Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is an honor serving you in my first legislative session. We began our work in the Legislature on Jan. 13 and we are scheduled to adjourn after 60 days, or March 13. I have been appointed to the following committees, which I believe fall in line with the needs and issues in the 28th District:
- Higher Education
- Joint Committee on Veterans' and Military Affairs
- Quality Education Council
As I work through the newness of being your state representative, it has been helpful to lean on my community members, friends and colleagues in the military and local governments to ensure I have all the information from the ground as we begin to discuss issues that may impact you. I welcome your feedback, so please feel free to contact me with questions, concerns, solutions or if you need assistance working with a state agency.
Below are brief summaries of some of what the Legislature is discussing and some issues I am working on to assist our veterans this year.
Transportation tax package, reforms and Low Carbon Fuel Standards being discussed
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for a transportation tax package this session. While I have not seen any proposals so far this session, the package passed in the House last June would have raised the gas tax by 10.5 cents and increased a myriad of fees to raise around $12 billion over 10 years. I am sensitive to the need for transportation infrastructure as well as the maintenance of current road and bridges, however I am very concerned about the lack of accountability and cost controls in current projects, such as the Seattle tunnel and 520 Bridge projects. I believe that until we have serious cost-saving reforms that ensure your money is being spent wisely and in ways that move people and goods efficiently, a tax package now is premature.
The governor is also discussing the possibility of unilaterally binding the state to a Low Carbon Fuel Standard. As someone with an undergraduate degree in Public Health and Environmental Science, I care deeply about issues that may impact our quality of life in the Northwest. However, this new fuel standard could hurt our economy due to the increase in gas prices it would trigger. It is estimated that this change would add $1.17 per gallon of gas if implemented. One expert testified in a public hearing in the Senate Jan. 23 that the change could raise the cost of gas by as much as $2 per gallon. We are working to pass a bill that would prohibit this action by the governor.
Education, McCleary funding court case
Many of you are likely hearing more about the 2012 state Supreme Court order in the McCleary education funding case. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and told the Legislature that it needed to live up to the state constitution, which tells lawmakers that K-12 education is the “paramount duty” of the state. Last year, a strong bipartisan effort ensured the Legislature passed an education-first budget that added $1 billion more to K-12 education funding. The budget, along with reform legislation, did a lot good things to support our teachers in the classroom and improve student outcomes.
The court issued another order on Jan. 9 to the Legislature telling lawmakers that while it recognizes the good work in the 2013-15 budget, more needs to be done. Specifically, the court told lawmakers that teacher COLAs were part of essential education funding and that they needed to be funded this session. There are many groups that receive an annual COLA adjustment to address the increase costs of living. I cosponsored House Bill 2422 to fund teacher COLAs this year in our state supplemental operations budget because I believe we must pay teachers adequately.
I will keep you updated on the progress of this legislation and would welcome your thoughts on it.
As a veteran, I work alongside many serving and retired military to ensure we are doing all we can as a community and a state to care for those who have bravely fought for our freedoms. As your newest 28th District team member in the Legislature, I saw a couple needs within our veteran community that could be addressed. Here are my two proposals:
House Bill 2343 would allow the option for veterans to have a veteran designation on their driver's licenses and identicards issued by the state Department of Licensing. Many businesses offer veteran discounts, this bill would ensure they have easy identification to take advantage of those benefits and services.
House Bill 2363 would require the state Department of Health and Social Services to provide services to developmentally disabled children of military service members in the order he or she was on the waiting list in another state, rather than having to go to the bottom of the list for services after relocating to Washington.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day floor speech
On Jan. 20, I was privileged to give a floor speech honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His words and work continue to transform our nation for the better. You can watch it here.