Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature adjourned the 2018 session just after 10 p.m. Thursday. This felt like a whirlwind session with meeting constituents, sponsoring and voting on bills, and working within leadership. We started the session with the passage of a fix to the Hirst water decision and finally, approval of a two-year state capital construction budget. There was much in-between both good and not so good as I will highlight below.
Support for our young, college-age and elderly
I met with members of Project Child Success, a grassroots organization made up of individuals and organizations from throughout Pierce County working together to ensure that all children thrive in nurturing relationships and environments. I was honored to support their “Help Me Grow Pierce County” pilot project by way of a House budget proviso request. Because Pierce County experiences the highest number of child dependency filings in the state, this program is essential to reduce dependency filings and prevent child abuse and neglect.
In addition, under House Bill 2651, we increased the personal needs allowance to $70 a month. This will help more than 27,000 seniors and disabled adults being served in medical institutions and residential settings. These folks have very little of their own spending money for items like new socks or eyeglasses. Increasing the allotment that has been hovering around $60 for years was the right thing to do.
I also supported House Bill 1452, expanding the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) These scholarships help low-income students achieve their goals of pursuing high-demand technical-professional certificates and degrees. As students secure jobs in these fields, it also helps bolster Washington's economy.
Capital budget brings home dollars for the 25th District
I'm proud to report that the capital budget, also known as the “bricks and mortar budget,” provides $28 million for projects in the 25th District. We also secured an additional $5.2 million in the supplemental capital budget. Here's a look at some of the projects that will be coming to our local area:
- Step-by-Step Family Support Center – $1.4 million
- Meeker Mansion Public Plaza – $500,000
- Wesley Homes Bradley Park – $1.3 million
- Franklin Pierce Early Learning Center – $980,000
- Clarks Creek Hatchery Rebuild – $11.4 million
- Chief Leschi Schools Auditorium – $3.5 million
Supplemental transportation budget keeps Washington moving ahead
I was pleased to support the supplemental transportation budget measure, Senate Bill 6106, which provides an additional $826 million for transportation projects across our state. The measure includes about $20 million to extend the HOV lane northbound on State Route 167 between Puyallup and Auburn. Most of that money comes from the federal government. That project is expected to be completed by April 2022. In addition, this bill sets up a stakeholder group to discuss potential solutions to traffic management in Pierce and Thurston counties in light of the traffic crisis created when the Amtrak train derailed near DuPont, blocking the southbound lane of I-5 for more than two days.
Keeping a free and open internet
I was among the 93 members in the House who overwhelmingly supported legislation to ensure net neutrality in Washington state. Since the Federal Communications Commission decided in December to eliminate federal net neutrality rules, there's been increasing concern that we need to protect Washington consumers.
Under House Bill 2282, which was signed into law on March 7, internet service providers in Washington state are prohibited from blocking customers' access to lawful content or “throttling”/slowing down lawful content. They also cannot favor certain content over others due to “paid prioritization.”
Troubling bills pushed through Legislature by House and Senate majority parties
A change of power in the Senate by just one vote in November also changed the types of bills we voted on during the 2018 session. With Democratic majorities in both chambers and holding the governor's office, we saw a rush of bills that favored unions over family caregivers, ignored the sanctity of human life in favor of profit and denied the fundamental right of conscience and religious protection. Here is a sampling of some of those bills:
Forcing family caregivers to join a union
Washington has more than 30,000 individual home care workers. About two-thirds of them care for a family member, who are most often elderly parents or children with developmental disabilities. They receive a small stipend from the state as compensation for in-home care services.
During the decade prior to 2014, these care providers had to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775 to receive state reimbursement for care, pay union dues or an agency fee, and undergo union-mandated training. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individual providers cannot be forced to be a union member or pay an agency fee. In Washington state, providers were given the ability to opt out of the union and from paying the agency fee. SEIU lost millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, a new bill made its way through the Legislature, Senate Bill 6199. The measure will force in-home caregivers to join SEUI 775 and pay union dues, even if they previously opted out.
When the bill came to the House floor, my Republican colleagues and I objected to the compulsory union membership, reading emails out loud from caregivers who had also objected. However, it wasn't long before the majority party got very uncomfortable about the concerns of these caregivers being voiced and decided to limit debate on the bill. When Republicans said the words “union” or “SEIU,” which is the primary beneficiary of the millions of dollars they could receive from this bill, the speaker slammed the gavel and shut off our microphones.
Finally, Republicans left the floor and when we returned, the speaker started the voting machine. In protest for the majority party silencing our voices (and those we represent), not one Republican voted. The final vote was 50-0, with 48 Republicans not voting. No one can remember when this has happened at the Capitol. We may have been silenced, but our refusal to vote for this bill spoke volumes as we stood up for family caregivers.
Senate Bill 6037, which is now on the governor's desk, will allow paid commercial surrogacy. Proponents argue the bill allows surrogate mothers to be compensated above the cost of medical treatment and expenses. The reality is that it creates a market-mentality about the cherished act of a mother giving birth to a child. Republicans offered 14 amendments to shield women from exploitation, but all were rejected on party-line votes. The measure passed on a party-line vote. I voted no.
I was disappointed Republicans were shut out of the supplemental operating budget negotiations this year and didn't see the final document until hours before we were to vote on the bill. The measure adds about $1.2 billion in new spending over the 2017-19 budget cycle and another $600 million in 2019-21.
As much as $700 million that was to go to the state's Budget Stabilization Account, which is also known as the rainy day fund, was instead spent on education. A small, one-time property tax reduction of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation was provided for 2019, which equates to about $90 on a $300,000 home. Republicans had introduced four other bills that would have provided immediate property tax relief THIS year using existing revenue and without dipping into the rainy day fund. None were given public hearings.
I supported an amendment to provide $30 million from surplus funds for additional school resource officers. There is nothing more important than protecting our children. This money would have helped keep our children safe while they are in school. Unfortunately, the majority party voted down the amendment.
The good news about the operating budget is that it included no new taxes. We were able to drive back proposals that would have implemented a carbon energy tax and a capital gains tax. We also stopped a tax on sugared drinks that is modeled after Seattle's new sugary drink tax.
A special announcement – My last term in office
I have been blessed to have the opportunity to serve my community, my county and the 25th District as your legislator. For many years, with your support, we've been able to make a difference in state and county government, holding the line on taxes, ensuring that we are safe in our homes and neighborhoods, and upholding the values that make America great.
I'm proud of those accomplishments, including my legislation in 2007 that put Washington ahead of all other states as the first to prohibit text messaging while driving. It's a measure that has saved countless lives and other states followed suit. Plus, we were able to strengthen Washington's laws against voyeurism, which was cutting-edge legislation for its time.
After a great deal of thought, I decided 2018 will be my last year serving the great people of the 25th District. I plan to finish my term, which ends in January 2019. However, I will not seek re-election.
I am grateful for your support all these years. Words alone cannot express my true appreciation. It has been a great honor. However, it is time to move to the next chapter in my life, including spending more time with my family.
I am still your representative through the end of the year and will continue to serve you for the rest of my term. My Olympia office remains open, and I along with my legislative assistant, Dianna Hawkins, stand ready to help my constituents with their needs. You will find my contact information below.