The 60-day legislative session began last week. Opening Day ceremonies included the administration of oaths to state representatives and remarks by the Speaker of the House. You can watch these events live each week through Periscope by following us on Twitter. In shorter sessions things move quickly. (Key dates coming up in the next few weeks are listed at the bottom of this newsletter).
The next 60 days
State lawmakers have a lot of issues to consider in the next 60 days. From K-12 education funding, to charter schools, to addressing employment in struggling communities, to holding state agencies accountable, there's a lot of work ahead.
Flood and storm water issues
The Joint Washington Waters Task Force met again in Olympia last week. As the co-chair of this bipartisan group I appreciate the hundreds of hours of work that has gone into protecting our communities. But more needs to be done.
Floods have historically been the state's most costly natural disasters, totaling an estimated $2 billion in damages since 1980. The Chehalis Basin is the second-largest watershed in the state, and flooding is expected to worsen in the coming years. We need to find solutions to reduce and mitigate damages from these catastrophic floods.
The task force is focusing on three main areas: storm water, flood control and water supply infrastructure. Although some counties have too much water and some too little, no county is unaffected. Funding levels are being considered at the state and local level, as well as criteria for managing and prioritizing projects.
The other side of the water issue
Drought is the other side of the water issue. Our state was hit with a series of devastating wildfires over the summer. These fires ravaged entire communities, destroyed property, uprooted families, and took the lives of three brave United States Wildland Firefighters. As the ranking member on the House Capital Budget Committee, I will continue to lead efforts to secure funding for wildfire prevention efforts, forest health and restoration. We need to get our wildfire problem under control.
These are urgent issues that affect everyone in the state. While initial solutions may be costly, the potential results of mitigating water and drought issues before they happen will have a net-positive economic benefit to the entire state.
Legislation aimed at eroding the right to bear and store firearms has been introduced this session. These proposals include a ban on the possession, purchase, sale, transfer and manufacture of many semi-automatic firearms. There are other bills to tax ammunition and regulate how you store and access firearms.
While I applaud efforts to keep guns out of the hands of those who break the law and people suffering from mental illness, I do not see the benefit in restricting law-abiding firearm owners.
Gun control starts by arresting and prosecuting criminals and properly treating the mentally ill. Please be assured I will continue to defend your right to bear and keep firearms.
I always welcome your input on issues important to you. If you have any questions or comments, please contact my office anytime at (360) 786-7896, toll-free at (800) 562-6000, or by email at email@example.com. If you are planning a trip to Olympia and would like to visit the Capitol Building, I would be happy to connect with your group when you are here.
February 5, 2016 – Commonly called “committee cutoff.” This is the last day House bills can be heard and passed in a House or Senate committee, with the exception of budget-related bills.
February 9, 2016 – We call this the “fiscal committee cutoff.” This is the last day House bills that spend money, deal with taxes, or are budget related can pass a House or Senate committee.
February 17, 2016 – This is the last day a bill (except for budget-related bills as previously mentioned) can pass their house of origin. This often means long days and sometimes nights debating and passing House bills on the House floor, while senators do the same with Senate bills.
Upon passage, House bills advance to the Senate and Senate bills advance to the House. The same committee process occurs in the opposite chamber.
February 26, 2016 – Similar to the previous “committee cutoff,” only now the House is dealing with Senate bills and the Senate is dealing with House bills. These cutoff dates help keep the process moving along.
February 29, 2016 – This the last day for House bills that are budget related to pass the Senate and vice versa in the House.
March 4, 2016 – At this point, all House bills that are still “alive” must pass the Senate, and all Senate bills that are “alive” must pass the House. This can be an interesting day of discussion, debate, and compromise.
March 10, 2016 – This is the last day provided for the regular 60-day session.