Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The second week of the 2016 legislative session is complete and we are off to a fast start. Some big issues to address during the 60-day session include: passing a supplemental operating budget, developing a plan to address the final requirements of the McCleary decision, funding wildfire recovery efforts, and addressing ongoing mental health issues in our communities, to mention a few. I am confident we can accomplish these goals and adjourn on time!
Last week, Gov. Inslee addressed a joint session of the Legislature to give his State of the State speech. During that speech, he outlined his spending proposals for the 2016 supplemental operating budget. I agree with some of his proposals, but do have concerns. The governor proposed a $700 million supplemental budget which includes nearly $200 million in spending on new policy proposals. This spending would create a more than $800 million shortfall in the 2017-19 budget and it relies on increased taxes and tapping the reserve account. I don't think this is the responsible path for us to take, and we must address these concerns as we negotiate the final budget.
For those of us in eastern Washington, last year's historic wildfires are fresh in our minds. We know firsthand the danger fires present in our communities. I am very grateful to all of the men and women who worked so hard to protect lives and property, and I am committed to doing all I can to ensure our first responders have the necessary resources to do their jobs effectively and to help create better forest management practices to prevent future wildfires.
I appreciate the governor making wildfire recovery a budget priority, but what we must do is better prioritize prevention. My background in both the military and as an emergency first responder has proven that preparation is critical in disaster situations, especially fast-moving and unpredictable wildfires. To that end, I hosted an important public safety discussion in our community so we can better prepare for future fires and improve prevention techniques. I will continue working toward this goal in the coming weeks and months.
I am also sponsoring legislation that would protect business owners from discrimination based on their religious beliefs regarding the definition of marriage. This issue hits particularly close to home as the Attorney General's Office continues to pursue court action against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers.
As I have always said, as a Christian, I am called to live by the word of God. As a lawmaker, I swore an oath to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the state of Washington. As a soldier I have sworn an oath to protect the Constitution, including your constitutional rights, against all enemies, foreign and domestic!
Our state constitution clearly states:
“The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land,” and
“Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual, and no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion…” – Article 1 Section 2 and 11
I commend all those who stand firm in their beliefs and are willing to fight for what they believe in; and I fight for the full protection of their constitutional rights to do so. I will keep you posted on the progress of this and other bills before us.
Finally, I'd like to take a moment to recognize a true Washington and American hero, National Guard SSG Matthew McClintock. Staff Sergeant McClintock, a resident of Des Moines, was killed during combat in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan on Jan. 5, 2016. He joined the US Army in 2006 and served as a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant. He deployed with the Washington Army National Guard's A Co. 1/19th Special Forces Group to Afghanistan in July, 2015. He leaves behind a wife and an infant son. Thank you SSG McClintock for your service and sacrifice for our nation!
I hope you will join me in keeping Staff Sergeant McClintock's family in your thoughts and prayers as they grieve their loss of a husband, father, son and brother. A truly great American patriot. He answered the call of his nation and made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis. We are eternally grateful for his service.
Throughout this legislative session, I hope you will take time to call, email or visit me in Olympia. I welcome your thoughts and concerns on issues before the Legislature and look forward to working with you to make Washington a better place for all.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you and your family! May God richly bless you! Have a great Washington Day!