Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Lawmakers completed their business in Olympia on March 29 after 60 days of a regular session and 20 days of a special session. Due to election-year restrictions, today is the last day I can send an e-newsletter until December. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon the 2015 and 2016 sessions. While we didn't get everything we wanted, and it took three special sessions last year and one this year, I believe we have had some phenomenal successes in the state Legislature during this past biennium.
The makeup of the Legislature helped to bring us closer to our goals
Going into the 2016 session, my House Republican colleagues and I had four primary goals:
- Provide students with a world-class education.
- Empower families and strengthen communities.
- Protect taxpayers and hold government accountable.
- Safeguard our neighborhoods and schools.
Democrats hold only two seats more in the state House than Republicans. That slim margin of 50 Democrats and 48 Republicans allowed us to have more influence in the legislative process and provided great opportunities to achieve many of our goals with bipartisan support. It also helped that Republicans have the majority in the Senate.
Successes in the 2015 and 2016 sessions
Here's a quick look at some of our successes over the past two years:
- Increased funding to K-12 education by 19 percent. K-12 funding now comprises 48 percent of the state's operating budget – the highest in 30 years.
- Reduced K-3 class sizes.
- Lowered public college and university tuition rates.
- Provided cost-of-living increases and salary increases for public school teachers, and approved legislation to relieve teacher shortages.
- Made significant investments in treatment and capacity for our mentally ill.
- Provided pay raises for Washington State Patrol troopers.
- Prevented more than $1.5 billion in taxes increases proposed by Democrats, including a new capital gains income tax, carbon tax, increased taxes against employers, travel agents and prescription drugs, and a bottled water tax.
- Strengthened Washington's firearm offender registration law while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
- Held the Department of Corrections accountable for early release of prisoners who had not served their time, and rejected confirmation of the Department of Transportation secretary following expensive project cost overruns and delays.
- Added a third district judge to relieve court backlogs in Skagit County.
- Gave Island County additional tools for transportation planning.
- Extended priority registration for military spouses attending colleges and universities.
More information in my 2016 Legislative Report
Although this is my final e-newsletter until December, I will be sending my 2016 Legislative Report in the mail to households throughout the 10th District within the next few days. I am also allowed to share that report electronically to you via email. So look for it soon. It will provide more details of the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions.
As I mentioned above, how and when I can communicate with you during an election year are dictated by restrictions in the law. Today is the final day I can provide an e-newsletter update until December. Mailed newsletters must be received no later than 60 days after the end of the regular session (May 10). I can provide the mailed newsletter in an electronic form and email it to you, which will be happening soon. After June 30, I am not allowed to send unsolicited emails. However, I can respond to a direct request for information, so I encourage you to call, write or email if you have any questions about legislative or state issues.
I work for you throughout the year, so please contact me any time. My new legislative assistant is Mitchel Chitwood. He works in my Olympia office. You will find my contact information below.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving and representing you!