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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Lawmakers launched into the 2016 legislative session Jan. 11, and we have 60 days to finish our work before we adjourn March 10. There are number of big issues to tackle this session, including but certainly not limited to:
- K-12 education funding and fulfilling McCleary obligations, while pushing for improved student outcomes;
- Addressing public charter schools and the students and families displaced by the state Supreme Court's September decision invalidating the charter school system;
- The Department of Correction's early release of nearly 3,200 prisoners; and
- much more!
That said, I'm confident we can get the job done on time.
It's important to keep in mind that this is a supplemental budget year. This is meant for small adjustments here and there to our two-year spending plan, and addressing caseload forecasts and emergency appropriations, such as the costs associated with our state's wildfires. It's important we address those immediate needs and do so with a fiscally responsible frame of mind. Our state has enjoyed record revenues due to a slowly improving economy — in fact, revenues have increased about 10 percent for the biennium. That's great news!
This interim, while short, was a great opportunity for me to meet with individuals, employers and employees, city and county officials, and others to discuss the successes and struggles of our communities. I'm looking forward to continuing that work once the Legislature adjourns mid-March.
It's only been three weeks, and we're already a quarter of the way done. The cutoff date for policy bills is next Friday, meaning most bills without a fiscal component that have not passed out of their referred-to committees are likely “dead” for the remainder of session.
Here's an overview of some of the legislation I'm working on this session:
Connecting expecting parents of children with Downs Syndrome to important resources:
Last week, my bill that would empower expecting parents of children with Downs Syndrome was heard in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. The bill requires healthcare providers who provide a parent with a positive prenatal or postnatal Downs Syndrome diagnosis to provide information prepared by the Department of Health about Downs Syndrome. Unfortunately, there is still too much misinformation and negative stereotypes shared about Downs Syndrome in our society, and to combat that we must ensure evidence-based information is provided to couples as they enter a new chapter as parents. I encourage you to listen to the powerful testimony given in support of this bill here.
The bill is scheduled for executive session tomorrow, Jan. 29, giving the committee an opportunity to pass the bill so it may be considered by the full body on the floor at a later date.
Preventing the isolation of elders:
If you're like me, you probably remember listening to American Top 40 in the 1970s and 1980s with radio legend Casey Kasem. (For those younger generations reading, he was also the voice of Shaggy on the Scooby Doo cartoon series for several years!) Many of us also remember reading about his painful death and the tragic legal battles that arose during his final years between his second wife and children.
This summer, I had the opportunity to partner with Kasem's daughter, Kerri Kasem, to introduce legislation that would help families in Washington faced with similar situations as Kerri's and her siblings. House Bill 2401 establishes that adults have the right to visit with, and receive communications from whomever they choose, and would allow any person to file a petition to compel visitation with a loved one in situations when access has been impeded. The adjoining bill, House Bill 2402, would require guardians to provide loved ones with notice in the event of hospitalization or death.
As a parent, I know nothing is more important than having your family by your side in your final days. I want to make sure families continue to have that privilege and don't have to endure what the Kasem family went through.
These bills were given a public hearing last week but have not yet been scheduled for executive session.
Update: More repairs for the Redondo Beach boardwalk
Just more than a year ago, strong winds and high tide wreaked havoc on the Redondo Beach boardwalk, causing damage to the boardwalk itself, parts of the seawall and some beachfront businesses and properties. In response, Sen. Mark Miloscia and I secured $1.5 million in the 2015 state capital budget for repairs.
The task to repair and rebuild parts of the boardwalk began in the fall of 2015 and will resume mid-March. Project details can be found here.
This is an important recreational area treasured by families in the area, and I'm glad to see steady progress being made on repairs.
Staying in touch during session
Since session is in full swing, my district office in Federal Way is closed until session adjourns. There are a still a number of ways you can stay in touch by using the contact information below. I encourage you to write, email, call or visit me in Olympia so we can discuss your ideas, questions and concerns.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you!
122F Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7898 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000