On Thursday, March 8, the 2018 legislative session adjourned. It was my first experience with a true sine die, as we were able to adjourn on time without plans to reconvene until the start of the 2019 session in January. Although this year's legislative session has ended, my work on your behalf continues.
My office is open year-round. Should you ever have questions, concerns, or ideas for how to improve our communities, I encourage you to either call my office at (360) 786-7966 or send me an email at Dan.Griffey@leg.wa.gov.
I want to invite you to participate in an upcoming telephone town hall I have scheduled for March 22, from 6 to 7 p.m. During the hour-long event, I'll provide an overview of the 2018 legislative session and open up to your questions. To participate, all you have to do is call (360) 469-1734 and listen in. There will also be instructions throughout the call for how to submit a question. I look forward to chatting with you!
Legislature approves supplemental operating budget
In the final days of the 2018 legislative session, the Legislature approved a supplemental operating budget. Supplemental budgets exist in order to make revisions — often due to emergencies, changes to caseloads, and revenue growth — to the state's biennial budgets (the latest of which, the 2017-19 operating budget, the Legislature passed last summer).
It saddens me I wasn't able to support this budget because it does some good. It continues our historic investments in K-12 education, makes crucial investments in our mental health system, and avoids reliance on a carbon tax or a capital gains (income) tax. It also provides $2.75 million to help ease the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, which was included in the final budget thanks in part to an amendment I offered on the House budget proposal earlier this year.
Despite all of this, the budget makes irresponsible spending decisions, relies on a new gimmick that diverted money away from our rainy-day fund, and ultimately fails to provide meaningful property-tax relief.
With recent forecasts placing our revenue collections at $2.3 billion over the four years since the underlying budget was enacted, we should have easily been able to provide meaningful property tax relief this year. Instead, the spending plan approved by lawmakers last week only provides $390 million in property tax reductions for 2019. For a $300,000 home, you'd only be getting $90 back and since the reduction won't kick in until 2019, there's very little chance you'll see any meaningful reduction in your taxes next year or at all as the Legislature will write another budget before any reductions take effect.
Republicans offered proposals that would have provided relief this year. It's a shame the majority party didn't allow those proposals to advance.
The budget also increases state spending by $1.2 billion in 2017-19, and another $600 million in 2019-21, all amounting to a nearly 16 percent increase in spending since the 2015-17 budget was enacted.
To learn more about Washington state's budget process, click here.
Capital budgets make investments in local projects
The Legislature also approved a supplemental capital budget recently, which includes millions of dollars in funding for projects throughout the 35th District, including monies:
- to replace the structures and fencing in the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area that were destroyed in a fire last August;
- for the design and reconfiguration of the Schafer State Park campground;
- to renovate the North Mason Teen Center;
- to update existing facilities at the Port of Allyn marina, and;
- to revitalize the William G. Reed Library.
This is on top of the funding provided in the 2017-19 capital budget the Legislature approved earlier this year. Those projects include:
- tiny homes for homeless veterans in Mason County;
- sewer repairs in Shelton;
- a wastewater connection from Puget Sound Industrial Area (South Kitsap Industrial Area) to the Belfair Wastewater Reclamation Facility;
- a new building for the Holly Ridge Center in Bremerton;
- improvements to Camp Schechter in Tumwater, and;
- shelter resident room improvements, technological replacements, and security upgrades at the Turning Pointe domestic violence shelter in Shelton.
Bill to eliminate statute of limitations on sex crimes, another bill to benefit survivors, die in Senate
Most bills that make it through the Legislature undergo a rigorous vetting process, giving the public ample opportunity to make their voices heard on legislation and giving lawmakers time to thoroughly consider new policies or changes to existing law. During short sessions like this year's, it can be difficult to get comprehensive pieces of legislation out of the Legislature and onto the governor's desk, especially when normal timelines for 105-day sessions are compressed into 60 days.
Sadly, that's the fate my legislation that would have eliminated the statute of limitations on rape, child molestation, and other heinous sex crimes met this year. House Bill 1155 passed out of the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, it was unanimously approved by the Senate Rules Committee, and was set to be voted on by the full Senate chamber. But on the final cutoff day in which House bills had to pass the Senate, the clock struck 5 p.m. and my bill fell short of the deadline.
My bill was not the only legislation aimed at helping sexual assault survivors that failed to advance this session. Rep. Michelle Caldier's House Bill 2585, which would have ensured rape victims get timely notice of the availability of rape kit exams at hospitals, also died in the Senate that same day. Neither of us can fathom why, in an institution that touts its commitment to the most vulnerable among us, the Senate would fail to act on critical legislation for survivors. In fact, Rep. Caldier and I issued a statement urging lawmakers to act in the final days of the session on these two bills. You can read it here.
While I understand the shorter session can make it more difficult to get bills approved, there's no excuse for the Senate not taking action on these two bills this year. This session was far from the first time lawmakers had a chance to review House Bill 1155, and it won't be the last. I am committed to getting this bill signed into law, and will introduce it again in 2019. Until survivors get the justice they deserve, and until perpetrators spend every day in fear their monstrous crimes might catch up to them, I will not let this bill rest.
Staying in touch
Although session has adjourned for the year, there are a number of ways you can continue to be involved. Please know my office is always available to take your questions, and I also make it a point during the interim months to meet with constituents in the district. If you ever want to meet with me personally, please don't hesitate to call my office so we can get you on the schedule.
It's an honor serving you!