Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been a busy month so far, as we've spent much of the past 10 days on the House floor voting on bills — more than 300 in total. Now that house of origin cutoff has passed, bills that were approved by the House head to the Senate, and vice-versa. Instead of spending long hours on the floor, we will now be spending long hours in committee considering Senate bills.
Three of the bills I introduced this session were brought to the floor and approved by the House before the cutoff. In a 92-6 vote Monday, the House passed my bill to delink state tests from high school graduation requirements. Under House Bill 1046, the state's testing system would be left intact, but successful completion of the Certificate of Academic Achievement or Certificate of Individual Achievement would no longer be required for students to graduate. This bill would save the state roughly $21 million in the 2017-19 biennium, and $18 million each biennium thereafter.
At the heart of this bill is my belief that these tests have been more of a hindrance than a help to our students. Requiring them to pass a federally designed test that was never intended to be linked to graduation is an unnecessary burden that we should not be imposing on them. Instead, we should trust the curriculum and our great teachers to prepare students for the important next steps of life.
Two other bills I introduced would protect and support crime victims.
House Bill 1058, which was approved unanimously, would ensure incarcerated criminal offenders pay court-ordered restitution to their victims in a timely manner. Under the bill, courts would be prohibited from granting postponement of an offender's restitution payments — paid by the offender over a specified period of time for a victim's damages — until after their release from confinement. It's important we ensure restitution is being prioritized and not placed behind other financial obligations an offender may have. Our criminal justice system should not require the financial burden already incurred by victims to be adjudicated repeatedly.
House Bill 1022 was approved 95-1. It would allow undocumented crime victims to seek assistance from local law enforcement without fear of deportation. This bill would not change immigration law, nor do anything to encourage illegal immigration. Rather, it would bring Washington in line with most other states and codify us with federal law. While I support efforts to secure our borders and enact strong immigration policies, that's a matter for Congress. This bill would simply protect victims of rape and other vicious crimes, and provide them the opportunity to seek justice.
House Bill 1046 now advances to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, while House Bills 1022 and 1058 advance to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
Bill to extend levy cliff heads to the governor's desk
In late January, the House passed House Bill 1059, which was brought forward by the majority party in an effort to delay the coming “levy cliff” by extending current levy policy for one year (more on the background of that bill here). I voted against the bill because it felt like we were kicking the can down the road with 12 weeks of session remaining instead of working to solve the fundamental problems with the way we fund K-12 education in our state.
While House Bill 1059 died, a different bill to extend current levy policy passed the Senate and came before the House earlier this week. Senate Bill 5023, which was approved 87-10 in the House, would do two important things House Bill 1059 did not. First, it would establish transparency and enable detailed accounting by requiring levy dollars to be deposited into a subfund. Second, it would help ensure levy dollars are spent as intended by requiring school districts to submit reports to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) detailing the programs and activities to be funded through local levies. These reports would then need to be approved by OSPI before districts were able to put the levy on the ballot.
I voted for Senate Bill 5023 because we need to provide school districts with certainty and flexibility as they start their budgeting processes. That said, it is my hope that we don't use this bill's passage as an outlet to further delay a comprehensive K-12 education funding solution. Though there are various proposals on the table, we're still not close to where we need to be to come to an agreement. Helping us get to a compromise that amply and equitably funds K-12 education in all of our districts remains my top priority.
Sewage spill reveals double standard in environmental priorities
Earlier this week, the Seattle Times published an op-ed submitted by Reps. Vincent Buys, David Taylor and myself about the catastrophic failure at King County's West Point Treatment Plant last month. In the op-ed, we ask why politicians, state agencies and environmental groups are so quick to pounce on environmental issues in rural communities, but not in urban communities.
“Instead of focusing their efforts on a real environmental problem happening in our state's most populated city, they would rather push policies that punish landowners and jeopardize development in rural communities. They would rather go after a county's potential water quality impact due to septic systems than hold the officials and one of the largest culprits in devastating our water quality accountable for discharging hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and raw sewage into Puget Sound. Rural counties can't rely on septic systems, but it's OK for King County to continue to sweep its ongoing sewage treatment problems under the rug?”
You can read the whole piece here.
Weekly radio interview on KMAS
Every Wednesday morning during session, I have the opportunity to join KMAS' Jeff Slakey live on the air to discuss legislative issues. Earlier this week, Jeff and I discussed house of origin cutoff and my bill to delink state tests from graduation requirements. You can listen to this segment, as well as past segments, by clicking here.
It's an honor to serve you in the state House. Please feel free to contact me any time with your questions, comments or concerns. My contact information is below.