Thank you for the honor of serving as your state representative. We are more than one month into the 2013 legislative session. This year some interesting dynamics have changed the political landscape. We have a new governor, who has pledged not to raise taxes and a Senate Majority Coalition Caucus made up of 23 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Together with many of my colleagues, we are offering fresh ideas with a determined and focused dedication to improve opportunity for Washington's families, reform and streamline government to improve the business climate for job creators in Washington, fund education first and implement the will of the people to require a two-thirds vote for tax increases.
Many pressing issues are being addressed and with each e-mail update, I will highlight a few to provide insight and solicit your thoughts. Please let me know about particular policy concerns you may have, and I'll certainly do my best to get information to you.
As the lead Republican for our caucus on economic development and jobs issues, I participated in a press conference this week with the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and our leadership team. I had the opportunity to talk about regulatory reform. Why does this issue, which makes everyone's eyes glaze over, matter? Because in the crosshairs of duplicative and confusing rules is the production sector of our economy … growing, building, processing and creating the products and commodities that are essential to our economic viability and recovery. Production jobs offer many of the best opportunities for stable, family-wage jobs – jobs that offer a hope and future for Washington families, especially those struggling to make ends meet and who long for a better life for themselves and their children.
1. HB 1403 is a first step bill and a direct recommendation from the state auditor's report on regulatory reform. The auditor found a stunning failure of state government to provide customer service and information to job creators. Agencies not providing licensing information to the Business Licenses Service (BLS), results in confusion and an inability to access needed information. The bill clarifies which agencies must supply information to BLS, and the types of information they must provide. BLS is administered by the Department of Revenue, and at this time has just a fraction of licensing information available on their Web site. This is a short-term solution as we move toward a one-stop portal, providing the customer service our businesses deserve.
2. HB 1757 provides legislative oversight for the development of a one-stop portal for state businesses. It requires the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to provide the Legislature with a plan for establishing performance benchmarks, and for measuring the results of implementing a one-stop portal. It also requires the Department of Revenue, the Department of Labor and Industries, the Secretary of State, the Employment Security Department, the Department of Commerce, and the Office of Regulatory Assistance to collaborate with the OCIO in developing and tracking these benchmarks and performance measures.
3. HB 1591 is another bill that captures a direct recommendation of the state auditor's report on regulatory reform. The report called out three agencies – Ecology, Labor and Industries, and Health – for not having a formal review process of existing rules or adequate streamlining processes. This bill directs the three agencies to make it happen, and to bring back their plan for making it happen by the end of the year.
4. The fourth bill is House Bill 1818, a recommendation of the Economic Development Commission. It launches a pilot program that would pull businesses from a specific sector (the first being manufacturing) within a geographic locale with the multiple layers of government – city, county, state agencies, and other stakeholders. Together, they will inventory all regulatory hurdles and make recommendations to streamline regulations and reduce governmental barriers impacting that sector.
I have worked with stakeholders and all agencies involved to develop sound policy that will improve our regulatory climate in Washington state. We must and can do better. If you have a moment, please review the State Auditor's presentation to our Technology and Economic Development Committee: Improving Regulation in Washington State.
Ferry audit request
One of the issues I am heavily involved in does not have to do with specific legislation at this time. Early in the session, 15 Puget Sound legislators and I delivered a letter to State Auditor Troy Kelley requesting an audit of Washington State Ferries (WSF) related to the three newest 64-car ferries. Specifically, we want the audit to determine the true post-delivery cost of design and construction decisions on the Kwa-di Tabil class vessels.
This request is based on concerns I brought to the attention of the Washington State Department of Transportation and Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond last August. We want to ensure the design decisions being made reflect best design practices at the time of construction. Many of you have contacted me with your questions that were reflected in the request. These issues may significantly impact the lifecycle of the ferries, driving higher-than-expected costs for operations, modifications, maintenance and fuel use. If our ferry customers are asked to bear the majority of our ferry system's operations cost, it is essential that we get clear answers. To read the letter we sent to the state auditor click here.
In this day and age in which technology and communication are an integral part of our daily lives, I encourage you to take advantage of the many ways to get connected to information about your Washington State Legislature. Here are some very important links to keep you informed:
- Capitol Report – A three-minute weekly radio program (aired on KSVR and KPTZ) that discusses current issues of the 10th District and the state. Click here to sign up for my RSS podcast. You can also get all of the Washington House Republican Capitol Report programs on your iPhone and iPad through the iTunes store by clicking here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/capitol-report-washington/id579017734.
- Check out my Web site – This year, I have a new Web site: houserepublicans.wa.gov/smith. From this link, you can get more information about the bills I've sponsored and view my news releases.
- Capitol Buzz – A daily electronic clip service of House Republicans. Click here to subscribe.
- The Current – An online publication from House Republicans to include you in the legislative process. Click here to subscribe.
- TVW – The state's own version of C-Span, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live. You can also watch on your computer, smartphone or tablet: www.tvw.org.
- Legislature's Web site – You can get bill reports, committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature at: www.leg.wa.gov.