Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's hard to believe that only two months remain before the Legislature begins the 2018 session on Jan. 8. We had intended to be in session for only the scheduled 105 days earlier this year, but difficult negotiations on funding K-12 education and meeting the state Supreme Court's McCleary requirements pushed us into three special sessions and we didn't adjourn until July 20. The 2018 session is scheduled for just 60 days. Since it is only a supplemental budget year, there should be no reason for the Legislature to go into overtime.
Has the state met its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education?
On June 30, the Legislature passed a bipartisan two-year operating budget that appropriated an additional $7.3 billion into K-12 education over the next four years. That's in addition to more than $4 billion of new money directed to K-12 education since the state Supreme Court ruled on the McCleary decision in 2012.
There's been historic progress since the original court ruling, including smaller K-3 class sizes, full-day kindergarten, teacher raises, and addressing materials, supplies and operating costs. Despite these advancements, Tom Ahearne, the attorney in the McCleary case, argued before the Supreme Court on Oct. 24, that the state is still far short of amply funding education as required by the state constitution.
Ahearne wants the Legislature to re-write the two-year state operating budget and allocate another $2.1 billion for teacher salaries during the upcoming short session — something that's both unrealistic and unlikely. Deputy Solicitor General Alan Copsey, representing the state, argued lawmakers have done enough to meet the court's remaining demands. You can watch the latest McCleary arguments online here on TVW.
Former Gov. Evans: Pass a capital budget and a Hirst fix
It's been just over a year (Oct. 6, 2016) since the Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise, et al. decision that Whatcom County failed to comply with the Growth Management Act (GMA) requirements to protect water resources.
The court said counties must ensure, independently of the state, that water is physically and legally available before they issue building permits in certain areas. Since the decision, a portion of rural development has been curtailed statewide and at least one bank has announced it will no longer issue loans on property affected by Hirst.
A measure to permanently roll back the Hirst decision, Senate Bill 5239, passed the Senate four times with strong support from House Republicans. However, majority leaders in the House refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. In response, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus said it would not pass a capital budget until a Hirst fix is in place.
Former Gov. Dan Evans recently wrote an article to The Seattle Times, calling on Gov. Inslee and the Legislature to pass a capital budget and a Hirst fix. Evans said Hirst “will shatter the American Dream for some Washington state families, because they may not be able to obtain water on the properties they purchased unless the Legislature enacts a solution.” Evans called on Inslee and legislators to “step out of their partisan comfort zones” and pass a Hirst fix and a capital budget.
The Legislature is scheduled to meet for committee assembly days in Olympia, Nov. 15 – 17. That might be an optimal time to pass both measures.
It's amazing some people believe their food comes from a grocery store, but never think beyond that. Those of us who live in the rich farmland of the 10th District, including Skagit Valley and Whidbey Island, know better. We know the hard work it takes to grow the produce and provide the dairy products that feed Washington's families, from research and planning, drainage and irrigation, fertilizer and equipment, crop rotation, and livestock management.
Our farmers are the best environmentalists and conservationists in the state. Their livelihoods depend on preserving the land and proper water management. Yet, agriculture is frequently under attack in Olympia — often by forces who don't fully understand what it takes to make sure dinner is in front of them every night. That's why I am appreciative of our local and state farming organizations who support Washington agriculture and help to educate others about what is necessary to fill those grocery shelves.
I had an opportunity in September to join other state lawmakers in a farm tour of the Skagit Valley. We started the day at Roozengaarde's tulip fields near Mount Vernon, toured Alan Mesmen's organic dairy that uses computer-assisted milkers, had lunch at the WSU Northwest Research and Extension Center, met with local irrigation district officials, and watched presentations on agricultural spray equipment and water monitoring of salmon in the Skagit delta.
Agriculture is the number one employer in Washington state. We need to get behind our farmers and support their efforts, not create additional roadblocks for them. Thank you to each of the sponsoring organizations who are helping to educate lawmakers and the public about the importance of agriculture in Washington.
Page applications and scholarship donations accepted now
If you are between 14 years of age and have not reached your 17th birthday, or if you have a son, daughter or friend in this age category, I invite you to read on for information about our legislative page program.
Applications are being accepted now for the coming 2018 session for young people to serve as pages in the state House of Representatives. Pages are an essential part of our session. They help to deliver documents to members on the floor of the House and in their offices. They may also participate in the opening flag ceremony. Plus, they attend page school for two hours each day where they learn about the legislative process and even write a mock bill. Each page is assigned to one week at the state Capitol and they live with host families in Olympia during that time. They are also paid $35 a day for their work.
To be eligible, pages need to be in the age category I stated above, have the permission of your parents and school, and be sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives. If interested, download a page application here.
Also, the page program is accepting donations to the Gina Grant Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship Fund to help low-income and needy young people who cannot afford travel and housing in Olympia to pay those costs. I was a sponsor of the House legislation to create this program in honor of the late Gina Grant Bull, who served as page supervisor before she died last year. It was her vision to have a scholarship program to give every interested young person, regardless of income, the ability to serve as a page in the Legislature. If you would like to donate, please visit the scholarship donor website here.
Please read more in my recent opinion-editorial about the Legislative Page Program.
Join me for Veterans' Day commemoration in Stanwood
It is my honor to have been asked to be one of the primary speakers at the new community veterans' memorial in downtown Stanwood this coming Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, at noon. The names of fallen soldiers from our local Stanwood area who served in five conflicts, including World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, are engraved in granite on the memorial. As a Navy veteran, I so appreciate the service and sacrifice of all of our veterans. I hope you can join me to pay tribute to all of our past and present soldiers.
I work for you throughout the year
Feel free to contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation and state government. My assistant, Mitchell Chitwood, staffs my Olympia office. You can find my contact information below. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!