Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last year, the Legislature was in regular session and three special sessions for nearly six-and-a-half months. So it is hard to believe that with only 30 days under our belts since the 2016 session began Jan. 11, today is the halfway point of the scheduled 60 day session.
In the past month, 917 bills have been introduced by the 98 members of the House. Add in another 1,100 measures carried forward from the 2015 session and you know why our daily schedule has been dominated by committee meetings to gather information about the proposed legislation.
Last Friday, Feb. 5 was the last day the 19 policy committees in the House of Representatives could hear newly-introduced bills. Today, Feb. 9 is the last day fiscal committees, including the House Transportation Committee, may hear bills that have financial impacts. This day is known as “cutoff.” After today, the full House will assemble to debate bills and take final action on those proposals that have won committee approval.
Hayes' bills survive cutoff
I'm pleased to report three of my bills have passed their respective committees and may soon be moved to the House floor for a vote:
Felony firearm offenders registry
House Bill 2410 would strengthen a law passed in 2013 that gave judges discretion of whether people convicted of certain gun offenses would have to register as firearm offenders.
Since the statute was put into place, around 1,200 offenders have been eligible to register for this. Unfortunately, only 86 offenders have been required by the judges to register as a firearm offender. Judges simply weren't using it as law enforcement agencies had hoped.
Under my bill, that discretion is removed for firearm offenses involving a minor child, sexual motivation, or a serious violent offense. Other firearm felony crimes would fall under the original law that gives the court discretion to order registration. This measure passed the House Public Safety Committee and is now awaiting further action in the House Rules Committee.
- Read my press release on the bill
- Listen to Northwest Public Radio's report on my bill.
- Watch my video report on this issue
Island County regional transportation planning authority
House Bill 2815 would give Island County the authority to form a Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO) to prepare regional transportation plans, ensure local and regional coordination of transportation planning, and maintain a six-year regional transportation improvement plan. An RTPO receives state funding in support of its planning efforts.
Until last year, Island County had been in a 24-year RTPO partnership with Skagit County. But Skagit County voted to separate itself from that regional transportation agreement. Current law sets a threshold of 100,000 population for a single county to form an RTPO and Island County doesn't qualify, which means it cannot receive RTPO state funding.
Island County Commissioners asked me to author legislation to make the local county eligible to form its own RTPO. The bill passed yesterday from the House Transportation Committee.
Consolidating driver training under one agency
Two different sets of laws govern driver training schools and traffic safety education courses offered by some public schools in our state. The Department of Licensing oversees enforcement and administration of rules for driver training schools. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is responsible for the driver education courses through the public schools. This creates a problem of duplication, bureaucracy, unequal standards, and a system difficult to hold accountable.
Bad bill stopped; JROTC programs preserved
Being an effective legislator is not best measured by how many bills get passed. It's also being effective at stopping bad legislation. An example is House Bill 2664.
This measure was proposed to prevent students from waiving, substituting or exempting physical education classes in favor of other electives, except for disability or religious belief. However, it would have forced students in high schools throughout the state to drop the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program.
When I heard about this measure, I notified Oak Harbor High School, which operates one of the most successful JROTC programs in the state. Last Tuesday, Oak Harbor High School staff and JROTC students came to Olympia to testify against the bill.
“If a PE credit is required, it will prevent a student from being able to take a Junior ROTC course. One hundred cadets are required to have a JROTC program. With so many students being required to take a PE class instead, many JROTC programs would die, taking that opportunity away from everyone,” said Jared Hunt, a senior at Oak Harbor High School, who asked the committee to reject the bill.
JROTC students and student athletes typically get more instruction on healthy life skills and more physical activity than they would otherwise get in a PE class. While this may have been a well-intentioned bill, it would have had terrible consequences. I applaud our local students for their impassioned testimony, which helped to stop advancement of this bill from the House Education Committee.
Mark your calendar for a telephone town hall meeting
I invite you to join me Thursday evening, Feb. 18, 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. for a telephone town hall meeting. During the hour, I will provide an update on the legislative session and take your questions.
Here's how to participate. Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., call (360) 553-3090. Stay on the line and you'll be connected to my event. Any time you have a question, press the * (STAR) key on your telephone keypad.
For more information about my telephone town hall or any inquiries about the materials in my e-newsletter update to you, please contact my office. You'll see my contact information below.
Thank you for allowing me the honor to serve you!