Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday was adjournment sine die, the last day of the 2016 legislative session. Unfortunately, negotiators from the House and Senate have not been able to come to an agreement on the supplemental operating budget, so we will be entering a 30-day special session. The House budget proposal, which I voted against, would require nearly $120 million in tax increases. It also unnecessarily raids the state's rainy day fund and doesn't account for $487 million for K-3 class-size reductions. The supplemental budget should not increase taxes or raid the rainy day fund. Instead, it should be a sustainable budget that makes minor adjustments to our operating budget and pays for emergencies.
Because we did not adjourn on time, the governor made the decision to veto 27 Senate bills. These include bills that would have:
- Removed obstacles for higher education students with disabilities;
- Promoted economic development through the Washington State Department of Commerce;
- Brought down the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs; and
- Increased the availability of affordable housing.
The governor did not have to veto bills that would've helped Washingtonians in order to spur action on the supplemental budget. We should prioritize people over politics, which is why I believe this was the wrong approach for him to take.
The latest on my bills
All of the bills I introduced this year were centered around helping Washingtonians build a better future for themselves. Two of the bills I sponsored that made it all the way through the legislative process are House Bill 2681 and House Bill 2906. A third bill I sponsored, House Bill 2885, passed via its companion bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 6534. I am hopeful all three bills will be signed into law by the governor soon.
House Bill 2681 increases awareness that pharmacists can prescribe birth control. We know women who have access to birth control have higher education levels, career achievement, and wages during their lifetime. I will continue working on this issue of access, because it's important for so many women in the 25th District and around the state.
House Bill 2906 adds rehabilitation and reintegration as a goal of our state Juvenile Justice Act. Currently, 20 percent of our state's incarcerated juveniles re-offend within 18 months, so it is essential we seek ways to significantly lower that number and help these young people find a successful path forward in life. This bill is supported by the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Washington Defender Association, and the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. Columbia Legal Services highlighted this bill in a recent release.
Senate Bill 6534 would establish a maternity mortality review commission responsible for conducting a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary review of maternal death. Twenty-three other states have maternal mortality review panels and have significantly lowered maternal mortality rates. Washington used to have a review panel until budget cuts ended the program several years ago. Reestablishing such a panel will improve maternal health care and help the state develop strategies to reduce the number of maternal deaths.
Bills that did not make it through the legislative process that I will keep working on this interim include:
House Bill 2451, which would bring together a statewide coalition of public and private higher education institutions to develop a statewide program to map, track and improve partnerships between identified higher ed and K-12 schools.
House Bill 2680, which would help reduce the burden of high college textbook costs by establishing the Washington open education pilot grant program at state universities, regional universities, and The Evergreen State College. My bill would encourage faculty to accelerate the adoption of lower-cost, high-quality open educational resources that would be freely available online for students to use.
A great honor from the Washington Students Association
Because of my efforts during the 2015 legislative session to make higher education institutions safer, more affordable, and more accessible for students, I received the Washington Student Association's (WSA) 'Legislator of the Year' award. I am truly honored and humbled by this award, and am committed to continuing to work to make college more affordable and accessible.
In a release, the WSA said the following:
“The Washington Student Association is proud to honor Representative Melanie Stambaugh with the Legislator of the Year Award for her dedication and support of higher education. During her first term in the legislature, Representative Stambaugh strongly supported legislation making higher education in the state more accessible. She has provided a voice for students across the state in Olympia through her advocacy and work on a variety of bills; from reducing the cost of textbooks, to preventing sexual assault on college campuses. The Washington Student Association looks forward to partnering and working with Representative Stambaugh in the future!”
In my most recent video update, I discuss the latest on the operating, capital and transportation budgets, my bills that are headed to the governor's desk, and some recent meetings I've had. Take a look!
Meeting the 2016 Daffodil Festival Royal Court
As a former Daffodil Queen, it is a pleasure to host Daffodil royalty each year at the Capitol. Every September, 24 participating high schools around Pierce County begin selecting their princess for the Daffodil Festival Royal Court. These ladies serve as ambassadors of Pierce County, and are role models for the young women in our community. This year, the ladies of the Royal Court met with the Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Lt. Governor Brad Owen in their offices. They also had lunch with their Pierce County legislators, as well as legislators from across the state, where they had an opportunity to learn about the legislative process and ask questions.
Please continue to share your thoughts and ideas for how we can work together to solve the challenges facing our district and state. My contact information is below.
It is an honor to serve the 25th District in the state House.