Hello friends and neighbors,
We are ending the sixth week of the 2017 legislative session, just about a third of the way to Sine Die, also known as the last day of session. This means we are already hitting cut-off deadlines for legislation to move forward. In fact, Friday, February 17th will be the last day for policy bills to be passed out of House policy committees. February 24th will be the last day fiscal committees can approve House bills that are not necessary to implement the budget. We then begin hearings on Senate bills.
As Chair of the House Judiciary committee, cut-off deadlines keep me very busy. Over 100 bills have gone through the Judiciary committee so far. As a member of the House Appropriations committee, I will also be working late into the night next week to make sure we are dedicating enough time to pieces of legislation that make our state a place where everyone can thrive.
Thank you to those who have written, called, or visited to share your thoughts on legislation under consideration. I’m always interested in hearing your opinions.
Update on Education Funding
One of the top concerns I have heard from constituents has been regarding adequate funding for our K-12 education system. This continues to be one of my top priorities this legislative session.
After weeks of unnecessary delay, Senate Republicans finally unveiled their education funding plan. After initial review, there are many elements to the Republican plan that will be deeply concerning to parents, student, teachers, and taxpayers all across the state.
For example, the Senate Republican plan would prohibit local voter-approved levies for a year. There would be NO local levy allowed for 2019, meaning school districts would be forced to make dramatic cuts to after school programs, clubs, band, sports, and other educational enhancements.When the levy authority is restored, districts would only be able to raise a fraction of what they can now.
Additionally, instead of helping kids from low-income families, the Senate Republican plan changes the definition of low-income and reduces learning supports for those students.This would have a devastating impact on the nearly 500,000 kids that currently quality for free or reduced lunch.
For these and other reasons, I believe the Democrats’ plan has solutions that do right by our kids. I will continue to be a strong voice in the legislature to make sure that our schools are getting the resources they need so our kids can get the education they deserve.
Protecting ALL Washingtonians
In response to federal action, including a new executive order banning travel from certain countries, Washington lawmakers and state leaders are fighting back.On a state level, House Democrats are standing up for all Washingtonians in a way that reflects our values.
On Tuesday, in the Judiciary committee, we heard from immigrants who shared their stories in public testimony about feeling targeted due to their race, ethnicity or religion, and how they fear for their safety and the safety of their children.
Three bills were passed out of the Judiciary committee today that directly respond to the executive order and reflect Washington’s values of tolerance and opportunity for all.
HB 1988 creates a new legal proceeding authorizing a court to appoint a guardian for certain immigrant youth who have been abandoned, abused or neglected. HB 2029 would provide a hotline for those seeking information and assistance for immigration and citizenship related matters. HB 2097 would limit disclosure by state or local government agencies about the religious affiliation of individuals.
Our country is and must remain a beacon to those fleeing violence, hardship, and persecution, and one where the inherent dignity of all residents is valued.
Preventing gun violence
It’s taken a long time, but we’ve finally broken through and been successful in moving a number of bi-partisan gun responsibility bills out of the House Judiciary committee.
The following bills are moving on to the next step in the legislative process:
• HB 1483, which would allow the State Patrol to decide whether they want to sell or destroy guns they confiscate as a result of criminal activity, rather than being required to resell them.
• HB 1501, which would make people who continue to try and purchase firearms when they have already failed a background check subject to prosecution.
• HB 1122 would allow the possibility of criminal charges if a child gains access to an unsecured gun and harms him or herself or someone else.
• HB 1270 would give people who purchase a firearm a sales tax break for also purchasing a safe storage device.
• HB 1612 would bolster suicide prevention efforts and develop strategies for reducing access to lethal means.
• HB 1100 would provide notification to concealed weapon permit holders when it’s time to renew their permit.
There is no simple solution to preventing gun violence. It requires taking a comprehensive approach and addressing public safety laws, gun access laws, safe storage & general gun safety education, and mental health services. I am working with my colleagues to develop solutions around a variety of issues, including safe storage legislation, suicide prevention, enhanced background checks, public information, and mental health access. I believe these common-sense measures will help to make our communities safer, while still respecting the right of responsible gun owners to own and carry guns.
It is encouraging to see Washingtonians having unprecedented conversations on how gun violence is affecting their communities and what can be done to prevent gun tragedies. As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this issue.