Week four of the 60-day legislative session has begun. Here's a quick recap of what happened last week:
Education bills: I'm calling this week “education week.” The House passed a number of policy reforms, including bills that would address dropout prevention for at-risk youth and expand Breakfast After the Bell programs. We also passed a fundamental piece of legislation to address the K-12 education funding case, McCleary. That bill will help the Legislature assess the price tag of basic education and how much local levy money is contributing to the state's basic education program. In order to fully address McCleary by 2018, we must have adequate data to put an effective plan in motion. The bills now move on to the Senate for further consideration.
I-1366: House Republicans attempted to reassure taxpayers their calls to make state government exercise fiscal responsibility are not falling on deaf ears. Via a procedural move on the House floor, we attempted to bring a resolution to a vote that would have sent voters an amendment to the state constitution requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. However, that motion failed on a 49-48 party-line vote. Voters have told us six times since 1993 that they want a two-thirds vote requirement of the Legislature to raise taxes, and every time, the Supreme Court has invalidated the will of the people. On Jan. 21, a King County Superior Court judge ruled the most recent initiative passed in November 2015 unconstitutional, and the state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the decision in the coming weeks. I hope this time the state Supreme Court rules on the side of the people.
Policy committee cutoff is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5. This means bills currently in policy committees that do not pass out of their respective committees by Friday likely will not progress this session.
Expanding justice in felony sex-offense cases
My bill that would remove the statute of limitations on some felony sex offenses, such as rape, child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor, and other crimes was heard in Olympia today. Listening to the testimony from sexual violence victims and survivors, including my wife, was emotionally trying. I'm hopeful we get this bill passed so victims emboldened to speak up will have an avenue to seek justice.
House Bill 2873, is a result of the work being done on the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination , or “SAFE,” Task Force, which looks at best practices for managing aspects of sexual assault examinations and funding options to reduce the number of untested sexual assault examination kits in Washington that were collected prior to July 24, 2015.
The bill is scheduled for executive session Feb. 5.
Preventing elder isolation
I have been privileged this session to work with Rep. Linda Kochmar of Federal Way and the daughter of former Top-40 radio legend Casey Kasem to co-sponsor legislation to help prevent elder isolation.
House Bill 2401 establishes that adults have the right to visit with, and receive communications from whomever they choose, and would allow any person to file a petition to compel visitation with a loved one in situations when access has been impeded. The adjoining bill, House Bill 2402, would require guardians to provide loved ones with notice in the event of hospitalization or death of a loved one.
You may recall the tragic legal disputes that arose during the final months of Kasem's life. In 2014, Kasem's second wife pulled him out of an assisted living facility in California against medical advice and brought him to a home near Gig Harbor, Washington. A legal battle then ensued during which Kasem's daughter, Kerri Kasem, was appointed as his conservator with the power to control his medical care. Mr. Kasem passed away in Gig Harbor as a result of bedsores and infections on June 15, 2014.
Unfortunately, the Kasem family is not alone in having to endure these often ugly, heated battles to see their parents and loved ones during their final days. It's important we ensure other families don't have to experience what the Kasem's did.
My prefire mitigation plan bill that I discussed in my last email update received a public hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee last week. Briefly, this bill would develop a statewide prefire mitigation plan and create a separate, nonappropriated wildfire prevention account in the state Treasury.
Unfortunately, my economic revitalization act that would return some zoning control back to local governments will likely not receive a public hearing this year in the House Local Government Committee. However, the chair of the committee has assured me there will be a work session held after session to explore some of the provisions of my bill and discuss ways to lessen the economic burdens the Growth Management Act places on local governments and communities. I'll keep you posted on the details of this event as they become finalized.
Please continue to contact me with your ideas, comments and questions. I'm here to help make state government work better for you. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.