Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for all your support during the last year and for returning me to Olympia to represent the 8th District once again.
The 2013 legislative session is underway and most of my time is being spent in committees listening to proposed legislation. I am serving on four committees. Most legislators serve on three but there are some of us pulling extra duty. Each committee meets three times per week for at least two hours at a time…so I am in committee for at least 24 hours each week. It is great to hear all the people from around our state testifying on the bills or issues that are important to them.
My committee assignments include being the lead Republican on the House Public Safety Committee. This committee considers issues relating to law enforcement agencies, crime prevention, criminal penalties sentencing, commitment of sex offenders, state and local government preparedness to respond to public emergencies, and much more. Those of you who know me, are aware I have devoted most of my life to public safety and emergency response as a law enforcement officer, former EMT/paramedic-firefighter and in military service, so this is a great fit for me.
Every two years, the House adopts rules on how they operate. It is standard procedure and most people don't give it a second thought. However, this session our caucus has decided to use the rules adoption process as an opportunity to make the rules more about the people and what they support. We have come up with proposed rule changes that would benefit taxpayers, give citizens more of a say in public hearing process and assist in funding education.
The proposal I feel is the most significant, and I wanted you to be aware of, is our request to place the supermajority vote provisions of Initiative 1185 into House Rules. There is a chance I-1185 will get thrown out by the courts…despite voters having enacted or reaffirmed the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases five times since 1993. The 8th Legislative District supported I-1185 with 73 percent of the vote. It passed in every county in the state…and 44 out of 49 Legislative Districts supported it. What better way to show you, the people and taxpayers of Washington, we have finally heard your voice on the two-thirds vote requirement issue and by adopting it into our House of Representatives Rules.
Our other rule proposal is prioritizing citizen testimony in committees. People who take the time to come to the Capitol to share their views should be given priority over the Olympia insiders and lobbyists. We often know where the Olympia insiders stand on the issues, but we need to hear from you, the taxpayers, on how proposed laws will impact you. You are the ones we need to be accountable too and it is your voice we need to hear first.
We also want to see each legislator get a public hearing on at least one of their bills. Legislators represent districts with about 137,000 people. It shows bipartisanship and a willingness to represent and listen to concerns from all districts across the state.
Finally, we want to put into rule the Fund Education First proposal. The House Republican caucus has proposed a version of this proposal since 2006. It is time we fully-fund education not only to be in compliance with the McCleary decision, but education should no longer be used as a bargaining chip during budget negotiations. It would be put in a stand-alone budget first, before other funding decisions are made. It would include funding for all day kindergarten and smaller class sizes.
We expect the “rules debate” to take place this Friday, February. 1.
House Bill 1127 – Developing pre-fire mitigation plans
Last year, we saw one of the most devastating years of wildfire ever. My bill, HB 1127, would make us more “firewise” by encouraging local solutions — involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters and others. The state fire marshal would also work with the State Building Code Council to adopt rules of a nationally recognized “Ready, Set, Go! Program” that focuses on public education and involvement to help reduce life and property loss, and limit the escalating costs of wildland fires. A fund called the Wildfire Prevention Account would also be created by transferring 5 percent of all money received by the state from taxes on fire insurance premiums.
A public hearing was held this week and the bill received strong support from Washington State Fire Chiefs and environmental organizations. I am hopeful it will make its way through the legislative process. I will keep you updated on its progress.
Stay in touch
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I want to hear what you have to say about bills before us or other state issues. If you plan on being in Olympia during the session, please call my office and set up an appointment with my legislative assistant. We are only three weeks into the session and I have already met with a number of groups from district, including public employees, realtors and many others. It is my favorite part of the job – sitting down with the people of the 8th District who have taken the time to travel to Olympia to share their concerns. I look forward to seeing many more of you as the session progresses.