Town Hall Reminder: Join us on Saturday!
A friendly reminder that our town hall is coming up soon and everyone is invited! It will be in Spokane on Saturday, February 22nd from 10 AM to 11:30 AM at the Woman’s Club (1428 W. 9th Ave, Spokane, WA 99204). I look forward to the opportunity to meet with you and hear your thoughts on the work being done for our community.
Passing Bills Out of the House!
I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in my priority areas this year, including health care, school meals, and our Gold Star families. So far, six of my bills have passed out of the House:
- Increasing safety on our railroads by increasing crew size on certain trains (HB 1841). This bill really puts your safety and the safety of those communities near railways first. It passed out of the House earlier this month and was heard today in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.
- Improving access to health care and physicians assistants (SHB 2378): Too many communities struggle to get access to health care and this bill can help that by improving the laws that govern physician assistants. It received unanimous bipartisan support and is now in the Senate where it has been scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow.
- Health as a transportation goal (HB 2461): Making health a transportation goal means that WSDOT can consider how to best move forward on projects in a way that also prioritizes your health. I believe this bill would help people all over the state, and especially children, combat immobility. Our transportation structures need to assure that people can travel in healthy, active ways. This can reduce certain health issues associated with lack of movement and help the environment due to a decline in emissions. This bill has just passed out of the House Monday and, since it was so recent, has not been referred to a committee in the Senate yet.
- The Hunger-Free Schools Act (HB 2660): I am particularly excited about this bill because it puts Washington a path to providing free breakfast and lunch to every student in the state, starting with 15 schools and an additional 7,200 students if this bill becomes law. We can have a real impact on children’s lives and almost 1/3 of the schools impacted by the bill are in the Spokane School District. All children deserve the opportunity to succeed and being fed at school is one step toward that goal. You can read more here in the Spokesman-Review.
- Including Dental Care in Medicare (SHJM 4014): This memorial asks Congress to include dental care in Medicare. It passed out of the House on the 14th and has been referred to the Senate committee on Health and Long-Term Care. Dental care is just as relevant and important as any other medical care and our seniors should have access to it as such. I have heard from seniors who cannot chew their food easily because they cannot afford dental care, and they and all seniors deserve to age with dignity. While this memorial doesn’t immediately resolve the issue, it continues the conversation and is productive in moving towards a solution.
- Renaming SR 902 the “Gold Star Memorial Highway” (HJM 4016): Our Gold Star families asked me to consider renaming SR 902 and it was my honor to bring this joint memorial to the House floor. Our Gold Star families and the fallen heroes deserve this enduring recognition. The highway leads to the Eastern Washington Veterans Cemetery which serves as the final resting place for over 6,000 veterans who have traveled State Route 902 on their last mile. It passed the House and is now in the Senate Transportation Committee.
What is ‘cut-off’?
The House has been working late nights this past week and passing a large amount of bills, all of mine above for example. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you why.
The Washington State Legislature has a rather unique system of cut-offs. Unlike Congress and many other legislative bodies, Washington operates on a ‘biennium’ (meaning two-year) cycle. We have a long session of 105 days and then a short session of just 60 days.
In a biennium, bills that do not pass during that two-year period have to be reintroduced the next biennium. So, if a bill hasn’t passed both chambers and is on its way to the governor by March 12 this year, it won’t become law. That is the final cut-off. However, through each session there are smaller deadlines. There are committee cutoffs and then floor cutoffs. If a bill is not voted out of committee by the committee cutoff date, it is no longer considered available for further debate. There are exceptions to these rules, especially with budget bills as those are often required for the state to function, but it holds true for most things.
This week, the first major cutoff was this week (Wednesday, February 19th) at 5 pm. Almost all bills not voted out of the House will have to be reintroduced in a new form next year. The same goes for the Senate. Next week, the House will start hearing the bills introduced by the Senate and vice versa.
Cutoffs play a large role in keeping the legislature productive and is a distinctive part of the Washington State legislative process!
I look forward to seeing you at our town hall. If you are unable to talk to me at the town hall, please email me or call me at 360-786-7888. It’s an honor to serve you.