Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings from Olympia. We are in the third week of the 60-day session at the Capitol. Here is an update on some of the things I am working on this week.
Taxpayer protection constitutional amendment
For 23 years voters have said yes to a two-thirds requirement to raise taxes. In 2012, 1.9 million voters (64 percent) approved the two-thirds requirement, getting more votes than any initiative in state history. Since 1993 there have been six initiatives to put limits on tax increases. Each time it was approved by the voters, and then overturned by legislators or the courts. The most recent Initiative was 1366. Once again, the voters of Washington spoke clearly that they want protection from tax increases.
It is time for lawmakers to represent the will of the people.
House Joint Resolution (HJR) 4215 would refer a state constitutional amendment to the November ballot that would require a two-thirds vote of both legislative bodies for any tax increase. Or the Legislature could use a simple majority vote to allow the citizens to decide whether or not to increase taxes.
Because the voters have already spoken on this issue six times, I moved to accelerate action on the measure, bypassing the committee process altogether. But the majority Democrats blocked the effort by refusing to allow the measure to come to the floor for a vote. HJR 4215 has now been referred to the House Finance committee and will go through the normal legislative process.
Too often the Legislature's first proposal is to raise taxes, but voters want it to be a last resort. I believe they have earned the right to protect themselves with this common sense policy, and I will continue to work to see it become a reality.
Bill to ease substitute teacher shortages passes the House
According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 98 percent of principals indicated they were struggling to find substitute teachers. As a result of the shortage, 80 percent reported they had to hire under-qualified substitute teachers.
Currently, retired teachers can work as substitutes, but some run the risk of losing their retirement benefits. House Bill 1737 would allow teacher retirees under early retirement provisions to work as substitute teachers up to 630 hours per year without suspending their pension benefits. The 630-hour provision would be available to retired teachers until Aug. 1, 2020.
This bill is about helping our students receive the quality education they deserve. Rather than just having someone come in and manage a classroom of kids, school districts would be able to hire qualified substitute teachers and ensure students have a productive education day.
During the 2015 session, the bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, but it did not pass the Senate. Under legislative rules the measure was returned to the House for reconsideration. House Bill 1737 passed the House (again) on Monday, 96-1, and is on its way to the Senate Ways and Means Committee where it needs to go through the same process as in the House: committee hearing, committee vote and Senate floor.
As always, please feel free to contact my office with your questions, concerns and comments. I am here to serve you. Send email to email@example.com or call (360) 786-7990.