Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Orwall’s 3/13/18 Update: Budget / Property Tax Relief / Equal Pay / Net Neutrality / Gun Laws

Dear friends and neighbors,

First, I want to make sure you know we’re having a telephone town hall meeting this Thursday evening, and I hope you’ll join us!

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Finished on time!

Last Thursday, shortly after 10 p.m., the gavels came down for the last time in both legislative chambers officially marking the adjournment of the 2018 session or, as we call it here, sine die. If you have never been at a sine die ceremony, perhaps you’d like to watch this TVW video to get an idea of what it’s like.

While short, this was a fast-paced session engulfed in a collective sense of urgency to get things done—lots of things—and to get them done in 60 days. We delivered, not only in that we made it on schedule, but also because we passed a lot of really good policy for our state.

There’s a lot to report, too much for one newsletter, so I’ll be breaking it up in separate future newsletters. In the meantime, however, I do want to include a bit of information on the supplemental operating budget, as well as on some of the landmark bills we passed.

A budget that puts people first

Supplemental budgets are passed in even years and allow the state to make mid-course corrections on the two-year budget passed in odd years.

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Last year the legislature enacted a budget that invests $7 billion in new education funding over the next four years. This session we had one last piece of the education-funding puzzle: increasing teacher compensation. Our plan originally increased teacher salaries in 2019, but the court wanted us to get it done by September 2018 instead, so we complied. The supplemental budget we passed fully funds our public schools and puts the McCleary lawsuit behind us.

On top of teacher salary increases, this is a good budget for Washington because it:

  • Invests in our behavioral health system to help people in crisis get the assistance they need
  • Expands access to higher education by drastically reducing the State Need Grant wait list
  • Helps rural communities increase economic development and job opportunities
  • Strengthens the safety net for struggling families and vulnerable Washingtonians

We also had the unique opportunity to lower property taxes

We all experienced shocking increases in our property taxes not just in our district, but throughout the state. I am happy to report that there’s good news: With unexpected revenue growth, the state had a surplus and several ideas were floated around on the best way to use those funds. I eagerly voted to lower property taxes in 2019 and give the money back to the people.

For more information, you can check out the budget details here, here, and here.

Landmark Legislation

This was the year for landmark legislation, and a lot of the success we had in passing good policy was thanks to your involvement and valuable input.  Here are some of those victories:

Equal Pay Opportunity Act

This long overdue legislation will make it easier for women to talk about their wages with co-workers, and will ensure employees who discuss their earnings or who ask for equal pay don’t face repercussions. I was presiding when we passed the bill in the House on a 70-28 vote.

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It also passed with a wide margin in the Senate, 36-12. This level of bipartisan support was achieved thanks to the hard work of many people but especially thanks to my colleague, Rep. Tana Senn. Her perseverance finally paid off, after having sponsored and successfully passed a version of this bill out of the House every year since 2015.

This law will help close the wage gap between men and women in our state by offering protections for employees who, due to their gender, are paid less or are offered lesser career advancement opportunities.

Click here to learn more about the Equal Pay Opportunity Act.

Net Neutrality

This measure prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing down certain content while giving priority speeds to content providers who pay extra. This law was passed in response to the Federal Communication Commission’s recent rollback of 2015 net neutrality rules. Under the law, ISPs will have to provide equal access and disclose information about their network operations. Read more about this bill here.

Common-sense gun laws

The devastating news out of Florida last month made it clear that now more than ever we need to work on keeping our children safe in school.

Kent meridian hs town hall

Kids across America—including students from schools in our district—are walking out in protest demanding that their leaders take steps to ensure their safety. And they have every right to do so.

While there’s still more work ahead, I am glad we were able to pass three good common-sense gun bills this session:

SB 5992 bans bump stocks, which are trigger modification devices that make semi-automatic rifles fire like automatic weapons, making them extremely efficient at hitting multiple targets in a very short period of time. The new law bans sales of bump stocks beginning July 2018. Then people who currently own these devices will have one year, until July 2019, to sell them to the Washington State Patrol.

SB 6298 increases protections for victims of domestic violence by adding harassment to the list of domestic violence crimes that prohibit a convicted batterer from owning a firearm.

SB 5553 allows people struggling with mental illness to place themselves on a firearms do-not-purchase list.  I recommend you read this comprehensive article on the voluntary waiver measure.

Thank you so much for your interest and taking the time to read my legislative updates through these very fast-paced sixty days.

I want you to know that even though the session is over, I am your representative year-round, so don’t hesitate to contact my office with questions or concerns. And if you have ideas for future legislation, now that I am back in district it’ll be easier to meet and discuss them, maybe even over coffee.


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