Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Wylie’s Update: I-5 Bridge / Education Funding / Levy Cliff / Equal Pay

Dear neighbors,

Today is the 61st day of this very busy and hectic 2017 Legislative Session, which calls for a quick update on the happenings in Olympia.

I-5 Bridge Bill is in the Senate

As you know, the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project died in 2014, but the old river and the aging bridge are still there so we still have to work on solutions. My bill to jump start a new process to replace the I-5 Bridge passed out of the House earlier this week on a 60-38 vote.

House Bill 2095 would declare replacing the bridge a project of statewide significance, which could expedite the permitting process and construction of a new bridge. The bill also appropriates $350,000 from the Motor Vehicle Fund for the Washington Department of Transportation to conduct a planning inventory documenting existing data related to the construction of a new I-5 Bridge.

The Columbian has been keeping a close eye on the bill and has ran several thorough stories on the issue. You may want to read this one, which was posted to their website soon after the bill passed.

A little background on how we got here

A bipartisan group of House and Senate members that had both supporters and opponents of the former CRC worked together for a year. We avoided grandstanding and, instead, shared ideas, credit and trust to find agreement on underlying principles and a start to a new process. The Senate has passed an amended version that will soon be considered by the House. I am confident that we will find a way to keep moving forward for the benefit of our region. Passing this bill out of the House is a step forward, not an end point. The tough part is still ahead.

Keeping our promise to one million kids

After investing nearly $5 billion additional dollars in our public schools over the last six years, Washington is one step closer to keeping its promise to one million school kids.

A couple of weeks ago we passed HB 1843 to ensure our schools are fully funded and that every child receives opportunities to learn. Every element of the bill was driven by this simple question – What’s best for kids?

Closing the opportunity gap

Our plan takes a significant step toward closing the opportunity gap and improving student outcomes in Washington state by making new investments in:

  • Learning assistance to help struggling students keep up with their peers.
  • Transitional programs to help bilingual students.
  • Class-size reductions for career and technical education and skill centers.
  • Parent-involvement coordinators and guidance counselors.

 A high quality teacher in every classroom

 It also addresses the teacher-shortage crisis through educator recruitment and retention investments. The bill makes a serious commitment to our educator workforce by paying new teachers a fair salary, providing additional professional learning opportunities, and ensuring their compensation keeps up with market rates.

Now that each side has offered proposals, negotiators will work on a path toward compromise that will ensure public schools are fully funded for Washington’s one million school kids.

Schools can take a breather

That sigh of relief you heard yesterday came from Washington school districts when they heard the levy cliff bill is on its way to the governor’s desk.

The House of Representatives passed ESB 5023 to fix the looming $358 million levy cliff crisis facing public schools next year. Without this bill, school districts have been forced to write budgets for the upcoming school year that include teacher layoffs and other reductions in spending.

In an effort to lessen the negative impacts from the Great Recession on school budgets, in 2010 the Legislature gave local school districts some additional leeway to raise local levies to help make up for state funding shortfalls. This additional flexibility is set to expire this year.

The levy cliff bill passed today extends temporary levy provisions for one year and avoids a $358 million cut to local schools. It ensures that school budgets won’t be cut while the Legislature continues to work on an education funding solution.

Click here for a Google map with a breakdown of how much each school district stood to lose if the Legislature did not approve a levy cliff fix.

The bill passed by a vote of 87-10, this is a reassuring reminder that things are bipartisan when a crisis must be averted.

Equal Pay passes!

This past Wednesday, International Women’s Day, the House passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, which prohibits pay secrecy policies, allows discussion of wages, and prohibits retaliation for asking for equal pay.

There are still way too many people saying that we’re just imagining there’s a problem. So let’s get that out of the way. Gender discrimination in pay does, in fact, exist.

Many women are taking home smaller paychecks and they don’t even know it because their employers actively discourage, or even ban, workers from discussing how much they make with co-workers. This is one of those instances in which what you don’t know will hurt you. Keeping women in the dark about pay differences limits their ability to negotiate for higher pay. This bill will hold employers accountable and make it harder to discriminate against women.

This is the third year in a row the House has passed a version of this legislation. I’m hoping the third time’s the charm and the Senate finally sends it to the governor’s desk.

Washington has a longstanding pursuit of equality in the workplace. So much so, that our state got ahead of the federal government and passed equal pay protections ten years earlier. That was in 1943, we’re due for an update.

Somewhere between then and now we dropped the ball and fell behind.

Really, we did, you may find this hard to believe but our neighbors in Idaho have better equal pay laws than we do. The Dakotas, New Hampshire and even Tennessee, among many other states, have better equal pay protections in place.

It’s time to pick up that ball and get it rolling forward again.

TVW Legislator Profiles

I recently participated in a new TVW project called “Legislator Profiles.” These are short 2 to 3 minute videos that are airing between gavel-to-gavel hearings to provide viewers some information on their legislators. Click on the image below to watch it:

What’s Next

We’ve passed the halfway point of the regular session and have begun considering the Senate bills that made it over to the House before the cutoff. Many policy bills did not make it through, so we will focus on what remains and, of course, on the budget and anything relating to fiscal matters. Any bills that do not make it through this year will be automatically reintroduced on the first day of next year’s session.

Thank you for reading this update, I hope you found it informative. If you have any questions or want more information on any legislative issue, please contact my office. And if you’re in Olympia, stop by for a visit.