Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are in the homestretch. The 2018 legislative session is quickly coming to a close. Because the majority of bills are amended not just once, but often several times in both chambers, we will spend the majority of our time in the next few days reconciling differences in bill versions and approving them before the conclusion of session.
Public Disclosure Act | Open government
There has been quite a bit of media attention on the recent veto by the governor on the Legislative Public Records Act. It is a very controversial bill and policy issue. Although the measure passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers, I was one of only 14 “no” votes in the House.
I voted “no” for a couple of reasons. First, the bill process was hurried and did not allow for the public's rightful expectation of a fair and open public discussion on the merits of the bill. Next, I felt the policy had some flaws that prevented me from endorsing it.
Since the Public Records Act (PRA) was approved in 1972, the Legislature has held that it is an independent branch of government, not an “agency.” The judicial branch has also adopted its own rules and maintained the same position.
More than a year ago, several members of the media sued the Legislature claiming the Public Records Act should apply to all legislative offices. Just a few short weeks ago, a Thurston County Judge agreed.
Senate Bill 6617 was an attempt to change the law to clarify how legislative records should be handled. Although the bill was flawed, it was a step in the right direction. It was also the only bill allowed to move forward this session on this important policy topic.
A better proposal was introduced by House Republicans back in Dec. 2017. The Legislative Transparency Act (House Bill 2255) is referenced in a recent letter sent to the governor from all the Republican House members. This measure needs to be allowed to move forward in the legislative process and be fully vetted by the public.
Supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets
The House and Senate recently passed their respective supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets. Those measures are being negotiated, the amendments reconciled, and the final proposals should be voted on within the week.
Supplemental transportation budget “no” vote
The installation of wayside horns (the audible signals used at railroad crossings) have been priorities of mine for more than ten years. The horns provide important safety benefits and also help reduce ambient noise in residential areas.
In the original Senate version of the supplemental transportation budget, $400,000 was allocated for wayside horns in West Tacoma at South 19th and 6th Ave (Titlow Beach). In coordination with Sen. O'Ban, I worked hard to ensure that funding was available for our communities. It is a critical safety and quality of life issue for West Tacoma.
When the allocation was removed from the budget in the House, I had to cast a “no” vote on the bill. This week, I'm working with House leaders to get this reinserted before the final vote is cast on the supplemental transportation plan. Stay tuned. I will have more on this important public safety issue in my next update.
School Safety | School resource officers
There is an enormous amount of discussion taking place in the Legislature, especially after the tragic shooting that took place in Florida, about school safety. It's time to move out of all the talk and do something to protect our children.
Last week, House Republicans offered an amendment to the state operating budget to allocate $30 million for additional school resource officers (SROs) in Washington's K-12 public schools. The bill would provide funding through the Educational Service Districts — putting SROs in the schools that need them the most.
Disappointingly, the amendment was rejected on a near party-line vote, 49-48, with only one Democrat voting in favor of the measure. This is not a fight I'm willing to give up on. Our children need to be able to attend school without fear of violence. I'll continue to work with my colleagues on getting additional SROs in our K-12 schools.
Telephone town hall | Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m.
On Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m. Sen. Steve O'Ban and I will host a telephone town hall for 28th District residents. This community conversation, which is similar to a call-in radio format, will last an hour.
Please plan on joining us. We'll be answering your questions and providing feedback on the 2018 legislative session. To participate, community members can call (877) 229-8493. Once connected, you can listen-in and press * (star) on your telephone keypad to ask questions. We look forward to your participation!
Please feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns, or comments about state government. You can email me at Dick.Muri@leg.wa.gov or call my office at (360) 786-7890.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Olympia.