Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The third week of the 2015 legislative session was both busy and productive. Committee hearings are in full swing as we study legislative proposals and hear public testimony. I am happy to share a few updates on the work that has been going on this week.
In the House Transportation Committee we have had a full agenda this week. Our work was focused on the governor's transportation proposals and an update on the State Route 99 tunnel boring machine known as “Bertha.” Bertha remains stuck under Seattle, where she has been stalled since late December 2013 after boring only 1/10 of the way towards completion of the 1.7 mile tunnel. Now we've received word that there are issues with the repair pit used to gain access to Bertha. Despite these major setbacks, the Department of Transportation claimed the project was 70 percent complete! This absurd statement underscores the need for real reform in the Department of Transportation. We must work vigorously to fix this debacle, and ensure we don't repeat these mistakes in the future. I will continue to seek answers and accountability from leaders at the Department of Transportation on this and other projects to ensure our tax dollars are spent responsibly.
Speaking of tax dollars, we also learned more about Gov. Inslee's transportation plan. While I was happy to hear it included some reforms I support, I was disappointed to hear it was based largely on asking taxpayers for more money. The plan spends $12 billion over 12 years on transportation projects, but essentially raises the state gas tax by 12 cents per gallon. With high profile project failures, including Bertha and the 520 Bridge, I believe it's wrong to ask for higher taxes without addressing these issues through comprehensive reform. Public trust must be restored before raising taxes. I will continue to work toward these reforms.
The House Public Safety Committee, on which I also serve, unanimously approved House Bill 1068, moving it forward in the legislative process. This bill requires law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits for laboratory testing within 30 days. It also convenes a work group to study the issue of untested kits in Washington state and report its findings to the Legislature through 2018. It is my hope that this bill will improve coordination between states to close unsolved cases. Additionally, we heard testimony concerning crisis intervention training for law enforcement. This is a good idea, to help reduce tragic outcomes involving law enforcement encounters with mentally ill individuals. I look forward to working with law enforcement on fine tuning the details going forward.
This week I introduced my first bills in the House. House Bill 1816, is a bipartisan bill which would improve the oversight responsibilities of the Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee. The bill requires a review be initiated under certain circumstances. The purpose of this bill is to open the dialogue between the Legislature and the state agencies creating the rules to ensure the rules are following the intent of the Legislature. This helps to hold government agencies accountable for their rule making activity.
My other bill, House Bill 1819, would require a person wishing to inspect the books of account of a political candidate or candidate committee to provide their name and telephone number at the time of making an appointment to inspect the books. Additionally, the bill would require the person to show picture identification matching the provided name before the inspection begins. If these requirements, and those already required under current law, aren't met, the treasurer may refuse to show the books of account until the proper process has been followed. There is a lot of sensitive financial information in these books and I believe the disclosure door should swing both ways. I will keep you updated on the progress of these bills as they advance through the legislative process.
This week we took time to honor members of the Washington National Guard. Members of the National Guard play a vital role in our national defense, but also support public safety here at home as we saw during the Oso mudslide and destructive wildfires of last year. They truly make our state proud and I am grateful for their service!
Save the date!
I will be holding a town hall meeting in Vancouver with Rep. Paul Harris, on March 14 from 10:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. I will keep you updated on the details as we get closer to the date. I hope you will mark your calendar and join me for an important conversation about the issues we are working on in Olympia!
That's all for now! As always, thank you for entrusting me with the responsibility of representing you here in Olympia!
Yours in service,
418 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7994 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000