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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For the last several days, House members have been on the floor, passing legislation over to the Senate. In order to continue through the legislative process this year, House bills must pass the House by March 11, or be considered dead for the session. But as I've said before, bills necessary to implement the budget are immune from cutoff.
We're a little more than halfway done with the 2015 legislative session, scheduled to adjourn April 26. It's important I continue to hear from you about the issues you care about. I encourage you to write, call or email me with questions, ideas or concerns you have. And if you're planning on making a trip to Olympia, be sure to give my office a call and my legislative assistant, Skyler, will set up a time for us to meet.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
Senate passes transportation package
As you have probably heard, the Senate approved a $15 billion transportation package Monday. The measure includes an 11.7-cent incremental gas-tax increase, beginning this summer, as well as more than $4 billion in state general obligation bonds.
The package does provide some funding for projects in our 16th District — $172.7 million for Highway 12 lane widening, $28 million for the I-82 West Richland/Red Mountain Interchange, and $26 million for the Lewis Street Overpass in Pasco.
However, there is some concern regarding the large gas tax increase and other elements in the bill. The package now comes to the House Transportation Committee for scrutiny, so there's a strong possibility the bill could undergo several modifications before it comes up for a vote.
I'll keep you updated on the status of this legislation as it makes its way through the session. For more information about the package, click here.
Child immunization requirements
Washington state has joined more than 10 other states in introducing legislation to strengthen vaccination requirements with House Bill 2009. Many have reached out to me about this issue and have expressed their concerns with the legislation.
House Bill 2009, which currently rests in the House Rules Committee, would eliminate the philosophical or personal exemption from child immunization requirements afforded to parents.
As a mother, I consulted with my health care provider and made the personal choice to have my children receive vaccinations as required by the Board of Health. It is my belief many of these immunizations have, as numerous studies suggest, helped to eradicate many harmful and deadly diseases.
That said, and while I personally see the benefit of vaccinating children with effective immunizations, every parent should have the right that I did to make a conscientious and informed decision for their own children. The evidence that has poured into my office is compelling and the personal stories that have been shared leave many questions about the efficacy and timing of vaccinations. This is a difficult decision as we weigh issues of public safety – but I feel that the decision to vaccinate one's child should still be left up to parents.
House Bill 2009 has not yet been scheduled for a full vote of the House but should it come to the floor for a vote, I am unable to support the legislation in its current form.
House passes increase in state minimum wage
On Tuesday, the House passed a bill to increase the state minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next four years. I voted against this bill.
I understand the need for individuals to be able to earn a family wage. However, the minimum wage is designed to be a starting or entry level wage. With a lower cost of living in Eastern Washington, a one-size-fits-all approach could end up hurting job availability and prices for goods in our area, not to mention the compounded impact it could have on businesses and employees in our border communities.
In addition to having the highest minimum wage in the country, our state's unemployment rate for youth is 33 percent higher than other states! Click here to watch the speech I gave on the House floor this week on the minimum wage bill.
This legislation now awaits consideration in the Senate.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
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