Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After a 20-day special session the Legislature adjourned for 2016. Even-numbered years are supplemental budget years – ones in which we shouldn't be considering major policy changes and large expenditures. Changes to the operating budget should only include paying for emergencies, adjusting for unexpected changes in entitlement programs (referred to as caseloads), correcting technical errors or dealing with issues that cannot be addressed in a future budget.
We were able to hold strong on our goals – particularly NO new taxes – while also providing funds to address wildfire costs, the teacher shortage, assist the Washington State Patrol with recruitment and retention, and invest in the state's mental health system.
Unfortunately, I voted “no” on the supplemental operating budget. I am very concerned about the low-funding level of the integrated health system for Clark County as we move away from the Regional Support Network (RSN). I, along with other legislators from the Southwest region, will be monitoring this issue closely as we move forward.
During the last week of the session, the governor threatened to veto legislation unless we could reach a budget agreement by the March 10 deadline. When an agreement was not reached, he vetoed 27 bills that had broad bipartisan support. The governor's actions were unnecessary and did nothing to help budget negotiations. Both parties have expressed their frustration with this move. He vetoed legislation that would have:
- removed obstacles for higher education students with disabilities;
- assisted the state Apple Commission to help promote the apple industry;
- promoted economic development;
- created jobs by authorizing the growing of industrial help;
- saved a committee to address the impacts of ocean acidification;
- reauthorized the Invasive Species Council account;
- reduced the costs of prescription drugs; and
- increased the availability of affordable housing.
It requires a lot of hard work to get legislation through the legislative process. It is disappointing and very unfortunate he chose this veto action instead of being more proactive in reaching a budget solution.
I was disappointed in the governor's actions, and it did not help the budget negotiations. On the last day of the special session, both the House and Senate voted to override the vetoes on all 27 bills – which requires a two-thirds vote of those present each chamber.
We were able to pass a charter school bill into law this session. You will recall the State Supreme Court ruled a citizen's initiative that created charter schools was unconstitutional. The court determined that charters were not common schools and could not be funded in the same way as common schools.
Senate Bill 6194 directs funding for charter schools to come from the state's Opportunity Pathways Account, which contains state lottery revenues not restricted to common schools.
E-cigarettes and vaping
Many of you know I am passionate about putting some rules and regulations in place regarding the vaping and e-cigarette industry. Our state has few rules and regulations around it, especially when you compare it to what Washington state does to regulate and enforce smoking and tobacco. This session we were able to pass Senate Bill 6328, which requires childproof packaging for liquid vapor products, and prohibit vaping in schools, childcare facilities and playgrounds.
Massage therapist legislation
My House Bill 2781 has been signed into law by the governor. It requires the Washington State Board of Massage to adopt rules allowing Board-approved massage programs to establish transfer programs that accept an individual's credits or clock hours from schools that have not been approved by the Board. It is vital to ensure Washington is in alignment with the nation regarding transfer students and practitioners and considers their prior education. The profession needs more therapists and this law will help expand the pool of therapists.
Keep in touch
While we have finished the legislative session, please feel free to call on me this interim. There will be many important issues before us next fall and leading into the 2017 session. I am interested to hear your ideas or concerns, or contact me if you need assistance dealing with a state government agency. Also, I am available to speak or meet with any groups, agencies or organizations working on legislative issues or looking for a legislative update. I look forward to hearing from you.