The following post was originally an e-newsletter sent to subscribers on January 24th. If you’d like to receive my e-newsletters directly, please subscribe here. While the legislative session is ongoing, e-newsletters are sent about every other week.
Dear friends and neighbors,
The 2017 legislative session is underway in Olympia. This year it’s a long one—105 days—and there are big issues before us. As you are probably aware, education funding is one of the top issues on our agenda. For several decades, legislatures and governors in our state allowed an increasing burden in basic education funding to fall on local levies. The Washington State Supreme Court correctly recognized this problem in a 2012 decision commonly referred to as the McCleary ruling. The details are complicated, and there are some things that the court got wrong—particularly concerning the constitutional separation of powers. But on the key point of the state’s responsibility for basic education funding, we’ve been working hard in the Senate to correct the problem. Under the leadership of the Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus, we’ve increased education funding $4.6 billion and per pupil funding by 33 percent since 2013. We’ve also been able to reset Olympia’s priorities, leading to a 3:1 ratio of new revenue being devoted to education. Now there is debate about what the final piece of basic education funding should look like. The governor and the House Democrat leadership are floating big new taxes, including carbon taxes and an income tax on capital gains. I think we can do a whole lot better. We don’t need to start down the path to an income tax to solve our problems.
In the weeks to come, I’ll keep you posted on the debate over taxes and the future of education funding in our state. I’ll also keep you informed on the bills I’ve sponsored to hold Sound Transit more accountable, improve services to veterans, and strengthen laws against property crime.
I hope I hear from you too.
I am truly honored that the voters of the 28th District have entrusted me again with being their voice in Olympia. If there is an issue of concern to you, I hope you will contact me. All the information you need to do so is at the end of this newsletter.
Finding car prowlers a new line of work
We’ve all heard of young people who make a mistake and commit a property crime. We don’t want that mistake to define their life. We want them to learn from it and change their life. My bill to increase penalties for vehicular property crimes does not change that. What it does change is how we sentence those who have made these criminal acts their habit. Starting with the third offense, it would increase the penalties for crimes that range from car prowling to vehicle theft.
Vehicular property crimes are a serious issue in Pierce County. Groups of criminals will victimize neighborhoods again and again.
When a man steals your car, he steals your ability to pick up your kids, to get to work and visit friends. And if he breaks into your car, he’s not just stolen what was in it—he has taken your peace of mind as well.
I’m pleased my bill to increase penalties for repeat offenders has already had a hearing. We know vehicle property crime is a big problem for Pierce County and that the same repeat criminals are responsible for a big chunk of that problem. We need to show them it’s time to find a new line of work.
Photo: King County Executive Dow Constantine
Making Sound Transit more accountable to the voters
Is it fair for the King County executive to appoint a controlling majority of the seats on the Sound Transit board?
I don’t think so either. That’s why I’m working to make Sound Transit more accountable to voters. Sound Transit has a long history of cost overruns and delays. The public deserves more oversight—especially now that Sound Transit will be embarking on a $54 billion tax-and-bond plan.
I’ve introduced legislation (SB 5001) to divide Sound Transit into 19 districts equal in population, with one director elected from each district. All directors would be barred from holding other political office. This bill is currently scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow, January 25. If you’d like to testify in writing or in person on this or any bill, you can learn how here.
Photo: Korean Veterans Memorial on the Capitol Campus, Olympia.
Taking care of our veterans
You might recall my legislation to help tackle the problem of long term unemployment among veterans. I sponsored legislation that gave employers an incentive to hire veterans. That bill became law and the tax credit for employers who hire veterans became available on October 1st. It’s too early to measure results yet, but I’m not done working for better treatment of our veterans.
The bills I’m sponsoring this year include:
SB 5021, which helps military service members, veterans and their families with pro bono legal services.
SB 5305, which exempts lifetime disabled veterans from the requirements of the Discover Pass so that they have easier access to our state’s recreational lands.
I’ll keep you posted on additional efforts to ensure that Washington state is the best home for veterans.
Photo: Walla Walla State Penitentiary
Seeing justice in the death penalty
Efforts to abolish the death penalty in Washington State received a lot of publicity at the Capitol recently and legislation to that effect has been introduced. If there is a hearing on the bill, I serve as vice chair of the committee that would hear it, the Law and Justice Committee. While I believe the death penalty is a somber responsibility, I also believe that it’s an appropriate penalty in some cases—sometimes the only appropriate penalty. I recently wrote a piece that was published in the Seattle Times that describes my views which you can read here. I believe the penalty should be reformed, not abolished. I also recognize people of good will differ on this issue.
I hope you’ll consider sharing your views on these and any other subjects of concern with me. The contact information for my office and an online form to leave me a message, is here.