Friends and Neighbors,
We're about a third of the way through the 2013 legislative session and quickly approaching our first “cutoff.” On Friday, Feb. 22 all bills must pass the policy committee they were assigned to – if they don't, they're considered “dead” for the rest of session. Then, we have one more week (until Friday, March 1) to move bills that have a fiscal impact through the fiscal committees. Any bill that passes a policy committee but has some sort of fiscal impact, must then pass through a fiscal committee so the severity of that fiscal impact can be determined and weighed against the competing interests seeking state budget dollars.
In my last e-newsletter, I talked about my bill, House Bill 1388, which would increase penalties for vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. To watch my testimony in the House Public Safety Committee on this bill, click the picture on the right and scroll the timer to 16:50.
As the new ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, I've been focusing on a new set of issues. But what's not new is my firm stance that taxpayer dollars should be protected from abuse or negligence. We all work too hard and already give too much to have any state agency, personnel or commission treat those tax dollars with anything but the utmost respect and reverence.
I was somewhat shocked to learn that in one mega project in the Puget Sound area, there was nothing to prevent a contractor who was SUPPLYING a resource and RECEIVING a resource to actually be the same contractor. In this case, the supplying contractor is fined “x” amount per day if they are late with their delivery of a particular construction necessity – but they can then turn around and take the state to court for an indeterminate amount if the state doesn't provide that same resource to their affiliated contractor actually doing the work. This means, that any stall tactics or damages done on the SUPPLY side could lead to the contractor actually making money in the end. There were no taxpayer protections built into the contract – and this is for a multi-billion dollar project!
As you can see from the photo on the left, all this paperwork and no taxpayer protections. I simply asked Department of Transportation for a copy of the contract and this is what they gave me. And then they had the nerve to ask when I would be done reviewing the contract so they could anticipate follow-up questions. Seriously?
To help rectify this situation, I've introduced HB 1801 which would prevent conflicts of interest in state construction contracts. My bill simply says that when the contractor providing and receiving are the same or affiliated, they cannot obtain more in “damages” from the state than they would “pay” to the state. It is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, Feb. 18 at 3:30 p.m. in the House Transportation Committee.
Another one of my bills, HB 1752, is scheduled to receive a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 3:30 p.m. in the House Transportation Committee. This bill will bring state requirements for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) in line with federal law. It's a technical bill, but still important to make sure we're operating with the same set of rules that the federal government is when it comes to CDLs. This will begin to address the issue of Washington being the weak link in the nation regarding the security of our driver's licenses by adopting the federal requirement for citizenship or lawful presence on commercial driver's licenses.
As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns about state government. It is an honor to serve you in Olympia.