Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This past week we have been spending all of our time on the floor in the House chambers voting on bills before the March 7 deadline to move House bills out of the House. The Senate members are doing the same with their bills and then we will switch and consider bills from the other chamber.
It has been very frustrating to see proposals before us that continue to make false promises to the people of this state. I'm concerned there is little urgency to deal with the looming $5 billion budget shortfall and more urgency to pass feel/sound good legislation that makes promises to various groups that we simply will not be able to keep. Below are a couple examples:
- House Bill 1631 would provide salary increments for academic employees at community and technical colleges.
- House Bill 1599 would provide, “if funds are appropriated,” annual financial awards to high schools that demonstrate improvement in dropout rates.
As I told my colleagues in my speech on the House floor, these are ideas and policies I wish I could support. But right now, during this fiscal crisis, I don't understand why we are kidding ourselves and the people of this state. We simply cannot afford new programs or salary increases, especially when we are gutting many of our current programs and asking state employees to take unpaid furloughs.
In addition, I feel the majority party is wasting time and your tax dollars by proposing legislation that seems to address issues that are not based in reality. For example:
- House Bill 1205 would license court reporters and extract fees from the industry passed the House, despite the fact that in 525,000 cases, just 14 complaints were made about the reliability of how court reporters were doing their jobs. This is a solution in search of a problem, and I voted “no.”
- House Bill 1186 would increase the penalties three-fold for vessels violating the state's oil spill laws and require additional contingency planning requirements for tank vessels. I think this is simply a knee-jerk reaction to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. There is not a single oil well in or near the Puget Sound, and this bill is unnecessary. There is already a program funded by the oil vessel operators which pays for a tug boat in Neah Bay to be ready and waiting to respond to a spill.
In these incredibly difficult economic times, we should not be discussing bills that do nothing to create jobs, protect education or support a sustainable future for everyone in Washington state.
On the bright side, I'm hoping my proposal to provide for shared parenting agreements for parents with children who are developmentally disabled will be coming up for a vote on the House floor very soon. The bill would:
- create a provision for a voluntary agreement between a parent or legal guardian and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) authorizing the placement of a child in a licensed or certified facility or program because of the child's developmental disability;
- allow a parent or legal guardian, through a voluntary agreement, to retain custody of a child and to share parenting responsibilities while the child is in an out-of-home placement; and,
- require the DSHS, under a shared parenting placement agreement, to provide out-of-home residential services for a child's health and safety.
I will always be a strong advocate for healthy families, seniors and our most vulnerable citizens.
I certainly appreciate hearing from you – please call, write or e-mail my office anytime. Thanks for taking the time to read this update from Olympia. We are half-way through session and I will be glad to get back home in April!
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000