Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2018 legislative session is in full swing! We are now in the third week of this short, 60-day session, and there is a lot of work to do. Policy cutoff is coming up on Feb. 2, which is the deadline for bills without a fiscal impact (cost to the budget) to pass out of policy committees. Fiscal committee cutoff is four days later on Feb. 6, when bills with a fiscal impact must pass out of appropriations committees (Appropriations, Capital Budget and Transportation).
For the full 2018 session cutoff calendar, click here.
2017-19 capital budget and Hirst legislation signed into law
As you may have heard, the Legislature was able to come to an agreement last week on a bill to adjust the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision (background here). The bill, Senate Bill 6091, ensures most private property owners will once again be able to access water on their land. This is critical for economic development, and will also play a role in keeping housing affordable — particularly in rural Washington.
Passing Senate Bill 6091 meant we were also able to pass the 2017-19 capital budget, the “bricks and mortar” budget that funds construction projects in the 25th District and around the state.
The $4.17 billion spending plan invests $933 million in school construction and modernization, and $860 million in higher education facilities. It also allocates $136.5 million in funding for community-based and institution-based mental health facilities, making targeted investments in behavioral health community capacity and security updates to Eastern and Western State hospitals.
Additionally, more than $106 million is provided for the Housing Trust Fund, which will help fund housing projects for veterans and those affected by natural disasters, as well as supportive housing for the mentally ill.
Locally, we secured funding for a number of critical projects, including:
$1.4 million for Step by Step
Step by Step provides critical services to at-risk pregnant women and mothers. The organization has 27 trained professional nurses and counselors on staff, serving more than 1,000 women in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties every year. Step by Step recently purchased a 6.5-acre campus in Puyallup to better provide services, as well as on-the-job training and mentorship for clients. The $1.4 million provided by the capital budget will help improve and develop the campus.
$1.38 million for Wesley Homes, Bradley Lake Park
Wesley Homes is a nonprofit organization that has served seniors and their families since 1944. The organization purchased a 14.5-acre site in Puyallup adjacent to Bradley Lake Park to create the only full continuum of care community in East Pierce County. Capital budget funds will go toward developing the Wesley Homes site and Bradley Lake Park area.
$980,000 for Phase 2 of the Franklin Pierce Early Learning Center
In 2014, Franklin Pierce School District purchased the Parkland Methodist Church building, and made it its permanent site for the community's Early Learning Center. Phase one included renovations that were completed in November 2015. The doors then officially opened to 320 three-to-five year-olds, and 65 early learning professionals. It's now time for phase two of the project, which will provide the equivalent of an eight-classroom expansion. This expansion will help enroll more students in the program (there are currently 83 students waiting to be enrolled), and allow for an easier transition to full-day Head Start. While Franklin Pierce School District has the means to cover the hard costs for phase two, capital budget dollars will help with the soft costs, including design and permitting.
I'm happy to say two of the bills I've sponsored this session have been approved by the House and sent to the Senate for further consideration.
House Bill 1742 would provide a legal way for auto repair shops to service vehicles with expired tabs. Under current law, shop employees could be cited for test driving such vehicles. My bill would give shop owners the option of registering with the Department of Licensing to purchase transporter license plates, which would protect employees from being cited by law enforcement.
House Bill 2087 is a worker safety bill that would require drivers to yield the right-of-way to any authorized vehicle or pedestrian working in a designated construction or maintenance area. According to data from the Washington State Department of Transportation, there were 161 fatal or serious injury crashes in work zones in Washington state from 2013-2017. It's clear we must do better in prioritizing road worker safety in our state. This bill would help in that effort.
Additional bills I have sponsored this session
In addition to the two bills above, I have sponsored several other bills this session that would have a positive impact on our community and the state.
House Bill 2569 would provide a motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) exemption for trailers, which is an idea that was brought to me by a constituent from our district. Because of Sound Transit 3, Washingtonians in the Regional Transit Authority boundary are already required to pay an increased MVET on registered motorized vehicles. I don't think it makes sense to double tax them for towing a non-motorized trailer. This bill is in the House Transportation Committee, and I am working to see that it receives a public hearing.
House Bill 2570 would require the state Department of Health to establish a searchable online database for women to identify local pharmacies that offer birth control. Research shows increasing access to birth control reduces unintended pregnancies, which in turn, reduces costs to our state. I strongly believe we must continue removing barriers to contraception in Washington, and such a database would play in role in ensuring that happens. A public hearing on this bill is scheduled for tomorrow in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.
House Bill 2801 is a bill designed to help students at our community and technical colleges, including students in Running Start. It would require community and technical colleges to implement a tracking and early alert system designed to: 1) track students' progress, 2) notify faculty, advisors or staff when a student may need additional academic support or advising, and 3) connect the student to appropriate and available support services. House Bill 2801 is scheduled for a vote in the House Higher Education Committee tomorrow.
Earlier this month, our community lost a hero, Pierce County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel McCartney. His death was a tremendous shock to all of us, and a solemn reminder that our law enforcement officers put everything on the line on a daily basis to serve and protect our communities. Their bravery and sacrifice is astounding.
Last week, I had the opportunity to introduce a resolution on the House floor to honor Deputy McCartney. I invite you to read it here, and to watch the resolution as it was adopted in the Senate here.
Deputy McCartney leaves behind his wife and three sons. Please keep them in your prayers, as well as the members of our Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
As bills continue to move through the Legislature, please don't hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is (360) 786-7948.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House.