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Dear Friends,

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Although we are a part-time citizen Legislature, each of us in the House considers it a privilege to work year-round on significant issues that impact the families and communities we represent. Yes, there are differences and difficulties at times, but we have been able to make historic changes and investments because we’ve worked together across party lines. It is my hope that will continue going forward, and that we will never let partisanship get in the way of progress.

Topics in this update include:

  • 2018 session recap
  • Net neutrality legislation signed into law — first of its kind in the nation
  • Making historic investments in mental and behavioral health
  • Fighting to protect your privacy and for more robust cybersecurity protections
  • Continuing to advocate for better stewardship and responsible recycling

Before I get to these topics, I’d first like to thank those of you who joined Rep. Hayes and me for the town hall meetings we held last month in Freeland, Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon. We covered a lot of ground, and I hope we were able to provide some clarity about many of the complex issues facing our state. If you weren’t able to make it to a town hall, I would be happy to meet with you in district to talk about the issues that are most important to you. It is an honor to serve you.

2018 session recap

As a Legislature, our top priority from day one of the 2018 session was to adopt a long-term Hirst solution and pass the 2017-19 capital budget. We were able to get that done by the third week of session, which was a great relief. Most private property owners in the state once again have access to water on their land (a task force and project dollars were established for Skagit in the 2018 capital budget, but we still have more work to do there), and capital budget dollars are going to work in communities across the state — $949 million for school construction and modernization, $860 million for higher education facilities, and $155 million for community-based and institution-based mental health facilities, as well as supportive housing in the Housing Trust Fund. I was honored to help lead the work on mental and behavioral health funding in the budget, and am encouraged the Legislature is making it a priority.

The Legislature also passed 2018 supplemental operating and transportation budgets this year. The latter simply provides agency requested modifications that will help them continue to provide services, while the former spends an additional $1.2 billion in the 2017-19 biennium. While I do think there are some good things in the budget, it’s a mistake to spend money at the rate we’re spending it. I believe we have a duty to conserve in preparation for a potential economic downturn.

State spending

While there were a number of highs and lows this session, nothing was more disappointing than the passage of a bill to force in-home caregivers to join a union and pay dues — even after they had won the right to opt-out in a decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court. For hours, my colleagues and I stood on the House floor and called into question how forced participation in a labor union would better serve the state’s 30,000 in-home caregivers or their loved ones. Unfortunately, we didn’t get an answer. Instead, we were gaveled down again and again as we spoke. This radio report will give you a good idea of what the debate was like.

While we largely work together as a Legislature toward common goals, passage of Senate Bill 6199 was one of the most egregious acts I’ve seen in my 11 years in office.

Net neutrality legislation signed into law — first of its kind in the nation

After the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality last year, I immediately began working on a bill to protect consumers in Washington state. When I learned Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, also intended to introduce legislation, we joined forces to work as a team, negotiating each step of the process together. Our efforts were ultimately successful.

House Bill 2282, which will enforce net neutrality rules in Washington, is the first net neutrality law passed by a state in response to the FCC’s decision. We effectively made the case that it was vital for our state to preserve a fair and free internet, protect consumer choice, and ensure entrepreneurs and small business owners could remain competitive in the global marketplace. And while some may want to paint this as a partisan issue, the overwhelming support the bill received in both chambers proved that’s not the case. I am grateful for the strong bipartisan work that went into this bill, and I also deeply appreciate Rep. Hansen’s commitment to a truly collaborative process. House Bill 2282 was signed into law on March 5. You can read more about our efforts in this New York Times article.

House Bill 2282 signed into law

Making historic investments in mental and behavioral health

Several years ago, funding for mental and behavioral health services in Washington state was woefully inadequate. However, due to strong bipartisan collaboration in recent years, we are beginning to make significant progress. Early in the 2017 session, Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, and I were asked by members of the House Capital Budget Committee to take on the mental and behavioral health portion of the budget. What we learned was sobering — that it was a lack of executive leadership over a number of years that had resulted in the courts and the federal government taking punitive action against Washington state for our lack of progress.

As we engaged communities and brought together House budget writers and several of our Senate colleagues, I saw first-hand the power of a shared vision for this essential safety net. What has resulted from our work together is historic funding by the Legislature to build out the infrastructure across the continuum of care — emergency triage and detox, residential community treatment, housing for the chronically mentally ill, and improvement in state facilities. Basic, but essential responsibilities for mapping assets and identifying communities with a lack of basic services have also been assigned.

While numbers tell only a portion of the story, they are significant. New infrastructure investments in the capital budget are aligned with new investments in the operating budget to provide the critical staffing and services needed to help those who are suffering.

Providing leadership on this issue has been, without question, one of the greatest honors of my legislative career. I look forward to making even more progress in this space in future sessions.

Mental and Behavioral Health SpendingFighting to protect your personal data and for more robust cybersecurity protections

As you may know, I’ve made protecting your privacy and data one of my top legislative priorities. Since 2015, I’ve been successful in creating the Office of Privacy and Data Protection, passing a bill prohibiting the unfettered collection of your biometric data by state agencies, and passing another bill establishing minimum data privacy standards for your utility data.

Frustratingly, however, the Legislature failed to move two other important bills I introduced this year to continue our efforts, House Bills 1904 and 1421.

House Bill 1904 would have required data brokers that are profiting from selling or monetizing your personal information to register with the Department of Revenue. These companies would have been required to provide information about their business practices, including: 1) the types of information sold, 2) the entities to which it is sold, 3) how they obtained the information, and 4) the gross income that can be attributed to the sale of your data. While the bill passed out of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee with bipartisan support, it died in the House Appropriations Committee.

House Bill 1421 was also aimed at protecting your private information. It would have prohibited state agencies from storing payment credentials on state data systems, except under limited circumstances. The bill advanced out of the House, 98-0, but did not make it to the Senate floor.

Know this: I won’t give up, and plan to introduce these concepts again next session. You have my commitment that I will continue fighting on your behalf to give you more control of your personal data, while demanding greater accountability and transparency from those who seek to profit from it.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, speaks on the House floor.

Continuing to advocate for better stewardship and responsible recycling

Another bill I thought had a very good chance of passing this year was House Bill 2914. Under the bill, the Department of Ecology would have been tasked with developing a public outreach strategy in an effort to improve recycling practices, reduce contamination rates, promote statewide best practices, and improve consumer education. The bill also would have required the Department of Commerce to conduct an economic analysis looking at 1) existing types of recycling business practices, 2) opportunities and barriers to recycling more materials and expanding recycling businesses, and 3) the effects of both regional and global recycling market changes.

While the bill sailed through the House, 97-0, it was another casualty of the Senate Rules Committee. Even so, we must continue to focus our efforts on responsible recycling — China’s decision to stop accepting much of our waste should be a wake-up call — and begin to deal with the consequences of our own consumption, rather than leaving it for others.

Although House Bill 2914 did not advance this year, I am happy to report my efforts to create a product stewardship program for solar panels — the first of its kind in the nation — has received national and international attention. I am grateful for the robust stakeholder process and bipartisan collaboration surrounding this effort. You can learn more about solar panel recycling in this article.

Contacting me

I’ve received thousands of emails, phone calls and letters from constituents this year. I’m grateful for your input, as it is always helpful in guiding my decisions as a legislator. Please continue contacting me, and I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible.

It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.

Warm Regards,

Norma Smith

State Representative Norma Smith, 10th Legislative District
435 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7884 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000