We are now in the second half of the 2017 legislative session. We spent long hours on the floor earlier this month in the run-up to house of origin cutoff, passing more than 300 bills before the March 8 deadline. Bills that did not advance out of the chamber in which they were introduced are now considered “dead” for the year unless deemed necessary to implement the budget. This week, Senate bills are being heard in the House, while House bills are being heard in the Senate.
Meanwhile, eight legislators (two from each caucus) continue to meet to discuss the education funding proposals on the table. Because of my work in capital budget negotiations as the assistant ranking member of the House Capital Budget Committee, I am not one of the eight legislators involved in the negotiations on education. Our negotiators are Reps. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver and David Taylor, R-Moxee, both deeply thoughtful representatives and veterans of the Legislature. The lawmakers representing the other three caucuses are also respected members. I am encouraged by the commitment made by everyone at the table to work together toward a comprehensive solution.
My hope is that a strong hybrid compromise will be crafted that meets the challenges we face. It is critical we adopt a long-term, sustainable solution for K-12 education funding that is equitable for students, teachers and taxpayers.
My bill to protect small businesses passes the House unanimously
Back in December, I issued a statement following the release of an audit conducted by the Washington State Auditor's Office (SAO) of the state's Regulatory Fairness Act (RFA). The audit assessed the implementation and impact of the RFA on the state's small businesses and found state agencies were chronically non-compliant with its requirements.
The SAO reviewed 331 rules proposed by 16 state agencies between 2014 and 2015. It was discovered agencies claimed an exemption from the RFA for 127 of them. However, in only slightly more than half of the 127 instances did agencies rely on and cite an allowable exemption.
In my statement, I said I would be authoring legislation to curb ongoing RFA compliance issues and to improve the regulatory climate for our state's small businesses. House Bill 1120, which passed the House unanimously March 2, does that.
The RFA was created to protect small businesses from burdensome regulations, but it's clear it hasn't been working as intended. I want to thank the governor's office for reaching out and working with me on this bill to ensure we are taking the necessary steps to correct the problems uncovered by the audit. It's important we improve the regulatory climate for our state's small businesses and help ensure they receive the customer service they deserve as key drivers of our state's economic growth. House Bill 1120 received a public hearing this morning in the Senate State Government Committee.
Two of my privacy and data protection bills also pass the House
In its 2016 Data Breach Report, the Attorney General's Office revealed financial account information was the most frequently compromised type of private information. House Bill 1421, which was approved unanimously, would protect your payment credentials in business transactions with state agencies. Agencies would be prohibited from storing these payment credentials on state data systems, and would be required to eliminate any existing payment data from these systems by July 1, 2020.
House Bill 1717 would regulate the collection and use of biometric identifiers by state agencies. A biometric identifier is defined as any information converted, stored or shared based on an individual's retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry. Under my bill, state agencies would be prohibited from obtaining this data without first providing notice to an individual and receiving their consent. Additionally, state agencies would be prohibited from selling the identifier.
I believe it's vital to establish strong sideboards around when your most personal data, your irreplaceable biometric data, is allowed to be collected and used by state agencies. Ensuring your privacy and data is respected and safeguarded is a critical function of our state government, and that's why I was encouraged by the 97-1 vote to advance this bill to the Senate.
Both of these bills received a public hearing Wednesday in the Senate State Government Committee.
A quick word on House Bill 1904
Another bill I introduced this year is House Bill 1904, which would implement a B&O tax rate of 3.3 percent on companies that sell your personal information, such as data brokers. The Federal Trade Commission has found many of the purposes for which data brokers collect, store and use data pose risks to consumers. The AG's 2016 Data Breach Report, which I referenced above, found that 450,000 Washington residents were impacted by data breaches in 2016 alone.
The policy in House Bill 1904 is simple, transparent and fair. It would make a normal, conventional adjustment to our existing tax structure in an effort to modernize it, while also increasing revenue to our state. It is critical for the state to have adequate revenue in order to fund increased responsibilities on matters relating to cybersecurity and data protection. This bill would provide that funding, while also increasing transparency for Washingtonians.
Both GeekWire and The Lens recently covered House Bill 1904. It passed out of both the House Technology and Economic Development Committee and the House Finance Committee, and is now in the House Rules Committee awaiting further action.
Upcoming in-district town halls
On Saturday, March 25, Sen. Bailey, Rep. Hayes and myself will be holding two town hall meetings in the 10th District. We'll be offering insights on the 2017 legislative session and taking your questions on the issues most important to you. Each town hall will last one hour. Details are as follows:
Coupeville: 9 – 10 a.m.
WhidbeyHealth Medical Center
101 N Main St, Coupeville, WA 98239
Conference Rooms A and B on the first floor
Mount Vernon: 1 – 2 p.m.
Skagit County PUD
1415 Freeway Dr, Mt Vernon, WA 98273
I look forward to seeing you on the 25th!
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns. I always look forward to your feedback, as it helps me better serve you and bring your interests to the forefront in the Legislature.
It is an honor to serve you.