Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The third week of the legislative session is wrapping up and I wanted to share a few updates with you on the work happening in Olympia. We're one-third of the way through session and we are making progress on a supplemental operating budget, meaning we are on track to adjourn on time.
In addition to voting on bills, I have been responding to scores of emails from concerned constituents. It's clear many of you are frustrated with the direction our state government is heading. I take my obligation to hold state agencies accountable seriously and have been disappointed by the responses I have received from some agency heads who have come before me in the House General Government and Information Technology Committee.
This lack of accountability and transparency was on full display last week as the executive director of the Human Rights Commission came before my committee to ask for more funding. Many of you have written to me, sharing your concerns with the commission's recent bathroom rules change made by its board members, who are appointed by the governor. The ruling, which took effect last month, has raised many concerns, including the safety of women and children in public locker rooms. The safety of everyone, from children in schools to members of the transgender community, should always be a priority. We must also be concerned about government overreach and the lack of accountability coming from the executive branch of state government when it doesn't respect the public enough to seriously consider their input.
Unfortunately, I and my colleague Rep. Michelle Caldier were given less than four minutes to ask the director questions about the rule-change process on your behalf. Between our two offices, we have received more than 1,000 constituent emails, calls and letters – but we were only given four minutes to share those concerns, both for and against the ruling.
When I asked why the rules weren't posted on their website in accordance with the RCWs, they claimed they were locked out of their website. How can the Human Rights Commission, which employs two in-house IT specialists, be locked out of their website and unable to post rules for the public to review? This is unacceptable.
Earlier this week, more than 300 people showed up to a Senate hearing on a bill to repeal the rule. In the House, however, the majority party is refusing to hear bills on this issue altogether. Shutting the public out of the process, like the commission and House majority party did, is not good government and is not in line with our values as Washingtonians.
Watch the video of the testimony here.
Last week, a King County Superior Court judge ruled I-1366, which would require the Legislature to enact a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes, unconstitutional. When I-1366 was passed last November, it was the sixth time since 1993 Washingtonians have told the Legislature it should be harder to raise taxes than it currently is.
The ruling was appealed and will now go before the state Supreme Court. As the court challenges continue, we were able to advocate for tax payers when we introduced House Joint Resolution 4215, a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes. Given the court challenges to I-1366, a constitutional amendment is our best option to ensure the will of the voters is implemented, and not ignored.
Unfortunately, the majority party voted down the proposed amendment 49-48, and we must now wait for a ruling on I-1366 from the state Supreme Court, slated for March 15.
Thanks for reading this update. Throughout this legislative session, I hope you will take time to call, email or visit me in Olympia. I welcome your thoughts and concerns on issues before the Legislature and look forward to working with you to make Washington a better place for all.