Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we finish our third week of the scheduled 105-day legislative session, which began Jan. 9, I wanted to take a few minutes to provide an update of the activities in the Legislature and the work I am doing to represent you.
Leadership and committee positions
It was my honor to be elected in November by my fellow House Republicans as caucus whip. In this position, I am responsible for ensuring members of the caucus are in attendance and voting when legislation makes its way to the House floor. You can read more about my new position here.
I am also honored to again be serving as assistant ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee. The committee considers issues relating to law enforcement agencies, crime prevention, criminal penalties and sentencing, impaired driving, registration and civil commitment of sex offenders, adult correctional programs and institutions, and state and local government preparedness to respond to public safety emergencies. As a sergeant serving in the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, I bring a unique perspective and experience to this committee.
In addition, I continue to serve on the House Transportation Committee. These continuing and new roles are keeping me very busy as I work to bring your voice to Olympia.
Priorities for the 2017 session
During the past four years, the Legislature has allocated an additional $4.6 billion to K-12 public schools as a part of its work to fully fund education as required under the state Constitution and reaffirmed by the state Supreme Court under the “McCleary decision.”
The Legislature has until 2018 to complete the final requirements of the Supreme Court ruling. That means we must act during this session to add the final pieces of the puzzle to the picture. The remaining question is how to end our overreliance of local levies to fund basic education and create a more equitable teacher compensation system.
An education task force met through the interim to come up with concepts that will be considered this session. Our plans to address our obligations to the students of Washington have not yet been made public. With that said, we are indeed committed to reach the final compromises necessary to fully fund education and address the local levy reforms.
In the meantime, Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed more than $5.6 billion in new and higher taxes. I believe tax increases should be the LAST resort. There are better solutions than asking you, the taxpayers, for more of your hard-earned dollars.
Protecting those who protect us and keeping our communities safe
Over the past several months, I served on the Joint Legislative Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing. The task force was the result of legislation passed last year (House Bill 2908) after another bill (House Bill 2907) failed that would have changed the law regarding uses of deadly force by police officers.
I supported the task force bill because I felt it could foster discussion about how we can bring law enforcement and our communities together to improve trust and relationships — especially in light of the tensions built up over the past three years since the infamous shooting in Ferguson, MO, that sparked street riots. Unfortunately, it became evident once the task force meetings began that some had no interest in improving relations with law enforcement. Instead, they were intent on punishing officers who were forced to use deadly force.
There were some good recommendations from the task force, including data collection on deadly use of force. However, the most controversial recommendation, which would change the deadly use of force statute, passed 14-10. Under current law, a police officer or peace officer cannot be held criminally liable for using deadly force when it is used without malice and with a good faith belief that the use is permitted under the law. The task force recommended removing the underlined words above from the statute. This change in statute would do nothing to bring communities and our police together, and nothing to reduce the number of fatal encounters between police and citizens.
I opposed the recommendation because I see this as a wedge issue that could further separate law enforcement and create greater distrust. The vast majority of officers are hard-working, honest public servants who put their lives on the line to make sure our communities are safe. The first bill of the session, House Bill 1000, would remove those words and put responsible officers at risk for prosecution. A second measure in the works, known as the “Compromise Bill,” would remove the word “malice,” but leave in “good faith belief.” I don't support either, because it has the same outcome. In my view, even a compromise in this effort would compromise the safety of our officers and our communities and do nothing to further protect our communities. That's not a chance I want to take.
Remembering Gina Bull through a Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship Program
Many people in Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island and Olympia knew Gina Grant Bull. She had been active in the local community and had previously served as a legislative aide for former Rep. Chris Strow and former Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen.
Most recently, Gina was serving as page supervisor in the Washington State House of Representatives supporting dozens of youth who worked at the state Capitol during session. On Oct. 12, Gina suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and did not recover. She was only 57. Many of us were stunned that she was gone so quickly.
In her memory, I introduced House Bill 1194 that would create the Gina Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship Program. This is an idea that came from Gina herself – a scholarship program that would help provide housing assistance funds for qualified young people who would like to serve as pages in the Legislature, but cannot afford the fee. There would be no tax dollars involved. It would simply be funded by private donations. I believe this is a great way to honor a wonderful woman who we lost too young. I plan to support this fund with a personal contribution.
I invite you to read my press release for more information about the bill and the proposed scholarship program.
PHOTO: Rep. Dave Hayes submits a bill to the state Code Reviser's office that would create the Gina Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship Fund.
Please contact my office if you have questions, comments or suggestions about information in this e-newsletter or about legislation and state government. It is an honor to serve you!