Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now more than one month into this 105-day legislative session, and our first major deadline — policy cutoff — is tonight at 5 p.m. All bills that do not fiscally impact the three state budgets (operating, transportation, capital) will need to have passed out of their committees by that deadline. Any policy bills that do not pass out of committee will be considered “dead” for the year.
Fiscal cutoff is exactly one week from today. Bills that do fiscally impact the three state budgets must pass of the House Appropriations, Capital Budget and Transportation committees. As you can guess, any fiscal bills that do not pass out of these committees will also be considered “dead” for the year.
Since my last update, the biggest development of the session has been the introduction of K-12 education funding plans by the majority parties in each chamber. While the Senate Republicans' plan offers a new constitutional funding source and a series of key reforms, the House Democrats' plan offers more of the same, but no way to pay for it. A lot will change in the coming months as budget negotiators come together to develop a hybrid education-funding solution, but it is great to see Senate Republicans taking the lead on this issue with a detailed and reform-oriented plan that puts students first and rewards quality teachers. House Republicans have also developed a plan that provides adequate and equitable school funding, which we will bring to the negotiating table.
School siting bill gutted in House Environment Committee
When I originally introduced House Bill 1017, the intent of the bill was to address a serious problem caused by the state's Growth Management Act (GMA). Due to the GMA, school districts haven't been able to build new schools outside of designated urban growth areas. My bill would allow for the building of schools and school facilities in all land-use zones, including rural lands. Twenty-seven of my colleagues signed on as co-sponsors, including several Democrats.
After I introduced House Bill 1017, it was referred to the House Environment Committee. Yesterday, the bill was brought up for a vote, during which committee members had to decide whether or not to pass the bill out of committee. Before that vote took place, the chair of the committee introduced an amendment to gut my statewide solution for all school districts. The amendment, which passed, would do two different things for western and eastern Washington.
In western Washington, the provisions of my bill would apply only to school districts in Pierce County. The amendment cut solutions for the following school districts: Burlington-Edison in Skagit, Everett, Snoqualmie Valley, Auburn, Issaquah, Puyallup, Rochester, Peninsula and Franklin-Pierce.
In eastern Washington, counties would only be authorized to site three schools in rural areas, even if the counties were solely in rural areas.
I'm of the belief that we need to return control to school districts to allow them to work with local authorities to permit the building of new schools and school facilities where students actually live. New schools mean we can hire more teachers and have smaller class sizes — shared goals of Republicans and Democrats alike. My bill would have done that. It's a shame it was amended to drastically change the original intent.
An update on my other bills
Two other bills I've introduced this session have recently been heard in their respective committees. Below is a brief synopsis of each.
House Bill 1319 would implement a teacher and principal evaluation system that would enable good teachers to spend more time innovating in their classrooms. It would also enable good principals to spend more time with teachers who need help. Currently, teachers and principals are required to receive a performance evaluation at least every four years. Under my bill, good teachers and principals who have rated well would be evaluated every six years instead of every four. House Bill 1319 was voted out of the House Education Committee earlier this week.
House Bill 1654 (companion bill to Senate Bill 5217) would authorize the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) to design alternative route programs for teacher certification. This is an outcomes-based bill that would help address the teacher shortage by bringing people who have expertise in certain fields — but no teaching degree — into the classroom to teach students. The bill passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee earlier this week.
My thoughts on two gun bills in the House
A lot of you have been contacting me about two gun bills in the House that would mandate new policies for all firearms owners and sellers. I wanted to go over the bills briefly and let you know where they're at in the legislative process.
House Bill 1387 would require every person who possesses, manufactures, transports, purchases, transfers, delivers, imports, sells, or offers to sell an assault weapon or large capacity magazine to possess an assault weapon license. Anyone applying for the license would have to be at least 21 years old, and the license would expire after one year.
It's hard to imagine a bill that could do more to restrict your 2nd Amendment rights while doing nothing to actually reduce gun violence. This legislation targets some of the most commonly owned and popular guns in the United States. And for what purpose? Of the 13,455 murders committed in 2015, just 252 were committed with rifles, and not all of those rifles were “assault weapons.” That's 1.8 percent. Murders using knives or cutting instruments? 11.4 percent. Murders using hands, fists or feet? 4.6 percent. If our job is to look at data to make informed decisions, why aren't we doing that when it comes to this issue?
House Bill 1122 would, under force of penalty, require locked storage of firearms. Under the provisions of the bill, gun owners would face guaranteed misdemeanor or felony charges if their unsecured firearm were to be illegally used by someone else. The bill also requires every gun dealer to “sell or give” the purchaser a locked box, a lock, or another device that prevents a firearm from discharging. We all want to prevent tragic accidental deaths, but mandating a one-size-fits-all policy like this simply doesn't make sense.
Both of these bills had executive sessions yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 1387 did not pass out of committee, but House Bill 1122 passed in a party-line vote. However, I don't believe the bill has the votes right now to pass off the House floor.
Sponsoring House page Emmy Rohrer
Last week, Rep. Dick Muri and I had the opportunity to sponsor Pioneer Middle School student Emmy Rohrer as a page in the state House.
Emmy is the daughter of Jeff and LJ Rohrer (LJ is Rep. Muri's legislative assistant). She loves to play soccer, and is a defender on her 15U girls team that recently won the Washington Youth Soccer Recreational Cup. She is also a pitcher on the Pioneer Middle School fastpitch softball team. Outside of sports, Emmy is the team captain of Pioneer's dance team, and also sings in the Pioneer Chambers Choir — she and a classmate sang for the Chief Clerk last week.
I was thrilled to learn that because of her time here at the Capitol, Emmy is now interested in working in Olympia one day! That's a testament to the value of the House Page Program and the unique experience it offers our young people. Thank you, Emmy, for your service!
For more information about the House Page Program, click here. Please also send me an email if you know of a student between the ages of 14 and 16 who would be interested in serving as a page.
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns about the session. I value and appreciate your feedback.
It is a pleasure to serve you in the state House.