Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have reached the halfway point of the 2016 session! With less than 30 days remaining to complete our work, the routine and focus has shifted yet again. We have passed both the policy and fiscal cutoff deadlines and will now spend the majority of our time voting on the House floor. There will be many long days and late nights ahead. In this week's e-newsletter, I will update you on some of the major issues that have come up in recent weeks and why I think accountability in government is so important.
As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my update and stay informed on what's happening in your Legislature. I hope you take a moment to share your thoughts with me on the issues I covered in this update, and any other issues important to you, your family or your business.
Senate Rejects the Confirmation of DOT Secretary
Our state constitution gives the state Senate an important oversight role in state government. It mandates that each governor appointee must be confirmed by the Senate. Late last week, the Senate rejected the confirmation of Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson in a bipartisan 25-21 vote, sparking partisan outrage from Gov. Jay Inslee.
I believe the Senate's actions against Secretary Peterson had much more to do with accountability and transparency than politics. Accountability was needed for the ongoing I-405 toll debacle, the 520 Bridge cost overruns, the uncertainty and constant failures of Bertha, the frequent Good to Go system glitches, and the continuing problems in our state ferry system – not to mention how Secretary Peterson continued to work with the State of Oregon on the CRC project long after Washington pulled the plug on it. I think most citizens in our state would like a fresh start when it comes to solving these and other critical transportation issues.
We need the right person in place to manage and implement the transportation reforms passed by the Legislature last session, rather than someone who is content with the culture of complacency infecting many of our state agencies. We also have a 16-year, $16 billion transportation package that needs to be executed with accountability and transparency at the forefront. The Senate felt Secretary Peterson has shown she was not the right person for this job. Restoring government accountability and improving their responsiveness to the citizens of the State of Washington are two of the major reasons I ran for legislative office. I agree with the Senate's actions and look forward to working with the new Transportation Secretary to get our state moving again.
DOC Investigations Continue
A day after the Senate's rejection of DOT Secretary Lynn Peterson, Department of Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke resigned amid two investigations into the erroneous early release of 3,700 inmates which resulted in two deaths. I am disappointed that Secretary Pacholke blamed his resignation on political bloodlust rather than understanding that with responsibility comes accountability.
Yesterday, the assistant attorney general who advised DOC officials not to hand-calculate prison sentences – something which could have stopped inmates from being released too early – also resigned.
Public safety is one of government's number one priorities. The people of this great state expect more from their state agency leaders and should be confident that their Legislature will take appropriate action to hold these leaders accountable when they are not performing to the high standard citizens deserve. There are still big concerns surrounding this grievous error and I will keep you updated as the legislative investigation continues.
What's going on with Charter Schools?
It's a question I keep asking, and I am disappointed to report that we still have not had a hearing on HB 2367, a bipartisan bill which I co-sponsored with my fellow lawmakers to save our voter-approved charter schools, which were invalidated by the state Supreme Court. Along with Attorney General Bob Ferguson, every living former attorney general of the State of Washington agrees – the court got this one wrong. I, too, believe we owe it to our students to reinstate charter schools, to provide an education that fits everyone's needs. Parents deserve to have a choice of where their children go to school. The Senate passed a companion bill, SB 6194, back on January 20th, but the House still hasn't taken up the bill. With just 27 days remaining in this session, something's got to give!
Watch my recent video update!
In this week's video update, I share the importance of the Women Helping Women Act, HB 2713, which I sponsored to drive additional funding to domestic violence services and resources, helping law enforcement and prosecutors to develop strategies to reduce violent crimes against women and provide victim services. I hope you will take a moment to watch.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Evergreen High School student, Ambrya Holified, when she came to Olympia to participate in the House Page Program this session. If you know a student between the ages of 14-16 who is interested in serving as a Page, please encourage them to submit an application for next year's session.
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