The 2018 legislative session is underway! This year is a short session — 60 days — and we'll be tasked with making small tweaks (i.e. adjustments to caseloads and workloads, and changes due to emergencies) to our state budgets.
We also started the session with some unfinished business — a solution to the state Supreme Court's 2016 Hirst decision and a new, two-year capital budget. Read more about these and other bills I'm working on below.
Capital budget signed into law
The 2017-19 capital budget was signed into law Friday. It prioritizes our schools by investing $933 million in school construction and modernization, including an additional $35 million for small, rural district modernization grants. It provides $136.5 million for community- and institution-based funding in our mental health system, including making targeted investments in behavioral health community capacity and security updates to Eastern and Western State hospitals. And more than $106 million is provided for the Housing Trust Fund, which will help fund housing projects for veterans, those affected by natural disasters, and supportive housing for the mentally ill.
Several community projects have also received funding, including:
- $4.75 million to replace the existing adult holding facilities at Hoodsport Hatchery;
- $4 million for the design and replacement of the high voltage distribution system at Washington Corrections Center, and another $2.2 million to replace a roof;
- $3 million to build tiny homes for veterans in Mason County;
- $1.5 million for sewer repairs in Shelton;
- $200,000 for improvements to Camp Schechter in Tumwater;
- $27,000 for improvements and repairs to the Turning Pointe Domestic Violence Service Center in Shelton, and;
- $12,000 for a kitchen upgrade to the Belfair Senior Center Meals on Wheels.
Restoring certainty to rural property owners
During the second week of the legislative session, we were finally able to approve a compromise Hirst fix that allows families throughout the state to begin building on their private property again.
For more than a year, property owners have been in limbo as a result of the court ruling, which essentially brought home building and rural development to a halt. Now with new legislation enacted last week, families no longer have to grapple with the uncertainty caused by the court decision.
Specifically, the bill sets water usage to a minimum of 950 to 3,000 gallons per day, depending on the watershed, and existing wells are grandfathered in. It also invests $300 million over 15 years in projects that will improve instream flows.
Eliminating the statute of limitations on rape, other sex crimes
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics' 2014 report regarding the socio-emotional impact of violent crime, 67 percent of individuals victimized by a stranger experience professional or emotional distress after the crime is committed. That percentage increases to 79 percent for those abused by a family member or close friend, and to 84 percent for those who suffer at the hands of an intimate partner.
I've also heard from countless survivors that they struggled to come forward because their abuser was a family member, or a respected or trusted member of their community.
For those reasons, I say it's time to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape, child molestation, and other sex crimes. My bill, House Bill 1155, would do just that, allowing prosecutors to bring charges at any time after the commission of these types of crimes.
This bill has been a passion of mine ever since I joined the Legislature in 2015. It's currently awaiting a vote in the state House.
September = Month of the KINDERGARTNER
Under my House Bill 1901, September would be declared the month of the kindergartner as a means to celebrate the commencement of a child's life in education. Classes would be encouraged to celebrate, and my hope is children would feel encouraged and excited about the beginning of this significant chapter of their lives.
Clearing up cannabis licensing confusion
Right now, when you submit a license application as a marijuana producer, processor, or retailer, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) Licensing Division issues the license so long as you meet state requirements. This occurs even if you have failed to meet local building, planning, zoning or fire regulations. As a result, counties face the burden of having to enforce their local ordinances against the applicant, and applicants are forced to wade through uncertain waters.
My bill, House Bill 2630, would help alleviate some of the pressure counties and applicants face. Under the bill, once an application is submitted, LCB would hold the application until the applicant can prove he or she is compliant with local planning, building and fire regulations. As a result, applicants will have the assurance they need without fear of local action, and local governments won't be burdened with unnecessary enforcement.
This bill was given a public hearing yesterday in the House Commerce and Gaming Committee, and is scheduled for executive action in the committee later this week.
If you have any questions about any of the information in this legislative update, or want to learn more, please don't hesitate to contact my office using the contact information below.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you!