We are halfway through this year’s legislative session. Bills that have been passed by the House or the Senate now are sent to the other body for consideration. Other bills are no longer in play. Here are a few we passed this week:
Education at the forefront
I am pleased to report that the state House approved two critical education bills this week.
Postponing the levy cliff–School districts need predictability in their funding. However, many of the state’s school districts—including the four in the 41st District–are approaching what has been termed the “levy cliff,” which will reduce how much money school districts can collect through local property tax levies. That reduced funding will have an adverse effect on our kids in public schools. HB 2698, which passed the House with a strong 91-7 vote earlier this week, would delay changes to the school district formula for calculating levies for one year—until we solve and implement the McCleary funding dilemma—so we don’t add an unnecessary burden to our school districts. If the levies are left to expire, school districts will have to lay off staff and potentially cut programs that are important to students and learning. Ensuring its passage is a priority!
Addressing the teacher shortage—The continuing shortage of public school teachers, including substitute teachers, is alarming and must be addressed. There is no single cause for this shortage, and we need a broad set of solutions, including recruitment, pay, and certification. HB 2573, which passed this week with a strong 92-6 House vote, would require the development and implementation of a comprehensive, statewide initiative to increase the number of qualified individuals who apply for teaching positions in Washington. The bill also includes a common sense solution of having retired teachers return as substitutes. We all know that a great teacher at the front of the classroom creates the best outcomes for our kids, so let’s recruit them, reward them, and keep them. As a parent of two kids in public schools, I’d like to say thank you to all the great teachers who’ve made learning such a positive experience for them.
Over the past few weeks I’ve received many e-mails and phone calls from constituents with concerns about solar tax incentives which are set to expire this year. I’m excited to share that we recently passed HB 2346, which would extend the solar tax incentives to ensure that those who already have made these environmentally important home upgrades, as well as those considering them, are able to absorb the additional costs of installation.
In addition to the solar incentive bill, the state House also approved legislation, HB 2778, concerning electric vehicles tax breaks. This bill aims to help moderate income families afford climate-friendly electric vehicles by providing a tax break for electric vehicles under $37,000. Car emissions are the largest component of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington and electric vehicles can make a real contribution to lowering carbon dioxide emissions.
Traffic on the Eastside
As a busy driver, I share your frustration with traffic across the Eastside. After hearing numerous concerns from constituents throughout the region, House Democrats authored a letter to the Department of Transportation and the Transportation Commission requesting changes to the I-405 tolling corridor. Just this week, Governor Jay Inslee acted swiftly and proposed two projects: adding a lane at Highway 520 to Northeast 70th Place in Kirkland; and turning the right shoulder of northbound I-405 in Bothell into a general purpose lane, beginning at Highway 527 and ending at Lynnwood. Additionally, the Governor plans to remove tolls on nights, weekends, and holidays in the next few months. Working together we will improve transportation flow across the region to make sure products can reach the market, parents can make it home to the dinner table, and our strong economy can continue humming along.
Town Hall meeting this Saturday
This Saturday, February 20, from 2-3:30 pm, Sen. Litzow, Rep. Clibborn and I are holding a town-hall meeting at Somerset Elementary School, 14100 Somerset Blvd., Bellevue, WA 98006.
We will share updates from the 2016 legislative session currently underway and spend most of the time listening to attendees and answering questions. I hope you will join us.