Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Lawmakers returned to Olympia this week for the 2018 legislative session. In even-numbered years, session is short; 60-days, including weekends and holidays. We will need to work smart, get things done, and move fast.
Before I begin this email update on my activities in Olympia, I would like to take a moment to talk to you about some tragic events that have taken place in our communities. The most recent is the shooting death of Pierce County Deputy Daniel McCartney, 34, of Yelm. The deputy was shot and killed while responding to a report of a home invasion near Frederickson late Sunday night. McCartney was a Navy veteran and father of three young boys.
I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of Deputy McCartney. Our entire community grieves with you. The loss of this young law enforcement officer affects us all.
To the men and women of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department who served alongside Deputy McCartney, and all those who serve in law enforcement, thank you for your unshakable commitment to protecting our communities.
Incidents like this are happening far too frequently. When a tragedy like this occurs, I'm even more keenly aware of the risks faced by our law enforcement officers every day. We need to do all we can to ensure their safety. Officers should be given the right tools to do their job and be compensated appropriately. Any attempts to make it harder for them to protect our communities should be challenged.
Everyone in our community experienced this event in their own way. It's never easy rebuilding after something like this. Lives were lost and our community traumatized. First, we need to honor the victims, the families who buried loved ones, as well as those who were injured. Many of them are still recovering. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
It's also important to say thank you to the first-responders at the City of Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, City of DuPont and the Town of Steilacoom. Your quick and coordinated efforts saved lives. Next, to the ordinary people who responded within minutes of the accident to offer help, you did something extraordinary, thank you.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is continuing to conduct an investigation into what caused the accident. It could take a year or more for them to complete their investigation. In Olympia, on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at 3:30 p.m. the House Transportation Committee will hold a work session on the Amtrak derailment and response. I will be monitoring this very closely as we continue to examine why this accident occurred and how to prevent it from happening again.
Capital Budget and Hirst
Regrettably, the Legislature did not pass a capital budget in 2017. The hold-up has to do with the state Supreme Court's controversial Hirst decision. The implications of the court's decision have the potential of eliminating all, or nearly all, new household or exempt wells in rural Washington. It may be the biggest rural versus urban issue our state has ever faced.
A study by the Building Industry Association shows the ruling, which makes it costly and difficult for rural property owners to obtain permits for new wells, may be costing the state nearly $7 billion dollars per year in unrealized economic development. During the 2017 legislative session, a few solutions were considered, but none of them were brought forward for a vote.
The governor's most recent proposal, heard in a joint special session last week, would limit new, previously-exempt wells up to 350 gallons of indoor use per day and cost homeowners at a minimum $1,500 or more. In the coming weeks I will be fully examining this new proposal and working towards a solution. We need a capital budget and a real fix for Hirst.
Here are some of the bills I've introduced this session
Along with my seatmate Rep. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, I've sponsored a bill to correct a problem created by a recent Washington State Supreme Court case, In Re. Det. Marcum. The error dramatically increased the ability of sexually violent predators (SVP's), including those who reside at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island, to obtain trials for their unconditional release – without supervision or treatment.
Along with the danger to the community, the result would be several costly release court cases, with some estimates as high as $25 million per year. House Bill 2271 would clarify review standards for the court in evaluating trials for a person committed as an SPV. The bill had a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee Jan. 8. It now awaits a vote by the committee.
Another measure I'm pushing for would remove the ridiculous prohibition on planning for a nuclear attack in the state's emergency response plans. House Bill 2214 would allow the appropriate preparation plans to be developed. The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee where it awaits a public hearing.
I'm also sponsoring a couple bills that would do some minor housekeeping for local governments. The first is a bill that would allow county auditors to solemnize marriages. Licenses could be obtained the day of the application. House Bill 2314 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, Jan. 11 at 1:30 p.m.
And finally, I'm currently drafting a bill that would allow county auditors to petition the Secretary of State for a waiver on ballot boxes. This will allow them to avoid the unnecessary expense of putting ballot boxes where it doesn't make sense to do so.
My job is to listen to you
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. Better yet, if you are planning a visit to Olympia, come see me. I welcome your feedback and questions. My contact information is listed below.
It is an honor to serve as your state representative.