The holidays are over, which means I'm back in Olympia for the 2016 legislative session. Lawmakers hit the ground running last week with opening ceremonies, oaths of office, and the governor's state of the state address (and the Republican response). I'm excited to be back, continuing to work on legislation that benefits our communities.
It's important to mention this session is a supplemental operating budget year. This budget is solely meant to address emergency appropriations and other small adjustments to the two-year spending plan. And with as terrible a wildfire season as we had this summer, I'm anticipating significant dollars going toward recovery and planning this session.
While this is supposed to be a light spending year, the governor has unfortunately proposed a series of taxes in his supplemental operating budget proposal. These proposals were announced despite that revenues have increased, without the hand of government, by nearly 10 percent.
That said, we have a number of big issues to tackle within these 60 days:
Moving forward with a plan on McCleary: Back in August, the state Supreme Court decided the Legislature did not make enough progress on addressing McCleary, the K-12 education funding case, and imposed further sanctions amounting to $100,000 per day. This is despite the record investments in education the Legislature made during the 2015 session. There is a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers who have been working on a plan that will hopefully meet the court's 2018 requirements as expressed in the McCleary case.
Keeping charter schools alive: In September, the state Supreme Court ruled state charter schools unconstitutional, leaving the education of thousands of students in uncertainty. The timing of the ruling was unfair to families and students. A bipartisan bill has been dropped that would bring back some form of the charter school system.
Department of Corrections' scandal: The early release of more than 3,000 prisoners, which happened over a 12-year period is unacceptable, and has resulted in tragedy for at least two families. In addition, this has completely eroded trust in government. It's critical that this error be fixed immediately, and that those responsible are held accountable.
Protecting Second Amendment Rights: Two weeks ago, the governor issued an executive order on gun-safety and -violence. While I appreciate the governor's commitment to reducing gun-related injuries and fatalities, I believe the focus should be on providing the proper support to the mentally ill, not on taking away firearms from responsible, law-abiding citizens. This Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee will be hearing a series of bills relating to gun rights. You can find the agenda and corresponding bill information here.
This interim gave me the opportunity to meet with individuals, businesses, schools, local officials and others to discuss the issues facing our communities. I appreciate those who have reached out to me to share their stories and frustrations with the red tape that often comes with state government. My priority is to make government work better for you and your family, In order to do this, I believe we must focus on:
- Expanding opportunities for students and providing them a world-class education;
- Protecting taxpayers and increasing government transparency;
- Ensuring our neighborhoods are safe; and
- Empowering families.
I'm currently working on legislation that will help us accomplish these goals.
Economic revitalization act: The Growth Management Act, while well-intended, has seriously harmed many communities on economic decline due to its often too-onerous and prescriptive nature. In fact, the act established in 1990 states that is within the public interest to share economic development programs with localities with deteriorating economies. My bill seeks to return some zoning control back to local governments so they may make decisions best fit for their communities, and continue to expand well-paying job opportunities.
Prefire mitigation plan: This past wildfire season was one of the most costly in state history. I've dedicated my life to fighting fires and fire safety, and I believe there's more we can do to limit the scope of future wildfires in our state. My bill calls for a prefire mitigation plan to be administered by the state fire marshal, and would require coordination with local fire departments in order to best determine individual community needs.
License-plate fees directed toward youth hunter education: This bill would create a special National Rifle Association (NRA) license plate, and funds collected from the plates would go toward enhancing firearm safety training and education under the hunter education training program.
Staying in touch
These emails are just one way to stay connected to me and to your state government during session. I encourage you to contact my office if you ever have any questions, ideas or concerns regarding state government. You can do so by sending me an email at Dan.Griffey@leg.wa.gov or give me a call at (360) 786-7966. And if you're going to be in Olympia, be sure to set up an appointment with my legislative assistant, Amber, so we can meet.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you!