipartisan support for a solution, but the governor has not indicated if he is in support of legislation or supporting the public charter schools for that matter. Voters established charter schools by passing Initiative 1240 in 2012.

Budget

The short, 60-day legislative session is a supplemental operating budget year for lawmakers. We shouldn’t see new, major policies and spending. The supplemental budget is for addressing caseload forecasts and emergency appropriations such as covering costs of wildfires and flooding. The governor did propose tax increases in his supplemental budget, which is disappointing. However, they are taxes we have all seen before and they have not received support from the public or the Legislature in the past.

Auditor impeachment

It is possible we will finally get some movement on the impeachment of State Auditor Troy Kelley. There is bipartisan support for his impeachment. The Speaker of the House has the authority to determine if this is brought for consideration. He has not made a decision at this time. Keep in mind, the impeachment request is not based on a presumption of guilt, but the fact he abandoned his office for seven months.

Governor’s executive order on firearms

Recently Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order related to gun safety.  While I can appreciate the governor’s concern on reducing gun violence, I believe the focus must be placed on those with mental health issues and getting them the help they need.  Many mass shootings have had one thing in common, a perpetrator with a history of mental health issues.  I believe the best way to reduce gun violence is not to chip away at our 2nd Amendment rights, but to focus on helping those struggling with mental health.

Department of Corrections’ early release of prisonersRep. Harris and colleagues discuss legislation on the House floor.

Last month we became aware that the Department of Corrections had released as many as 3,200 prisoners early since 2002 because a software coding error miscalculated sentences. Two deaths have already been tied to early releases. The department knew about the glitch since 2012, but lawmakers were just informed last month. A fix to the computer system is expected soon, but we need to hold state agencies accountable for these types of situations.

Human Rights Commission decision

On Dec. 26, the Washington State Human Rights Commission enacted a new rule  requiring bathroom, shower and locker room use in public buildings be based on gender “identity” not gender “anatomy.” That means if a man ‘identifies’ as a woman, he is allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room.

Many people, particularly those with kids, are very concerned about potential abuses of the system. The commission did not consider the rights of everyone, particularly the right to privacy in their decision.

This is a great example of what happens when you have an unelected commission making public policy decisions without any input or oversight from the Legislature.

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. We will keep you updated on how this issue progresses.

Committee change

I have been appointed to the House Education Committee this session. Raising five kids, I have always had an active interest in education. You want your children to get the best education possible. I am very happy to be on this committee as we work on the issues and make decisions on the future of education in Washington.

I will also be very involved in health care issues as the assistant ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee and I will continue to serve on the Appropriations Committee.

If you have any questions, concerns or comments about these issues or others we may be working on this legislative session please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

Paul Harris

Sincerely,


Paul Harris

State Representative Paul Harris
17th Legislative District
RepresentativePaulHarris.com
403 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
paul.harris@leg.wa.gov
360-786-7976 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000