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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2023 legislative session ended as scheduled, on Sunday, April 23. Like every session, this one had pros and cons. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of missed opportunities to pass legislation that would have made a real difference.
As your state legislator, I understand I represent everyone from the entire political spectrum. That's why I do everything I can to work with representatives on both sides of the aisle to create and pass good policy that helps Washington. Obviously, we don't see eye-to-eye on every issue, but that doesn't mean we can't work together to make Washington a safer and better place to live for everyone.
Before I get into the session recap, I want to thank everyone who contacted me over the last three and a half months to offer your input and ideas. I truly appreciate hearing from you, and I look forward to meeting with you in-person during the interim.
Public Safety Still an Issue as Session Ends
House Republicans entered the 2023 session focused on restoring law enforcement officers' ability to pursue criminals based on reasonable suspicion instead of probable cause. We also wanted to pass a long-term solution to the state's drug possession law, which has been an issue since Feb. 2021, after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state's simple possession drug law was unconstitutional (State v. Blake).
Substance abuse and crime have become so prevalent in our communities, and our neighbors are asking us to do more. Unfortunately, we still don't have a reasonable long-term solution to the Supreme Court's 2021 ruling to decriminalize simple drug possession (State v Blake).
Democrats are blaming Republicans, but they have the majority, and they had two years to address this issue. Yet, they waited until the last day to try to resolve it, and that effort failed. Read this column in The Seattle Times – WA Democrats, you had one job – that lays out what really happened.
Now, unless the governor calls a special session beforehand, come July 1, there will be no state statute outlawing possession or use of controlled substances. People will continue to abuse drugs and we will keep losing more lives. We really can't wait another year to resolve this crisis.
As for vehicular pursuit, Senate Bill 5352, passed the Senate and was amended in the House. The Senate agreed with the changes, so it is now waiting for the governor's signature to become law. The amended version will allow police pursuits under the reasonable suspicion standard of those suspected of committing a violent crime, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, vehicle assault, driving under the influence, and trying to escape arrest.
However, officers are still not able to engage in vehicular pursuits for crimes such as auto theft, residential burglary, stalking, reckless and aggressive driving, and others without probably cause. It is better than we have now, but it is not enough, and we will have to address this issue again.
Our law enforcement agencies and communities want more and deserve better.
State Spending Budgets
Our biggest priority as state lawmakers is to write and pass the three state government budgets: operating, transportation, and capital. Here's a brief recap of each budget.
Operating Budget: The 2023-25 operating budget, which passed the House on a party-line vote of 58-40, and did not include any House Republicans in the process, increases spending by $5.6 billion over current spending levels which pushes the budget to $69.8 billion.
Under the current majority leadership, state spending has more than doubled over the past 10-years. Additionally, instead of spending funds on key priorities with clearly defined outcomes, spending is spread across 1,800 separate line items with very little transparency or accountability.
The budget also fails to save for later, leaving only $3 billion in reserves by the end of the four-year outlook period, which does not meet the state treasurer's minimum target of 10% of annual NGF-O revenues, and is less than the 50-state average.
Lastly, despite uncomfortably high inflation, this budget provides no relief to taxpayers, in stark contrast to Democrat-controlled states across the nation.
Transportation budget: Unlike the operating budget, the state transportation budget did have bipartisan input, which is good news.
The budget spends a total of about $13.5 billion, which includes $4.6 billion for highway improvements throughout the state. That includes $275 million for the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River with intent language committing $1 billion for the project. The budget also includes $650 million to help hire more troopers for the Washington State Patrol.
The transportation budget proposal also prioritizes some of the major projects of the Connecting Washington plan that the governor delayed or did not include in his budget. It also represents the dedicated, cooperative work between the Democratic transportation chairs in the House and Senate and their Republican counterparts.
Overall, this budget included $12.4 million in funding for transportation projects in the 17th District, most of which will go towards new auxiliary lanes for the State Route 14/Interstate-205 to 164th Avenue interchange.
For a complete list of transportation projects included in the final budget plan, click on this link and select the 17th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button.
Capital budget: Last but not least, is the capital budget, which is also a bipartisan spending plan. Budget writers from both sides worked together to create this $8.98 billion spending proposal, which includes $4.18 billion from the sale of newly authorized, general obligation bonds. The remaining $4.8 billion is comprised of a combination of reversion of previously authorized bonds, other dedicated funding sources, and federal funds. It also leaves $95.4 million in bond capacity for next year's 2024 supplemental capital budget.
The capital budget makes appropriations for projects tangible in nature that have a long useable life, such as schools and other public buildings, behavioral and mental health facilities, parks, low-income housing, water infrastructure, and habitat, including $19.3 million for 17th District projects, such as:
- $1.5 million for the West Fork Washougal Conservation.
- $1.25 million for the Green Mountain Wildlife Recreation program.
- $1 million for the Port of Skamania Cascades Business Park (North Bonneville).
- $1 million for the Rock Creek Bridge replacement.
- $1 million for the Fenton Community Park.
- $1 million for Criminal Justice Regional Training Facilities.
- $750,000 for Stevenson-Carson High School.
- $730,000 for the Camas Public Library.
- $669,000 for the Jones Creek Fish Barrier removal.
- $515,000 for Lacamas Lake Water improvements (Camas).
For a complete list of our local projects, click on this link and select the 17th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button.
Update on My Legislation
House Bill 1112, which is one of the most important pieces of legislation to me this year, will allow for a person to be found guilty of an offense when he or she operates a vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers, or is likely to endanger, any person or property and causes the death of someone using a public way.
I introduced this legislation because a constituent came to me with a tragic story. He lost his daughter in a freak accident. The driver claimed to be swatting at a bug when he ran over this young woman. He simply paid a fine and walked away. It didn't matter that he took a life. This legislation can change that because it gives judges the ability to impose harsher penalties at their discretion.
This bill passed both the House and Senate and is currently waiting for the governor's signature.
Additionally, House Bill 1073 has officially become law. This legislation will ensure that medical assistants who have fulfilled all the necessary requirements and qualifications, will receive their medical assistant certification promptly. It also adds additional procedures medical assistants can perform when they become certified. The governor signed the bill on April 20 and because it had an emergency clause it went into effective immediately.
17th District Lawmakers to Host Zoom Town Hall
I also want to make you aware of our next town hall meeting. I will be joining my seatmate Kevin Waters, R-Stevenson, and Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, for a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday, May 3, from 6 to 7 p.m.
The one-hour meeting held over the Zoom platform will give you an opportunity to learn more about the 2023 legislative session, which ended April 23.
In addition to reviewing some of the bills that passed in the Senate and House of Representatives, and providing an update on their own legislation, we also plan to answer your questions and address your concerns.
Those who wish to participate in the meeting must click here to register for the event online.
Thank You and Please Stay in Touch
Thank you again for allowing me to represent you in the Legislature. I'm here to listen, and I hope you will continue reaching out to me throughout the interim. I want to represent you the best I can, so please stay in touch. If you'd like to set up a personal meeting with me, please click here.
It's an honor to serve,
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7976 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000