It’s been a very busy first two weeks of session and there’s a lot to report.
First, the breaking news: we passed a Hirst fix bill and a Capital Budget, and they are headed to the governor’s desk. I talk about both issues in this week’s Video Update.
We also passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, which is a big deal because it is long overdue and, any way you slice it, the fact of the matter is gender should not be a factor when it comes to wages.
There’s also news on the higher education front to benefit, specifically, rural areas like much of our district.
As you know, the opioid epidemic has spread across the nation and that includes our state. We’re working on ways to address this issue.
And lastly, I am really concerned about our Southern resident Orca whales. Currently, we only have about 75 of them because they are literally starving. I introduced a bill to increase our salmon production, which would help feed the whales and help our local economy. Watch my Ask Brian video for more information.
So, please read ahead and, if you have feedback, questions or need more information on these or other legislative issues, be sure to contact my office.
Hirst Fix: Balancing Needs of Landowners & Fish
A 2016 Supreme Court decision made it hard for some rural landowners to build homes that rely on wells. Working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we found a solution and passed Senate Bill 6091, which balances the building and developing needs of rural communities with the environmental benefits of ensuring there’s enough water for fish to survive.
Much of the state was unaffected by the Hirst decision but, for the 15 watersheds that were impacted, this bill will allow landowners to build immediately and makes significant investments in restoring and enhancing streamflows.
Equal Pay Bill Heads to Senate
This week we passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act on a 69-28 vote. It updates the Washington State Equal Pay Act for the first time since its passage in 1943.
One Year of Free College?
I’m supporting a bill to help increase paychecks and jobs in rural Washington by boosting higher education and skills in rural communities. House Bill 2177 would offer one year of free tuition in high-demand fields at local community colleges in economically distressed counties. The legislation was voted out of the Higher Education Committee earlier this week.
Research shows one year of education beyond high school is the tipping point for people to get family wage jobs. Roughly one third of all jobs are predicted to be what’s referred to as mid-level—more than a high school degree but less than a four-year bachelor’s degree. And, by the year 2020, experts say 70 percent of all jobs in our state will require at least some college education.
A report by the state’s Workforce Training Board listed examples of mid-level jobs in high-demand fields, including firefighters, auto and diesel mechanics, law enforcement, machine tool technicians, teaching assistants, early childhood educators, accounting and computer science.
These jobs are a ticket to the middle class—and a more prosperous future for all of Washington state.