Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Since my last email update, we've passed a critical session deadline — house of origin cutoff. Unless deemed necessary to implement or pass the budget, all bills that did not pass out of the chamber in which they were introduced are now considered dead for the year. Three of my bills were approved by the House before cutoff, and are now being heard in the Senate.
House Bill 1017 would allow for the building of schools and school facilities in all land-use zones, including rural lands. Due to Growth Management Act restrictions, school districts haven't been able to build new schools outside of designated urban growth areas. My bill would change that by returning control to school districts, allowing them to work with local authorities to permit the building of new schools and school facilities where students actually live. House Bill 1017 received a public hearing yesterday in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.
House Bill 1319 would reduce the frequency in which some certified teachers and principals receive an eight-point comprehensive evaluation. Instead of every four years, the bill would allow teachers and principals who have already met a performance rating of at least three out of four, to receive a comprehensive evaluation every six years. House Bill 1319 received a public hearing last Tuesday in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.
House Bill 1654 would help end the state's ongoing teacher shortage. The bill would expand opportunities for individuals to obtain a teaching certificate through nontraditional teacher prep programs — also known as alternative route programs. Bringing individuals into the classroom who have expertise in specific fields, but have not yet received a teaching degree, would help fulfill the staffing needs of many of our school districts. House Bill 1654 was unanimously voted out of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee on Tuesday, and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.
On the House floor discussing a bill with Rep. Steve Bergquist. Steve and I have worked hard this year on legislation to address our state's teacher shortage.
Why I oppose House Bill 1661
In a 77-19 vote last week, the House passed a bill that would create a new cabinet-level Department of Children, Youth, and Families. In order to create the new agency, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Children's Administration and the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration would merge with the Department of Early Learning (DEL).
While the bill provides certain accountability measures, I don't feel they're sufficient to change the current punitive culture DSHS and DEL has created with child care providers, foster parents and foster children. Furthermore, the bill does not provide necessary systemic reform to improve our CPS and child welfare system. It also does nothing to change or eliminate existing regulations that have limited access to affordable child care for working families. While I believe in quality early learning for our children, I don't believe large government agencies should be overly involved in the day-to-day operations of child care centers.
When these agencies are failing our foster kids and parents, and overregulating our child care providers, we must focus on reforming government, not expanding it. Government has a critical role to play, but that role should be limited and effective. Creating this new agency fails that test for me, which is why I could not support House Bill 1661.
The effect of the minimum wage hike on our child care providers
Child Care Aware, a nonprofit that partners with the state to promote access to early learning, recently conducted a survey of child care providers regarding the increase in Washington's minimum wage. When it comes to operating costs, nearly 90 percent of child care providers said January's minimum wage increase to $11/hour would significantly or somewhat increase costs.
When asked how they would deal with the impact, here's how the providers responded:
- 72 percent said they would be forced to raise rates for families.
- 44 percent said they would be reducing hours and/or benefits for staff.
- 33 percent said they would be reducing staff through layoffs.
- 27 percent said they would be serving fewer families.
- Just 15 percent said the minimum wage increase would not require them to make any major changes.
The bottom line is the minimum wage increase will have serious consequences for our child care providers going forward. At a time when 22 percent of child care businesses have closed since 2011, we must begin to get serious about preserving our network of providers and improving access to affordable child care.
An update on gun bills
I've received a lot of messages this year from folks in the 4th District concerned about ongoing efforts to restrict Second Amendment rights. I wanted to update you on two good gun-related bills I support that are still alive in the legislative process.
House Bill 1100 would require the Department of Licensing to mail a concealed pistol license (CPL) renewal notification to the CPL holder approximately 90 days prior to the expiration of the license. The bill was voted out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday, and is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
House Bill 1731 would reduce burdens on gun owners by clarifying the definitions of the terms “firearm” and “transfer” under state law. The bill would also clarify background check requirements for firearm transfers. The bill's companion, Senate Bill 5552, unanimously passed the Senate and advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee last week. Before the vote took place, the committee adopted an amendment sponsored by Rep. Shea exempting volunteers who participate in an honor guard from the transfer requirements of I-594. It's a great amendment, and I'm proud of my seatmate for standing up for our veterans. Senate Bill 5552 is now in the House Rules Committee.
Reps. Matt Shea, David Taylor and I on the House floor.
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns about the session. I value and appreciate your feedback.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House.