The first month of the 105-day session is over! Policy committee cutoff is just around the corner, which means you'll start to see more action on the House and Senate floors in the coming weeks. Lawmakers are steadily working on solutions to improve our state.
A McCleary update
“McCleary” is a term that's been thrown around the legislature quite a bit the past few years. In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled the state was failing to fulfill its constitutional obligation to fully fund K-12 education. A component of that decision was that the Court deemed districts' overreliance on local property tax levies was unconstitutional, and the state needed to find a stable funding source. During sessions following that ruling, the state has made significant investments in K-12 education, including K-3 class-size reductions, full-day kindergarten, and teacher raises. More than 48 percent of the state operating budget goes toward K-12 education.
Now we just have to add the final ingredients. Resolving McCleary is certainly lawmakers' top priority this session.
I've been encouraged by the early conversations and action taken so far. Both majority parties — the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans — have released their budget proposals, and Senate Republicans held a public hearing on their plan, the Education Equality Act, this week.There's much to be excited about with their plan — it's comprehensive, reform-focused, and provides accountability measures for “failing” schools. By implementing a flat property tax, it does away with high local levies and would ensure students receive an equitable education. That said, several school districts from our counties have already come forward with significant concerns. Those concerns must be mitigated.
House Democrats' proposal, on the other hand, goes lighter on reforms and doesn't include a plan to pay for their proposal.
No one proposal is perfect. And all four caucuses will need to come together during the next two months to finalize a solution.
Protecting our neighbors
I've sponsored and worked on several bills this session to help the elderly and survivors of sexual abuse and violence. Two of those bills are making their way through the legislative process:
My bill to end the statutes of limitations on certain felony sex offenses, which you can read more about here, has passed the House Public Safety Committee and will be heard in the House Appropriations Committee tomorrow, Feb. 8. This is the final hurdle before it makes its way to the Rules Committee and on the House floor.
Spearheaded by the daughter of legendary radio personality Casey Kasem, House Bill 1402 would prevent elder isolation by allowing incapacitated persons to freely communicate with whomever they choose and would prohibit guardians from restricting those rights in most cases. This is our second attempt at getting legislation like this enacted in Washington and I hope this will be the year. This bill received approval from the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.
Lockable drug boxes
During the interim, the Mason County Department of Health brought a bill idea to me after they had received several drug lock boxes through donation. They thought a great place to hand these out would be at our local marijuana shops and dispensaries. Unfortunately, current statute doesn't allow that.
House Bill 1250 would authorize licensed marijuana retailers to donate, by the request of qualifying patients, lockable boxes at no charge to the customer.
In 2015, there were more than 200 calls to the Washington Poison Center related to marijuana consumption. Many incidents like these can been avoided. Whether you voted for or against the initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it is now legal and we should be doing all we can to protect children from drugs and drug paraphernalia.
New role on the House Local Government Committee
I have been chosen by House Republican Leadership to serve as the ranking Republican on the House Local Government Committee. The committee covers issues relating to the operations and financing of counties, cities, and some special districts. I'm looking forward to representing the interests of Mason, Thurston and Kitsap counties while on the committee, and leading our caucus on policies considered by the committee.
Two bills I've been working on this session were considered by the committee and are progressing through the legislative process:
House Bill 1166 — Currently, fire districts are allowed to levy an additional property tax of as much as 50 centers per 1,000 above the general levy for fire districts so long as they have or contract with another districts for at least one full-time, paid employee. This bill removes that provision, which is important for a lot of fire districts throughout rural Washington, which operate mostly with volunteer firefighters. By not requiring agencies to incur unnecessary costs, it saves districts and taxpayers money. House Bill 1166 passed out of committee and received a public hearing in the House Finance Committee this week.
House Bill 1167 — This bill simply changes the date the Office of Financial Management is required to adjust compensation amounts due to inflation for fire commissioners to Jan. 1, 2019. It will allow local jurisdictions to efficiently budget. House Bill 1167 received unanimous support from the House this week, and now moves on to the Senate.
For a full list of the bills I've sponsored and co-sponsored this session, visit my website at RepresentativeDanGriffey.com and click on “Sponsored Bills.”
If you have questions about anything mentioned in this email, or have ideas or suggestions for improving state government, I encourage you to contact me. It is an honor representing the people of the 35th District.