Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 Session is underway – considered a “supplemental budget year,” lawmakers are scheduled to be in Olympia for just 60 days. In a short session things move fast – a list of key dates are at the bottom of this update.
My response to the Governor's state of the state address
Last week Governor Inslee addressed the Legislature and laid out his agenda for 2016. We need a plan that meets the state's needs, respects taxpayers and balances the budget over the next four years as required by law. His agenda does none of that. The governor's proposed $700 million supplemental budget includes nearly $200 million in spending on new policy initiatives. This spending would create a more than $800 million shortfall in the 2017-19 budget, and relies on increased taxes and tapping into reserve accounts in order to balance the budget.
There are some areas in which we agree, such as, funding for wildfire recovery, mental health improvements and taking the next steps to fully fund education. But, as is often the case, he painted too rosy a picture of the economy of Washington state. He tends to focus his information on Seattle and the surrounding area, and seems not to see the rest of the state where unemployment rates are currently in the 7-8% range – as it is in much of the 20th District. In addition, his proposal would eliminate tax incentives making it that much more difficult to attract employers to our region.
Recently the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) required public facilities and private businesses to open their restrooms and locker rooms to members of the opposite sex. This decision came as a complete surprise to almost everyone. People are understandably concerned and have a lot of questions. The WSHRC is a non-elected state agency. Decisions like this belong in the Legislature, where public input from all sides can be heard. After reading the new rule and the Human Rights Commission's side of the story — I have concluded that their rule is not the best approach.
While I appreciate the difficulties encountered by transgender individuals, the rights of everyone need to be considered on this issue. There are expectations of privacy and modesty that kids and parents have when they use gender-designated facilities – such as restrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms and showers available to the public. They deserve to feel safe.
With the WSHRC rule there is a greater potential for abuses of the system. This rule clearly is making a large majority of people uncomfortable to accommodate a small segment of the population. I believe this decision was a grave error on the part of the Commission. There is a better way to address this issue and I will be working with my colleagues to correct it.
The right to keep and bear arms
Recently a bill was introduced in the house that would ban the possession purchase, sale, transfer and manufacture of many semi-automatic rifles, pistols, shotguns, defined as “assault weapons” based solely on their cosmetic features. The bill would also prohibit arbitrarily defined “large” capacity magazines. There are other bills proposed to tax ammunition and regulate how you store and access firearms.
I have long stood to protect your 2nd amendment rights (for over 14 years) — and will continue to protect your constitutional rights including your 2nd amendment rights. I will not be supporting these bills. These proposals would affect law-abiding firearm owners by criminalizing individuals for simply exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. There is no benefit in restricting law-abiding firearm owners. This would not decrease criminal behavior, because criminals do not obey laws, and will acquire firearms by any means they see fit.
I remain fully committed to upholding Article 1, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution and the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Please take comfort in knowing that I have stood, and will continue to stand, in defense of your constitutional rights.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me and share your concerns, opinions, or questions. I am here to serve you. Please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call my office at 360-786-7990.
Key dates during the 2016 session
January 11, 2016 – First day of session
February 5, 2016 – Commonly called 'policy cutoff,' this is the last day House policy bills can be heard and passed in a House committee, or Senate bills in the Senate.
February 9, 2016 – We call this the 'fiscal cutoff,' this is the last day that bills that spend money or deal with taxes can be heard or advanced in committee. There is an exception for bills which are necessary to implement the budget – called NTIB.
February 17, 2016 – This is the last day a bill (except for NTIB bills previously mentioned) can pass its chamber of origin. This usually means long days and sometimes nights debating and passing House bills on the House floor, while Senators do the same with Senate bills.
February 26, 2016 – Similar to the previous 'policy cutoff,' only now the House is dealing with Senate bills and the Senate is dealing with House bills.
February 29, 2016 – This is 'fiscal cutoff,' the last day for House bills that spend money or deal with taxes, except NTIB bills, to pass the Senate – and Senate bills to pass the House.
March 4, 2016 – At this point, all House bills that are still 'alive' in the process have to pass the floor of the Senate, and all Senate bills that are 'alive' have to pass the House. This can be an interesting day with last-minute decisions on which bills will survive and which will not. It's always interesting to see which bills come up at the last minute as the clock is literally winding down to 5:00 p.m.
March 10, 2016 – This is the last day allowed for the regular 60-day session and the deadline for all bills; policy, budget, and NTIB bills – to be reconciled between the House and Senate versions and passed by both chambers.
While the Legislature has gone into overtime several times in the last few years, I will keep pushing for the on-time completion of session.