Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been just over two months since I last communicated with you via this e-newsletter. I hope your holidays were enjoyable and that your new year is going well.
We've completed our two weeks of the scheduled 60-day session. The past 14 days have been full with debate and discussion of important issues that are setting the tone for this year's session.
Opioid treatment diversion center program
One of the most serious and deadly emerging issues to capture the attention of the Legislature this year is the opioid drug crisis. I've had an early lead in this discussion, prefiling legislation in December, just a few weeks before the start of the session.
Under House Bill 2287, a new diversion center pilot program would be created in Snohomish County and funded through a state grant administered by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
The program would be operated from the grant under a partnership between the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office and the Snohomish County Human Services Division and would repurpose an existing work-release building to house 44 beds (32 men and 12 women) for treatment and counseling. The program is voluntary and the goal is to stabilize participants and expedite them to services that will assist in facilitating their recovery. While at the center, time will be spent helping visitors get connected to other services, such as medically-assisted treatment, housing and employment assistance.
Snohomish County was chosen for the pilot program because it has a high rate of opioid- and heroin-related deaths. Snohomish Health District officials say that in just seven days last summer, 37 people overdosed on opioid drugs and three died. Additionally, Snohomish County is the right location for this pilot due to the fact that the county has identified a readily available facility in which to temporarily house the program participants.
The bill specifically calls out metrics that must be reported back to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019. If it shows the pilot program has successfully reduced addiction and recidivism, the next step would be to use it as a template in other communities experiencing the same problems.
A public hearing on the bill was held in the House Public Safety Committee on Jan. 8, the first day of session. The committee voted to approve the bill last Thursday, Jan. 18.
- Read my press release
- Listen to radio report
- Listen to my interview with KIRO Radio's Hanna Scott
- Read story about my bill in The Everett Herald
Governor begins session promoting energy tax
Bills introduced in the House and Senate would raise nearly $3.3 billion in new taxes over four years. Half the money from the tax would be paid by power plants and fuel importers, but would ultimately affect consumers in the form of higher energy prices. If enacted, the governor's policy staff said consumers could expect to pay a 4 to 5 percent increase in electricity, a 9 to 11 percent increase in natural gas and higher gasoline prices by as much as 18 – 20 cents per gallon.
House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen called the governor's proposal “extremely tax heavy and policy short.” It would do little to affect global climate conditions, but it would hurt working families and the middle and lower class the most. It's expected the tax would also increase prices on groceries and any products transported.
Finally, passage of a Hirst solution
After more than a year of negotiations, all four caucuses and the governor's office finally came to an agreement on a solution to the state Supreme Court's controversial Hirst water decision. You may remember the October 2016 ruling devastated property values and property rights across the state by not allowing property owners to draw water from their own wells. For good background on the issue, read this article by former Rep. John Koster.
Senate Bill 6091, the Hirst solution, passed from the House Thursday evening with a vote of 66-30. It came out of the Senate with a vote of 35-14. Here's what the bill does:
- It grandfathers existing wells as a legally adequate water supply to obtain a building permit throughout the state.
- It allows the counties to rely on the Department of Ecology to manage the water without the county doing an independent analysis of water availability before issuing building permits.
- It implements two new planning processes in certain areas of the state that did not exist before, including restrictions on water usage for domestic purposes.
- It provides up to $300 million for projects in restricted areas to address stream-flow issues.
While this bill is not perfect and does little to positively affect my constituents in the Skagit River Valley, it is a good step in the right direction for most of the rest of the state and that's why I supported it.
Capital construction budget approval follows
Once we had a Hirst agreement, the House and Senate also voted on a capital budget and the bond bill to finance the projects. Often called the state's construction budget, it will spend more than $4 billion on schools, colleges and universities, prisons, juvenile rehabilitation facilities, parks, housing for low-income residents and veterans, and other facilities and programs.
In and around the 10th District, just over $24 million in projects are funded by the capital budget, including preservation of the Fort Casey Lighthouse, Samish Hatchery improvements, phase 1 construction of the South Whidbey Campground project, funding for a new regional library in La Conner, Skagit River delta restoration, money for water and sewer projects in Freeland, and assistance for a Whidbey Island youth project. To view all of the projects and get more information, go here.
Why I am wearing a mourning band
On Monday, Jan. 8, Pierce County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel McCartney was shot and killed near Spanaway while responding to a disturbance call. In his honor, I have worn a “mourning band” on my law enforcement badge lapel pin.
As a sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, I join with my fellow law enforcement brethren in honoring the life and mourning the loss of Deputy McCartney. We held a moment of silence on the House floor and I attended the memorial service last week in Pierce County.
Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to ensure that every citizen is safe in our local communities and that criminals are removed and brought to justice.
You can watch and hear more about my tribute to Deputy McCartney in my video Legislative Update.
On the radio
Since session began Jan. 8, I've had the opportunity to be on the radio in Everett, Mount Vernon and Seattle. I invite you to listen to my interviews:
- Rep. Dave Hayes discusses gun control legislation, hammers carbon tax on KSER- Everett
- Rep. Dave Hayes calls capital budget and Hirst fix top issues of 2018 on KBRC/KAPS – Mount Vernon
- Rep. Dave Hayes joins KIRO Radio (Seattle) to discuss bill addressing opioid crisis
I'm pleased to introduce my new legislative assistant, Kendra Harris, who recently began her new job with my office. Kendra previously worked as the office manager/paralegal for a law office as well as the office manager for a medical practice. Her husband is currently serving in the Special Forces with the U.S. Army.
Kendra replaces my former legislative assistant, Mitchell Chitwood, who recently resigned to take his dream job with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. I wish him well.
Please welcome Kendra! She will be the friendly voice who greets you when you call my office. And as always, if you have questions about the issues in this newsletter or other legislative issues, please feel free to call me at any time. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!