Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week we passed the halfway point in the 60-day legislative session and have reached the cutoff date for bills to pass out of committee. This important deadline means we will be spending the next few days on the floor voting on House bills before heading back to our committees to hear Senate bills. The main focus remains passing a supplemental operating budget. I am confident we can pass a budget, address important issues such as K-12 education and wildfire recovery and adjourn on time.
Earlier today, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill I sponsored that would provide protections for undocumented immigrants who come forward to report they have been a victim of crime. House Bill 2895, known as The Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims Act, builds on federal law that allows law enforcement officials to certify applications for temporary visas for nonimmigrants who are victims of crime.
Victims of crime in our state should not have to hide in the shadows because of their immigration status. Forcing them to do so only adds to their victimization. Many undocumented victims are women and children, and it is vitally important we give them a voice and help them seek justice. There is plenty of work to do on the federal level to reform our immigration system and ensure our borders are secure, but this bill addresses an important issue of public safety in Washington state. I am grateful to Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, for his continued work on this issue to make this truly bipartisan.
One issue I hear about frequently from constituents is government accountability. If you've been following the news recently, you may have noticed accountability is lacking at several state agencies. I have been working on this issue since taking office and this session it has been particularly important. As the ranking member on the House General Government and Information Technology Committee, I have been meeting with agency and commission leaders and staff to identify problem areas that need to be addressed. Serious reforms cannot be completed overnight, but we must begin the work now and continue it through the interim and into future sessions.
Last week, the Senate voted against confirming Lynn Peterson as Secretary of Transportation after a series of failures at WSDOT. She had been acting secretary for three years, and while she inherited an agency that struggled with efficiency and accountability, she did not do enough to change the culture within the department. The problems at WSDOT are many and have been well documented. They include SR 16 overpasses that did not line up with the road properly, ferries that list and caused vehicles to bottom out as they boarded, pontoons for the 520 bridge that leaked, ongoing issues with Bertha, and most recently toll lanes on I-405 that increased gridlock and charge drivers as much as $10 to use HOV lanes during peak times. With a $16 billion transportation package to implement, we cannot afford these kinds of failures in the future.
Secretary Dan Pacholke of the Department of Corrections announced he was resigning last weekend in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the mistaken early release of thousands of violent felons. The investigation will continue, and we will do everything we can to ensure these errors are fixed and they do not happen again. Additionally, the secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services which has had serious breakdowns with the delivery of mental health services, especially at Western State Hospital, resigned late last year. All told, three of our state's top agencies are without leaders.
The governor needs to fill these vacancies with competent and capable managers who are able to produce results for Washingtonians, not maintain the status quo. I can assure you I will be working with my colleagues in the Legislature to make sure we provide the appropriate oversight to state agencies and commissions so you have the most effective and efficient state government possible.
One of the things I enjoy the most about my work in Olympia is sponsoring local students in the House Page Program. I recently welcomed Jonathan Boring and Wyatt Riordan, both of Mason County. Serving as a page is a great opportunity to learn more about the Legislature and how state government operates. For more information on the House Page Program, click here.
With hundreds of bills still alive and moving through the process, I hope you will take the time to call, email or write in to share your questions and comments with me. It is truly an honor to serve you in the House of Representatives.