Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends! I wanted to send out this interim update before the Legislature convenes again on Jan. 11 for the 2016 legislative session. There are a lot of issues we will be addressing during the 60-day session, including education funding as it relates to McCleary, levy reform, charter schools, as well as voter-approved Initiative 1366. I-1366, which passed 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent earlier this month, will reduce the state sales tax by 1 percent unless the Legislature sends a constitutional amendment to the ballot requiring a two-thirds majority for the Legislature to raise taxes. These are complex issues, and we must carefully deliberate as a legislative body about the best way to move forward to benefit all Washingtonians. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and tackling these issues head-on.
During the interim, I have had many meetings with members of our community, discussing education policy, recycling programs, public safety, mental health, and energy resources — among other topics. I have also toured manufacturing plants, small businesses, and community organizations across the 25th District and the greater Puget Sound area. My meetings have turned into drafted legislation that will help resolve problems our employers and community members face on a daily basis. I look forward to working with members to pass these policies this upcoming session.
To learn more about what I've been up to this interim, please watch my latest video update. In it, I discuss the Washington State Supreme Court's two recent decisions regarding school funding and charter schools. I also talk about an opportunity I had this summer to join legislators from both chambers on a trip to Denmark to learn about their approach to clean energy, the environment, and transportation practices.
Visiting schools and college campuses
The House Education Committee, on which I serve as an assistant ranking member, toured several schools this interim, including Raisbeck Aviation High School in the Highline School District, Foster High School in Tukwila, the Washington Youth Academy in Bremerton, Choice Alternative High School in Shelton, and the Puget Sound Industrial Excellence Center located at South Seattle College. These visits showcased the diverse needs of our students, as well as the successes and challenges in our schools. Administrators, educators, students, and community members came together to discuss with us how the Legislature can help improve our education system. Panels convened to address career and technical education, and students shared their experiences navigating curriculum, testing and college preparation. We walked through robotics, English, math, and science classrooms on student-led tours, and saw firsthand the needs that must be addressed in our schools. One area we can certainly improve on is making sure students have access to career and technical education. Helping them learn the skills required for the jobs of tomorrow is vitally important.
In addition to serving on the House Education Committee, I also serve on the House Higher Education committee. We recently toured the WSU Tri-Cities campus, and learned about their partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, the new Wine Sciences Center, and their innovative approach to student support services. We also toured Columbia Basin College in Pasco, learning about the Bechtel National Planetarium, which partners with local school districts to expand science education. While there, we toured the college's automotive shop and learned about their nuclear reactor program. I also have been in discussions with higher education institutions about developing and/or expanding degree programs in the energy sector.
Campus Sexual Violence Taskforce
I have been heavily involved with the development of the Campus Sexual Violence Taskforce, which was created by the Legislature last session. The important work of the taskforce, including best practices regarding prevention, intervention, and recovery programs pertaining to sexual violence on our college campuses, will be presented to the Legislature in the coming months.
As the 2016 session approaches, please feel free to give me a call, send an email or contact my office to set a time to meet to discuss any questions, concerns or opportunities that are important to you. It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature. Have a great holiday season!