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Thank you for subscribing to my legislative email updates. I hope they will be informative for you as we weave our way through this short, 60-day session. Expedited sessions are intense, with significant issues being debated and responsible solutions being sought in a shorter period of time.
As session progresses, please don't hesitate to contact me with your comments, questions or concerns. I always look forward to your feedback, as it helps me better serve you in the Legislature. My email address is email@example.com, and my phone number is (360) 786-7884.
Topics in this update include:
- Enforcing net neutrality in Washington state
- My efforts to protect your data and privacy
- The Hirst decision
- The 2017-19 capital budget
I want to begin by touching on some of the bills I've introduced and am working on this session:
- House Bill 2284 would give the Office of Attorney General the authority to enforce the net neutrality rules that were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in December.
Under my bill, the following practices would be prohibited under the state's Consumer Protection Act:
- Blocking content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices;
- Impairing or degrading (“throttling”) traffic on the basis of content, application, service, or use of non-harmful devices; and
- Favoring some traffic over other traffic in exchange for benefit (“paid prioritization”).
The repeal of net neutrality threatens fairness and freedom on the internet, as well as consumer choice, and will make it harder for entrepreneurs and small business owners to compete in the global marketplace. For its part, Broadband for America, a coalition of the nation's largest internet service providers (ISPs), says it stands by an open internet and will “always” practice net neutrality. However, the only way to hold them accountable to their promise is by passing net neutrality in our state. Broadband for America says its issue is with heavy-handed regulations imposed by net neutrality — hundreds of pages worth. While that is a legitimate issue, we can accomplish net neutrality in Washington state with a crisp, three-page bill like House Bill 2284.
It is my job to stand up for you and defend you against harmful policies, no matter where they originate from. This is not a partisan issue. Last year, poll after poll after poll showed the majority of Republicans and Democrats favored keeping the existing net neutrality rules on ISPs. This is about making sure everyone across the state, regardless of their ZIP code, can participate equally in the 21st century economy.
Both The New York Times and Fast Company recently wrote articles that mentioned my work on this issue. I would encourage you to read both pieces:
- States push back after net neutrality repeal | The New York Times
- Snubbing FCC, States Are Writing Their Own Net Neutrality Laws | Fast Company
House Bill 2284 passed out of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee earlier today, and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
House Bill 1904 would require companies making a certain threshold of gross income from selling your personal information, such as data brokers, to register with the Department of Revenue (DOR). These companies would be 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. Companies that fail to register with the DOR, or provide inaccurate or incomplete information, would be subject to a fine of up to $5,000.
There is a growing world of big data brokers that are profiting from slicing and dicing your personal information and selling it to the highest bidder. The Federal Trade Commission has found that many of the ways data brokers collect, store and use data pose serious risks to consumers. In fact, the 2016 Data Breach Report put together by the Office of Attorney General, found that 450,000 Washington residents were impacted by data breaches in 2016 alone.
Thousands of these data brokers exist, but we largely don't know much about them. That information, ironically, is incredibly difficult to access. House Bill 1904 would help us get those answers.
To learn more about the world of data brokers, I invite you watch the remarks and read the statement of Bruce Schneir, who recently testified before a U.S. House subcommittee on the security of credit data.
For some background, Schneir is a security technologist who has studied the technologies of security and privacy for more than 30 years. He has authored 13 books on these issues, and currently teaches internet security policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he is a Fellow. He is also a Fellow at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
Needless to say, he knows his stuff.
His entire 11-point statement is insightful, but below is the main part I want to point you to. Schneir is commenting on the massive Equifax breach in 2017 that affected 143 million Americans:
“3. There are thousands of data brokers with similarly intimate information, similarly at risk.
Equifax is more than a credit reporting agency. It's a data broker.10 It collects information about all of us, analyzes it all, and then sells those insights. It might be one of the biggest, but there are 2,500 to 4,000 other data brokers that are collecting, storing, and selling information about us—almost all of them companies you've never heard of and have no business relationship with.
