Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 legislative session is underway! We have much to accomplish and just 60 days to do it, so things are moving very quickly. This is a supplemental budget year, which means the budget we pass will address emergency appropriations and other small adjustments to the two-year operating budget we passed last session.
Two rulings from the state Supreme Court
The state Supreme Court has given us two big issues to address this year: McCleary funding and charter schools.
McCleary – During the summer, the state Supreme Court imposed a $100,000 a day fine on the state because it ruled the Legislature had not adequately funded K-12 education during the 2015 legislation session. This, despite the fact that we added $1.3 billion in funding last year and are on target to meet the McCleary funding goals established for 2018. This year, the Legislature is continuing to work not only on a funding plan, but also on reforms to improve the quality of education in our schools.
Charter Schools – The other major decision from the court was devastating to me as a teacher. In a 6-3 vote, the court ruled voter-approved charter schools unconstitutional. The public charter school system we have in place has been growing and educating more and more children each year. Not only are these schools proving to be a popular alternative for parents, but we're also seeing many success stories. I believe the court's ruling was terribly unfair to parents who have been relying on these schools. Not every student does well in the current public school model, so if charter schools are a better fit for some children, we should support them – not try to eliminate them.
Bills I'm working on
There are several bills I've introduced this session, including:House Bill 2519 would authorize cities and towns to levy a special assessment against property for the cost of removing a nuisance that threatens health or safety in the community. This would result in improved property values in surrounding neighborhoods. The bill received a public hearing in the House Local Government Committee on Jan. 27.
House Bill 2526 would change, from 90 days to 30 days, the amount of time a person must maintain a permanent place of residence within Washington state in order to obtain a hunting or fishing license. To receive a driver's license, an individual need only maintain a permanent place of residence in the state for 30 days. I think it's only fair to give our fishermen and hunters the same courtesy. This bill received a public hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 27.
There are also two education bills I'm also focused on.
House Bill 2734, which I sponsored, would make permanent the elimination of the biology end-of-course assessment and transition from a biology assessment to a more-comprehensive science test. This would bring the assessment closer in line with what students are actually taught. The bill received a public hearing and was voted out of the House Education Committee this week.
I'm also supporting House Bill 1867, which concerns the frequency of evaluations for certain teachers. As a teacher myself, I understand the importance of having quality educators in the classroom. While these assessments are a necessary accountability and development tool for keeping good teachers in the classroom, they have grown to be more burdensome than necessary. House Bill 1867 puts greater emphasis on assessing new and struggling teachers, and reduces the time spent on evaluating good teachers who are consistently doing their jobs well.
My thoughts on two serious issues
I have received hundreds of emails this session on two issues in particular.
The first is gun control. Unfortunately, several bills aimed at chipping away your constitutional right to keep and bear arms have been introduced in the House this session. It is tragic when anyone is a victim of gun violence. However, these bills are drafted based on tragic events in order to justify putting more restraints on responsible gun owners. We have a duty to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, but the laws being proposed would not do that. Instead, they would put unnecessary restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.
The second issue I've received a lot of email about is the rule passed by the five-member Human Rights Commission that opened up all bathrooms and locker rooms to anyone of any gender. Under the HRC's rule, which they didn't publicize, all public restrooms and locker rooms are now required to accommodate transgender individuals. This means anyone who self-identifies as a person of the opposite sex may use the bathroom designated for people who are biologically the opposite sex. Consequently, a biological male who believes he is a woman, but remains anatomically male, may now use the ladies restroom.
What I'm most concerned about is sexual deviants potentially taking advantage of this rule and threatening public safety. House Bill 2935 and Senate Bill 6443 would repeal the rule altogether. House Bill 2589 would specifically restrict the use of public restrooms and locker facilities to persons based on their genitalia. Senate Bill 6443 was passed out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week. However, House Democrats, who control which bills get hearings, are standing by the rule change and have refused to give either bill a hearing.
March for Life
As I did last year, and will continue to do every year I have the privilege of serving as your state representative, I attended and spoke at the March for Life rally on the Capitol steps. I care deeply about this issue, and want you to know the unborn will always have an advocate in me. Thank you to those who came to Olympia to attend the rally.
I want to stay in touch with you as much as possible throughout this 60-day session. Please don't hesitate to call or email with any comments, questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7820.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.