Foster kids, veterans, protecting women’s health, and transportation reforms top my priority list

lewismcchordtrafficI’ve drafted a number of bills that target my priority issues this session, and I expect to have more legislation to propose in the coming weeks. My top priorities in 2014 include helping foster kids either return to their parents or move into new, loving homes, increasing the information sent to women about the risks of breast cancer, supporting our veterans, and reforming the state Department of Transportation so we can afford to fix the congestion along the I-5/JBLM corridor.

FOSTER KIDS

Senate Bill 6126 – Concerning representation of children in dependency matters.

This is one of the most important issues I’m championing this session. Under SB 6126, children languishing in the foster care system would have their own advocate to accelerate their cases and more quickly return them to their families or place them with a new, adoptive family.

The State watchdog for children (Office of the Family and Children‘s Ombudsman) said my bill was the top priority this year for fixing the foster care system.

I’ll also be holding a foster care work session on January 27th in the Human Services and Corrections Committee from 10 to noon. I’ll keep you posted on what comes from that meeting.

MILITARY AND VETERANS

Senate Bill 5969 – Providing for awarding academic credit for military training.

This is my bill to help military members and veterans get college credit for the training they received during their service. Often, the knowledge and skills our troops get in the military don’t transfer and someone who is an expert in their field is forced to start at ground level when attending college. SB 5969 would require each public institution of higher education to adopt a policy to award academic credit to individuals for certain military training courses or programs before December 31, 2015. It will receive a hearing by the Senate Committee on Higher Education at 1:30 PM tomorrow.

Senate Bill 5970 – Evaluating military training and experience toward meeting licensing requirements.

This is another bill to grant civilian credit to military members and veterans for skills and abilities they developed while in the service. It would help eliminate the barriers for allowing service members to successfully reenter the civilian workforce after their term of service is complete.

Senate Bill 6049 – Providing a business and occupation tax credit for businesses that hire veterans.

I consider this bill critical to helping our brave men and women find suitable jobs after they leave the service. SB 6049 would help incentivize businesses in Washington to hire veterans by providing those business owners with a business and occupations tax credit, one of the most burdensome business taxes in the state.

Senate Bill 6084 – Property tax exemptions for service-connected disabled veterans and senior citizens.

Just about anyone who owns property has to pay property tax. However some people qualify for exemptions under certain criteria in state law. SB 6084 would allow a senior citizen or service-connected disabled veteran to qualify for a property tax exemption if they are near the poverty line and meet other benchmarks as well.

WOMEN’S HEALTH

Senate Bill 6050 – Concerning communication of mammographic breast density information to patients.

This bill is all about getting better information about breast cancer to women. SB 6050 would require that patients be notified when a physician determines that they have dense breast tissue, a factor that increases their risk of cancer.

Mandatory information about such tissue from the results of a mammogram will help raise the patient’s awareness and stimulate further conversations with her doctor, potentially saving more lives.

TRANSPORTATION

Senate Bill 6051 – Concerning Washington state department of transportation projects.

The bill’s title belies what it would actually do. If my bill were to become law, a series of needed reforms would be implemented within WSDOT. It would:

  1. Require DOT to self-disclose its design errors that cost the taxpayers and explain what went wrong and how they plan to make sure it never happens again. This is a crucial reform if we are to prevent the hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns caused by DOT’s errors;
  2. Require DOT to create an expedited environmental review and approval process for transportation projects;
  3. Require certain state and local agencies to provide technical assistance to DOT on accomplishing the project review and coordination activities;
  4. Require DOT to streamline their permitting process, continue its efforts to improve training and compliance and deliver projects in a timely fashion; and
  5. Convene three expert review panels to provide independent financial and technical review for the state’s mega-projects, including the SR-520 bridge replacement and the Alaskan Way viaduct replacement tunnel.

SB 6051 does a number of other things as well, but the bottom line is that DOT will finally be held accountable for the tax dollars they spend and Washington citizens will get a streamlined, more productive transportation system out of these reforms.