Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The holidays are upon us, which is a sign that a new legislative session is right around the corner. Since the 2016 session adjourned, I have been working in our district, meeting with constituents, and visiting schools, businesses and community groups. As a result of those meetings, I'd like to update you on a few bills I am working on for 2017.
I have heard time and again from people in our community they want a state government that is more efficient and accountable, as well as a K-12 funding plan that is effective and predictable. With that in mind, I am putting forward legislation to improve the way state government operates, how we fund education, test students and implement state regulations.
Funding K-12 education is our state's paramount duty and will once again be front and center when the Legislature convenes in January. If this is our primary responsibility, then we must fund it first in our budget. I have prefiled a bill that would create a stand-alone education budget to be passed no later than March 31 in biennial budget years and Feb. 15 in supplemental budget years. This is not simply rhetoric – this is a fundamental shift in how we approach funding education that would provide districts with the funding predictability they need to make important decisions at the local level.
The McCleary decision was clear that the state must increase K-12 funding, something we have made considerable progress on since 2013. The ruling also said the Legislature should look at reforming K-12 education. To that end, I have always been a supporter of increasing local control. In an effort to further that approach, I will be working to reform our state's insistence on end-of-course exams that often make learning one-dimensional and rigid. We must do a better job of trusting the teachers in the classroom to develop and implement lessons based on best practices and curriculum standards – not simply defining teachers' success and student outcomes by tests. Our job is to create life-long learners, not life-long test takers.
I am also continuing my work to reform Washington's outdated Business and Occupation (B&O) tax. Over the years, the tax code has been amended by both parties, creating a complex and regressive tax system that hampers job growth in our state. My proposal will eliminate the B&O tax for nearly 70 percent of Washington businesses – many of which are small businesses in rural communities – while remaining budget neutral. As session approaches, I will provide additional details.
Along these lines, I believe we must change the way we look at regulations in Washington. Many of these regulations have been written by state agencies as the Legislature has delegated away much of that authority over the years. Runaway regulations have hurt workers and employers alike and it is time to roll back what isn't working. To begin that process and change the Olympia mindset, I am proposing a five-year sunset on all new regulations passed by the Legislature. After five years, the Legislature will have the opportunity to review and reinstate the regulation if it has been effective, otherwise it will simply be taken off the books. This is a commonsense reform that would change the culture of doing business in Olympia.
Bill ideas come from many places and people, but I am always most interested in your ideas for legislation. I have received numerous calls and emails with bill ideas and hope you will continue to share yours with me. This year, I am working on domestic violence legislation proposed by a constituent as one example. Your voice matters in the legislative process, and I hope to hear from you throughout the year with your ideas to improve Washington state. My contact information is listed below.
Finally, I would like to extend my personal congratulations to Kevin Shutty, who was elected Mason County Commissioner this past November. Kevin has worked with me in Olympia since I was first elected. He initially served as my legislative aid and was later promoted to Public Information Officer. Kevin's professional dedication to serving the people of the 35th District and state of Washington was tremendous and an example to me personally. I will miss working with him daily here at the Capitol, however his talents will be greatly utilized as Mason County's newest commissioner. I extend my heartfelt gratitude for his service and my congratulations on his election. You will be missed down here, Kevin!
I hope you are able to spend time with family and friends this holiday season. I am truly honored to serve you in the House and look forward to working with you during the 2017 legislative session.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!