Final week of the 2014 session

OBan_E-news-Header-leg-district.jpgGreetings Friends and Neighbors…

This is the last week of the 2014 legislative session (barring any special sessions, of course) which is scheduled to end Thursday, March 13th. I’m pleased to say that we are not expecting to go into overtime this year. During this final week, House and Senate bills that have amended and passed both chambers must be approved before being sent to the governor for his signature. If bills are passed by the full House and Senate without amendments, they also go to the governor to become law.

It truly has been an honor and privilege to serve as your state senator for the 28th District this year in Olympia. Together, we’ve been able to accomplish a great deal in the short time we’ve been here and I look forward to building upon that success in the years to come.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions, comments or concerns. I work for you, and your input helps me do my job better. Thanks again, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

signature

Giving foster kids a voice in the process

Foster Kids

One of my top priority bills this session is now ready to be signed into law. Senate Bill 6126 – providing Washington’s foster children with legal representation in dependency proceedings – passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 17 but was amended in the House of Representatives before receiving unanimous approval. The Senate agreed with those changes just moments ago and the bill is now headed to the governor’s desk.

These children, who are essentially orphans, have had very little say in their own futures; providing them with a voice in court can make all the difference in the kind of adults they will eventually become. There are nearly 10,000 foster kids in Washington – and all of them will have a fighting chance at moving out of the foster-care system and into adoptive, loving homes much more quickly when my bill becomes law.

A majority of other states already require similar protections of a child’s legal rights, but Washington has yet to follow suit. It’s the state’s responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and I can’t think of anyone more vulnerable than children left without parental guidance. Former foster children from other states testified in my committee how alone they felt before being granted a legal representative and how much of a difference it made. We’re doing the right thing with this bill.

Bertha2

Bringing some accountability to WSDOT

Last week, the Senate agreed that the Washington State Department of Transportation needs to come clean when mistakes are made.

Before adopting a supplemental transportation budget a majority of senators backed my reform amendment that would require DOT to disclose any design errors and explain to the Legislature what went wrong, who it believes was responsible and how the agency plans to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Our first priority is to regain the public’s confidence and assure taxpayers that business will not continue as usual at WSDOT. We need fundamental reforms that bring transparency and accountability to WSDOT so that the public’s trust can be restored and citizens may be inclined to support new funding for needed projects. Without showing we are serious about vital reforms, the public would never support a new gas tax. After all, it’s taxpayers who foot the bill for our state’s transportation mismanagement.

The supplemental transportation budget with my accountability amendment must still be approved by the House of Representatives before it can become law.

Academic credit for military training

College Military

I’m very pleased to report that Senate Bill 5969 was approved by the House of Representatives late last week and will soon be signed into law by the governor. The measure awards academic credit for military training so veterans may earn college degrees faster and more affordably.

We ask so much of our brave men and women in uniform, and we should make sure we give back in return when presented with the opportunity. The law created by Senate Bill 5969 will not only assist troops returning from deployment and transitioning into civilian life, but it will help those veterans living in Washington who always dreamed of getting a degree.

Military training, experience making life-and-death decisions, mastering complicated information-technology and communications systems, and managing millions of dollars’ worth of equipment could easily equate to certain types of college instruction. Additionally, Washington’s public colleges and universities would still be required to verify an individual’s military transcript issued by a branch of the armed services.

Suicide prevention bill to become law

PTSD

Finally, I’m particularly grateful that the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2315 last week, which requires certain health professionals in Washington state to complete six hours of training in suicide assessment, treatment, and management as part of their education requirements.

This measure, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, is the companion to my bill, Senate Bill 6468.

I believe this is an issue that we must address right now, while we still have the opportunity. Suicide prevention, particularly for our brave service men and women who often deal with underlying post-traumatic stress disorder issues after returning from deployment, should be one of our top priorities and this bill is an excellent step in that direction.

House Bill 2315 now goes to Governor Inslee for his signature.