As the legislature nears the end of the sixty day session, things are moving quickly. With just nine days left we are busy working on passing bills and negotiating the budgets.
I’m happy to report the budget that passed the House last night increases funding for mental health services, college financial aid and foster care, and invests nearly $1 billion in our K-12 schools to meet the Supreme Court’s mandate for fully funding education. I am hopeful that the contempt order against the legislature will finally be lifted. The budget also invests $1 billion from our increased state revenues to reduce property taxes for families across Washington state.
Now is the time to consider common-sense gun legislation
The most recent devastating school shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, people across the nation are rightfully outraged and are demanding more than thoughts and prayers to prevent future mass shootings. I have long been a proponent of common-sense gun legislation and I am incredibly honored to have been able to cast a vote to pass a ban on bump-fire stocks last week.
This measure would ban the manufacture and sale of bump-fire stocks, which are trigger modifications that allow a semi-automatic firearm to replicate a fully automatic one. It begins to close the machine gun loophole. We need to do much more but it is a start. You can follow the bill’s progress here.
We’ve also made progress on other legislation to help prevent gun violence including Senate Bill 5553 and House Bill 2519. SB 5553 authorizes a person to voluntarily waive their firearm rights. This would reduce the risk of harm for people in crisis who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.
House Bill 2519 brings consistency between firearms returns and CPL license returns to ensure that only those who are legally eligible for a concealed pistol license will get them.
Balancing transparency at the legislature
Many of you have been reaching out to my office regarding the public records bill that the legislature passed last week. I was disappointed that this important legislation was rushed through the process, but it was important that the legislature act quickly in response to an unworkable court ruling. We need to protect the open flow of ideas and ensure that constituent information remains confidential.
While much of the focus in the news media has been on the process of passing this legislation, many of the details of the bill are getting lost. The measure we approved last week (SB 6617) is the largest expansion of legislative records being opened to the public in over two decades. Once the bill goes into effect on July 1, 2018, the following legislative records will be subject to public disclosure, including:
- Legislators’ calendars, including the names and dates of individuals and organizations with whom they’ve met;
- Legislators’ correspondence on legislative business to and from lobbyists;
- Final dispositions of investigations and disciplinary proceedings by administrative committees that oversee the House and Senate; and
- Any other records lawmakers choose to disclose.
The measure creates more transparency, but there are still aspects of our work that must remain private, which we have protected in this legislation:
- Constituent privacy: Our first job is to work on behalf of our constituents. If they do not have confidence that their private correspondence will remain private, we cannot do our jobs.
- Protect the legislative process: The open flow of ideas and advice is crucial to the legislative environment. Passing laws is an iterative and interactive process, where legislators need to be able to work through ideas or problems without worrying that every idea, however radical or silly, could end up on the front page of the newspaper.
This is a first step, and I believe it strikes a fair balance between protecting constituent privacy and striving for a more open government. My biggest regret is the sense of betrayal that is being communicated from residents of the 32nd District about the rushed process that was followed. With so much bad news every week from the other Washington, people are looking to their state legislators to protect our democracy and follow the rules of governance. I apologize for the way this legislation was enacted.
While I don’t support the manner in which this bill was passed, I do support making our legislature more transparent and establishing rules that allow it to function. The bill is far from perfect, but it’s a good step in the right direction. I welcome your comments and suggestions for improving this legislation.