I want to thank those of you who were able to attend the town hall meetings over the weekend with Rep. Dave Hayes and myself. It was encouraging to see folks from around the district at the three locations – Stanwood, LaConner, and Coupeville – and hear your concerns. We were able to touch a variety of topics and I received some great input and feedback.
Legislation for our job creators
I have authored a package of four bills that would help Washington state get to a one-stop portal for business and reduce government barriers for our private sector job creators. Two of those bills have passed the House unanimously and had a public hearing in the Senate yesterday.
House Bill 1403 clarifies which agencies must supply information to the Business Licenses Service (BLS) and the types of information they must provide. Currently, BLS is administered by the Department of Revenue and only has a fraction of licensing information available on its Web site. The purpose of the legislation is to get all the licensing information in one place to make it easier for job creators to access the data. This is a recommendation from the state auditor's report on regulatory reform.
House Bill 1818 began as a discussion with innovators during a meeting with the Economic Development Commission. This bill would launch a pilot multi-jurisdictional program that would pull businesses from a specific sector within a geographic locale and inventory all regulatory hurdles and make recommendations to streamline regulations and reduce barriers. The government entities in the region would also be included – city, county, state agencies and other stakeholders. The first sector to be reviewed is manufacturing.
The other two bills that are part of my government reform and business portal legislation package are coming out of the Senate. My colleague Sen. Sharon Brown is sponsoring the companion bills Senate Bill 5718 and Senate Bill 5679. Both came out of the other chamber unanimously and have had public hearings in the House. I am excited to possibly get all four measures through the legislative process so we can take the first steps of helping our job creators navigate through the regulations and licensing, permitting and inspection process in our state agencies.
I helped draft, and am co-sponsor on House Bill 1245. Derelict vessels can be a huge liability for Washington state. This bill will begin to address the challenge we have with these vessels. I will also be working with a stakeholder group and the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Drew Hansen, this summer to continue developing a long-term plan and effectively implementing the policy contained in HB 1245. The bill passed the House 96-1 and is now in the Senate for consideration.
House Republican Reforms
After House Democrats introduced their gas tax plan, which includes a 10-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax, my colleagues and I introduced an alternative plan called “Fix it before you fund it” which includes substantial reforms. We need to show taxpayers that we are getting the most out of our gas tax dollars before asking them to pay more. The goal of our reforms is accountability, taxpayer protections and putting people back to work.
- House Bill 1978 – implement a new six-step permit process that would streamline permitting, ensure that environmental goals are met, while moving our economy forward.
- House Bill 1979 – facilitate the process for obtaining public/private partnership funding for small scale, non-toll transportation projects. It allows our state to be more creative in non-toll project planning for things like ferry, transit and port facilities. We need new options for funding and new partnerships to meet economic development goals.
Making state gas tax dollars go further
- House Bill 1985 – eliminate state and local sales and use tax on new transportation projects.
- House Bill 1986 – require the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to report engineering errors.
- House Bill 1984 – limit WSDOT's tort liability.
- House Bill 1989 – 15-year bond terms, instead of the current 30-year bonding practice.
We are considering other reforms as well. In addition, colleagues from the ferry caucus and I continue to work on resolving issues with the three 64-car ferries to maximize their service on our marine highways, and pursuing reforms to make our ferry system cost-effective and efficient. If you have any questions or would like more details about any of our reform bills please let me know.
Fund Education First
Last week my colleagues unveiled our proposed Fund Education First budget. It is a stand-alone, K-12 education budget that would meet the expectations of the state constitution and state Supreme Court's McCleary decision. You will recall in January 2012 the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling stated the Legislature was out of compliance with its constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all children. Our Fund Education First plan ensures we are making education our “paramount duty” as required by the state constitution. The plan focuses on high standards, innovation and accountability with flexibility; and protects taxpayers by not raising taxes. The plan would dedicate $15.1 billion to K-12 education in the 2013-15 budget cycle. The amount for the current budget cycle is $13.6 billion. It would also increase the percentage of the operating budget allocated to K-12 education from 44 percent in the 2011-13 budget cycle to 46 percent for 2013-15.
If you recall, the state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that the Legislature has not complied with its constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all children. It also said reforms enacted by the Legislature, House Bill 2261 in 2009 and House Bill 2776 in 2010, would remedy state funding deficiencies if fully funded, and it would retain jurisdiction over the case to monitor implementation of these bills. We believe the Fund Education First budget would address the court's ruling and lays out a strong education plan for our educators and students without raising taxes.
House Bill 1269 would change the voting rights for landowners in diking districts. Several constituents brought this issue to me, and I appreciate their assistance in developing the legislation. It would allow resident Washingtonians who have put their land in trust, a vote in the diking district in which they own land. Under current law, natural persons, partnerships, LLC's, and corporations are allowed to vote in the districts but not trusts. It passed the House unanimously on March 9. It is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
I hope you find this e-mail update informative. If you have any questions about the issues I have mentioned, any other legislation, or just need assistance navigating the state agency bureaucracy please do not hesitate to contact me. It is an honor to represent you in Olympia.