Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the 2018 legislative session just two months away, legislators will be convening at the Capitol next week to hear policy briefings from government agencies, staff, and various industries. As we prepare for the upcoming 60-day session, I remain highly aware that work from the 2017 legislative session remains. The $4 billion capital budget, the smallest of the three budgets the Legislature adopts (learn more here), was not passed before we adjourned, so that will need to be addressed. The capital budget funds the building, maintenance and/or renovation of public schools, college and university buildings, prison and juvenile rehabilitation facilities, mental health institutions, state office buildings, parks and recreation facilities, low-income housing, local government infrastructure improvements, and more. It's a critical budget for our state and for communities in the 25th.
While the House passed a comprehensive capital budget in June, the state Senate did not bring it to the floor for a vote. If an agreement had been reached between the House and Senate, capital budget funds would have gone toward the following projects in the 25th and surrounding districts:
- $10.12 million to replace failing Clarks Creek Hatchery infrastructure. Doing so would help increase Chinook, Coho and Steelhead production and allow for a reduced level of trout production to continue at this hatchery.
- $1.50 million to begin construction on Cross Park in the Frederickson area. A master plan was completed for the park in 2014, and a 2015 state capital budget appropriation provided funding for the design, engineering and permitting of a community building, parking, trails, picnic area, open space and a playground on 3.5 acres of the site. These funds would specifically go toward constructing the 3.5 acres of Cross Park.
- $1.38 million to build Wesley Homes Bradley Park, a retirement community in East Pierce County. Currently, there are no continuing care retirement communities in East Pierce County.
- $980,000 to expand Franklin Pierce Early Learning Center, which opened its doors in November 2015. Phase two would provide an eight classroom expansion onto the existing building.
- $500,000 for the City of Puyallup to acquire a 6,700 sq. ft. parcel located at 305 E Pioneer in Puyallup for purposes of developing a public plaza. The property is immediately adjacent to the Meeker Mansion, which is owned and operated by the Puyallup Historical Society.
Although these projects are currently on hold, it is my hope negotiators come to an agreement soon so we can pass the capital budget in the first week of the 2018 session.
Interim update: Budget, policy and standing committee meetings
The Joint Transportation Committee (JTC), which I'm a member of, frequently meets during interim to discuss transportation projects and needs across our state. The committee, which was created during the 2005 legislative session, consists of the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Transportation committees. At our last meeting, we received an update on fish passage barrier removal projects underway across the state, and heard from the County Road Assistance Council about the needs of our county road system. We also learned about the important work being done by the Puget Sound Pilots, whose members help large cargo ships navigate Puget Sound waterways, enabling them to bring more than $80 billion worth of cargo to our ports each year.
The House Higher Education Committee, which I've served on since 2015, traveled to Spokane to learn about the health sciences programs at Washington State University, the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University. While in Spokane, we toured the new WSU medical school, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. We also met with students from UW's medical school and learned about the dental school partnership between the UW and EWU. We ended our tour at Spokane Falls Community College, where we learned about their dental hygiene program and the services their students are bringing to the Spokane community.
As a member of the School Safety Advisory Standing Committee, I had the opportunity to join the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, education service district and school district personnel, school resource officers and legislative leaders at our annual school safety summit. Ensuring our schools and classrooms are safe is essential, and summit attendees are working hard to strengthen the school safety network across our state. In order to keep students safe, we're working to determine the costs of emergency preparation for our schools so we can request the necessary funding to implement needed structural upgrades, staff training and student curriculum. This is important work, and I'm glad to be one of four legislators tasked with tackling it.
In addition to attending committee meetings, legislators are often invited to tour a variety of programs that are funded in the state's operating and capital budgets. This summer, I toured the Washington State Fire Training Academy, which is one of the premier fire training facilities in the country. Not only are our state's career and volunteer firefighters trained at the academy, but so are many local, state and federal government groups from across the country. During our tour, we were able to watch fire training in action, talk with the current group of trainees, and learn about the funding needs of the academy. I have since continued my conversations with local firefighters who were trained at the academy, and have appreciated seeing important state investments increase safety in our communities.
The 2018 legislative session will begin on Jan. 8 and run for 60 continuous days. In preparation, I am meeting with community members, business owners, educators and students to discuss new legislation that would benefit our communities and state. If you have ideas, please contact my office to schedule a time to meet. My email address is Melanie.Stambaugh@leg.wa.gov, and my phone number is (253) 840-4552. I look forward to hearing from you!
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.