Washington State House Democrats


An Update from Representative Marcus Riccelli

The 2013 Session Begins

Marcus and his family on the floor of the House of Representatives after being sworn in.

It has been an exciting two weeks in Olympia. Monday, January 14, marked the beginning of the 2013 Legislative Session, with the swearing-in of all members of the House of Representatives. It was an honor to stand amongst such a remarkable group of people to take the oath of office. I am proud to have this opportunity to serve my state and my community.

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was equally moved this past Monday, as the House of Representatives honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a resolution that I co-sponsored. Throughout my meetings with the many courageous advocates from our community that came to Olympia sharing stories of struggles in our own time, I couldn’t help but reflect that we are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.

Legislative Round-Up

I promised to hit the ground running in Olympia. From Day 1, I have been meeting with local leaders and community members to support public policy that reflects our community’s needs. I serve on the House Capital Budget, Transportation, Higher Education, and Healthcare and Wellness committees, so I have been attending hearings on specific policy and financial issues affecting these areas. One of these issues is the Medicaid Expansion component of the Affordable Care Act. Passing the Medicaid Expansion will be critical for ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare they can count on, and I will be working diligently with community members and with my colleagues in the legislature to support this effort.

Dropping the Student Advisory bill with student lobbyists Tristan Hanon of WSU, and Angie Weiss of UW
Dropping the Student Advisory bill with student lobbyists Tristan Hanon of WSU, and Angie Weiss of UW

I also want to highlight several bills that I signed onto this past week:

  • I prime-sponsored legislation allowing student associations at four-year universities to form a student advisory council that would consider issues concerning the university budget, tuition and fee levels. Tuition has increased dramatically over the past few years, partly as a result of state budget cuts. In these tough economic times, I believe it is important for the students paying that tuition to have a greater voice in budget matters. I was pleased to work alongside higher-education student groups to forward this legislation.
  • I also signed onto a bill that will help protect cash-strapped municipalities from the cumbersome demands of public records requests. This was a particular priority of the City of Spokane and Spokane Public Schools, and I am pleased to support their efforts to ensure that our community’s resources are well-spent.

Dollars and Sense

While the overall economic picture in our state is improving, the legislature will still have to resolve a projected revenue shortfall of about $1.4 billion. We ended last year’s session with a balanced budget, but since then the revenue we’ve taken in has not equaled the cost of operating the schools and colleges, prisons, and safety net programs that keep our community strong.

Additionally, a year ago the state Supreme Court ruled the legislature is not fulfilling its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education (known as the McCleary decision). While the House has led the way in recent years on educational reforms that put us on the path to fully funding education, this year we’ll need to devote an estimated $1.4 billion in funding for our public schools to keep us on the right track and comply with the Court’s order.

That’s a hole of at least $2.8 billion in the next two-year budget – on top of the $12 billion we’ve already reduced state services the last few years. The way we address this shortfall will have dramatic implications for Spokane and Washington state.

Meeting with over 30 constituents concerned about health care and cuts to social services.
Meeting with over 30 constituents concerned about health care and cuts to social services.

I’d like to hear your thoughts about the state budget and education funding.  If you have ideas, please take a moment to send me an email. Your feedback is crucial as I establish my priorities this session and work with my colleagues to solve these important issues.

I would also like to introduce my Legislative Assistant, Michaela Williams, and my intern, Krystal Wells. Michaela is a Spokane native and Krystal is a student at Gonzaga University. I am pleased to have them on my team, working for our community.

It has been a busy first few days in what is promising to be a jam-packed session. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the issues that matter to you.

Thank you,

Rep. Marcus Riccelli