Thank you for the honor of serving as your state representative, and the privilege of working on your behalf. Your comments, insights and stories inform my efforts and inspire my work. It was a long, demanding 2013 legislative session. The tough budget negotiations led to truly responsible, compromise budgets. Some very positive things came out of the session, including those that benefit or impact the 10th Legislative District. In this update I provide you some important details on the budgets – operating, capital and transportation as well as legislation I worked on this session and that is important to the district.
I voted in favor of the operating budget as it represents a solid compromise that invests heavily in education dedicating more than $1 billion in new investments in K-12. It gets us on track to meeting our education funding goals mandated by the Washington State Supreme Court's McCleary decision. The total education budget is for the 2013-15 biennium is $15.1 billion up from the $13.6 billion in the last biennium. There are $31.1 million in policy enhancements and the $1 billion for McCleary includes:
- $104 million: K-1 class-size reduction
- $90 million: Full-day kindergarten beginning with at-risk student populations
- $97 million: Increased instructional hours grades 7-12
- $132 million: Pupil transportation
- $143 million: Learning Assistance Program (LAP)
- $24 million: Counselors and parent coordinators
- $19 million: Bilingual education
- $15 million: Teacher-Principal Evaluation Program (TPEP)
- $10 million: Struggling schools
- $374 million: Materials, supplies and operating costs (MSOC)
Higher education also benefited – for the first time in nearly three decades the budget does not include tuition increases. Finally, the budget leaves more money in reserves than past budgets with $630 million in reserves and $577 million in the state's rainy day fund.
Like any compromise there are some pieces to the budget I do not support. My concerns include:
- It takes money out of the state Public Works Trust Fund, an account our local governments rely on for infrastructure and construction projects. There are alternative programs which can be accessed for some of these projects.
- It doesn't include any of the workers' compensation reforms we proposed that protect workers and employers, while helping our small businesses aiding the economic recovery and our state's bottom line.
- We must find solutions to address the teachers COLA as once again the budget suspends it.
- With the expansion of Medicaid and continued implementation of the federal health care act, we are relying on continued funding from a federal government who has massive debt and spending issues.
You can read more about my vote on the budget by clicking: Smith and Hayes vote in favor of state operating budget.
The capital budget is often thought of as a spending plan that pertains strictly to infrastructure or bricks and mortar projects. However, some very noteworthy pieces of this budget are focused on stewardship projects protecting our farmlands, waterways and environment.
Skagit County farmland – The budget appropriates a total of $702,000 in grants from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) to 10 farms in Skagit County. Farmers are great stewards of the land and have demonstrated their commitment for generations. The grant monies will assist in helping them preserve the farmland and surrounding natural resources. We must strike a balance in land conservation and the livelihoods of our farmers. This helps us accomplish that goal.
Legacy nets – I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who helped achieve my goal for $3.5 million to be appropriated for the Northwest Straights Commission to remove the last of the legacy nets out of Puget Sound. Legacy nets are those lost in previous decades, and have a devastating impact on harvestable natural resources and marine life. More than 4000 have been removed in over a decade of work, but there are approximately 1000 nets still in the shallow waters of the Sound. Once they are removed, we should not have this issue again, because of the reporting and tagging requirements now in place.
It is personally very moving for me, knowing I am helping to finish something Congressman Jack Metcalf believed so strongly in, and completing something for the environment and the fishing industry which is so important to our region. I was on Congressman Metcalf's staff when he and Sen. Patty Murray created the Northwest Straits Commission and cast the vision for a local communities driven response to the challenges we faced. Congressman Metcalf had a deep commitment to stewardship of our natural resources and this is a very meaningful tribute to his work, and the work of Sen. Murray.
House Bill 1245, the derelict vessel legislation I helped draft, and which I am co-sponsor, passed the Legislature this session. Those of us who reside and travel the Puget Sound are very familiar with the dangers and economic impact of inadequate action regarding these vessels. I am working with the Department of Natural Resources, the sponsor of the bill, 23rd District Rep. Drew Hansen and a stakeholder group this summer on a long-term plan and effectively implementing the policy contained in HB 1245.
Economic development bills signed into law
At the beginning of the legislative session I introduced a package of four bills I believe will improve the business and regulatory climate in Washington state. I had them carefully crafted and all were based on recommendations from the State Auditor and Economic Development Commission. I am excited to share with you, that all four bills were passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
Two of the bills, House Bill 1403 and House Bill 1818 were passed during the regular session. We worked diligently to get the other two bills passed during the special session. We succeeded in getting the two Senate companion bills signed into law. My colleague, Sen. Sharon Brown introduced the bills in the Senate to increase the opportunity for their passage. Senate Bill 5718 and Senate Bill 5679 were the companion bills to House Bill 1757 and House Bill 1591.
Here is a brief description of the bills:
1. House Bill 1403 is a first step and a direct recommendation from the state auditor's report on regulatory reform. It clarifies which agencies must supply information to the Business Licenses Service (BLS) and the types of information they must provide, and directs implementation.
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.
3. HB 1591 directs three agencies – Ecology, Labor and Industries, and Health – to create a formal review process of existing rules or adequate streamlining processes. They must bring back their plan for making it happen by the end of the year. They had been singled out by the State Auditor for not having formal rule review processes.
4. House Bill 1818, a recommendation of the Economic Development Commission, 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.
For more information on HB 1403 and HB 1818 click: Smith bills to aid job creators pass House unanimously.
For more information on HB 1757/SB 5718 and HB 1591/SB 5679 click: Final two bills of Smith's economic development package headed to governor's desk.
After a long session, I look forward to spending more time in the district. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about what happened in the Legislature this session do not hesitate to contact me. I would also encourage you to contact me if you need any assistance with a state government issue, or would like to discuss any policy issues of concern. My door is always open. Again, thank you for your trust, and the honor of serving you. Have a lovely day.