The breadth and depth of information that data brokers have is astonishing. Data brokers collect and store billions of data elements covering nearly every U.S. consumer. Just one of the data brokers studied holds information on more than 1.4 billion consumer transactions and 700 billion data elements, and another adds more than 3 billion new data points to its database each month.11
These brokers collect demographic information: names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, gender, age, marital status, presence and ages of children in household, education level, profession, income level, political affiliation, cars driven, and information about homes and other property. They collect lists of things we've purchased, when we've purchased them, and how we paid for them. They keep track of deaths, divorces, and diseases in our families. They collect everything about what we do on the internet.
4. These data brokers deliberately hide their actions, and make it difficult for consumers to learn about or control their data.
If there were a dozen people who stood behind us and took notes of everything we purchased, read, searched for, or said, we would be alarmed at the privacy invasion. But because these companies operate in secret, inside our browsers and financial transactions, we don't see them and we don't know they're there.”
The bottom line is this is a huge issue that requires immediate action. House Bill 1904 is not the only step that needs to be taken, but it is a good first step. The bill passed out of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee yesterday.
House Bill 1421 is another bill aimed at protecting your private information. In the 2016 Data Breach Report I referenced above, the Attorney General's Office revealed financial account information was the most frequently compromised type of private information. My bill, which passed the House unanimously last year but did not reach the floor of the Senate, would help protect your payment credentials in business transactions with state agencies. I am hopeful we will see it signed into law this year. It has been placed on the Third Reading Calendar by the House Rules Committee, which means it could come to the floor of the House for a vote any time.
Hirst fix and the 2017-19 capital budget signed into law
As you may have heard, we finally resolved Hirst (background here) and passed the 2017-19 capital budget late last week. The Hirst fix in Senate Bill 6091 means private property owners in most of the state will once again have access to water on their land and can resume building. This is particularly important in rural areas of the state, many of which have seen economic development grind to a halt.
While I am deeply disappointed we could not resolve the situation in Skagit, my colleagues and I are committed to continuing to pursue a responsible, long-term solution. I have co-sponsored Rep. David Taylor's House Bill 2937, which hopefully will drive a thoughtful, sustainable resolution.
Regarding the 2017-19 capital budget, the $4.17 billion spending plan will fund construction projects that are critical for local communities around the state. These projects go through a rigorous screening process before funding is considered by the Legislature. Project applications are accepted by state agencies, who must then must vet and rank them according to how they would help fulfill the agency's 10-year strategic plan. This is important because it helps ensure the Legislature is spending taxpayer money wisely and funding critical priorities.
Here are some of the highlights of the 2017-19 capital budget. I was honored to help lead the work on behavioral and mental health, which resulted in historic investments.
K-12 School Construction
- $933 million is allocated for school construction and modernization.
- $860 million in appropriations and alternative financing authority for higher education facilities — $427 million (including $278 million in bonds) for the state's four-year institutions, and $433 million (including $211 million in bonds) for community and technical colleges.
- $136.5 million for community-based and institution-based mental health facilities, and supportive housing in the Housing Trust Fund.
- Targeted, statewide investments in behavioral health community capacity.
- Security updates and renovations at Eastern and Western State Hospitals.
- Adds 128 minimum-security beds for female offenders with mental health diagnoses at Maple Lane.
- $106.5 million for the Housing Trust Fund, including: 1) nearly $25 million for supportive housing and case management services for people with chronic mental illness, 2) $5 million for housing projects that benefit those affected by natural disasters, and 3) $5.6 million for housing projects that benefit veterans.
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP)
- $80 million in grants for a wide range of project types, including critical habitat, farmland preservation, local parks, natural areas, riparian protection, trails, and water access.
- $38 million for improving hatchery operations through the Department of Fish & Wildlife.
- $110 million for salmon recovery programs.
Overall, it's a good budget, and I'm glad we were able to get it to the governor's desk last week. Please click here for a list of the investments in our district.
Here are some ways you can stay connected this session:
Visit my website at RepresentativeNormaSmith.com.
Subscribe to the Capitol Buzz for weekday news clips from around the state.
Watch committee hearings, floor action, and more on TVW.
It is an honor to serve you.
435 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7884 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000