Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now near the end of the first week of the 2020 legislative session, which began Monday, Jan. 13, and is scheduled for 60 days, with an ending date of March 12. I'm pleased to provide my first email report of the session. I hope to update you frequently throughout the next few weeks. I encourage you to become informed and involved, as many issues come before consideration, debate and voting.
Join me at my 17th District Town Hall this Saturday, Jan. 18, in Vancouver
Right out of the gate, I really want to hear from you as we begin the 2020 session. That's why I've scheduled a town hall meeting for this Saturday, Jan. 18, 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon at Washington State University Vancouver's Dengerink Building Lecture Hall. The address is 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave., Vancouver.
I want to listen to you about the issues that matter to you most, whether they are statewide concerns such as homelessness, the car-tab debate, taxes and other things, or whether they are issues affecting us close to home in Clark County. So please mark your calendar, bring your questions and comments, and join me this Saturday in Vancouver.
Opening Day in the House
The session opened with the election of a new House Speaker. Laurie Jinkins, Democrat from Tacoma replaces long-time Speaker Frank Chopp, who stepped down from the position last spring. The Speaker sets the agenda for the House Democratic majority party and has the power to decide which bills come to the floor and what legislation dies, regardless of party.
While it's still too early to know how Jinkins will manage the agenda, we know she leans very liberal. She is the first woman Speaker in the Washington State Legislature. Jinkins is also the prime sponsor of the capital gains income tax. When she chaired the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee, Jinkins advocated for a lengthy list of gun-control bills.
During her opening floor remarks, she said, ““The title of my role might be Speaker, but as I view it, my primary job is to listen. I promise to listen to every one of you, even when we disagree.” That's hopeful, especially since we as Republicans have often been shutout of the process. The next few weeks will provide a clearer view of the direction of this new leadership.
Committee room fills with citizens concerned over new comprehensive sex education bill
Last year, we were able to successfully stop Senate Bill 5395, a measure requested by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal that would have mandated comprehensive sex education in Washington's public schools. This measure would have allowed graphic details to be shared with children as early as kindergarten about sex and discussions about gender identity, completely ignoring the wishes of parents.
Over the summer, advocates had time to regroup. A 16-member workgroup headed up by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) met in August and September and outlined plans to push for a new mandated sex ed measure, House Bill 2184.
According to this new bill, “Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, comprehensive sexual health education must be provided to all public school students that are not receiving comprehensive sexual health education.” That includes kindergarten through third grade.
By 7 a.m. today, a long line of citizens gathered at the front door of the John L. O'Brien Building on the Capitol campus, awaiting the first public hearing in the House Education Committee on this measure as the doors opened at 8 a.m. The committee room filled, and an overflow room as well, with supporters and opponents, as you can see from the photo above.
A work session with OSPI officials and teachers was held during the first hour. Of course, the educators on that panel discussed their support. Finally, the chair opened the public hearing, with only 30 minutes for the public to testify out of a two-hour meeting. This is nothing short of an obstruction of public testimony. Nearly 100 people were signed in to give public comment and only 16 people were allowed to testify on this highly controversial bill. Once again, the Democratic majority is not providing ample time to hear from constituents who drove long distances from various parts of Washington state.
I had also signed in to testify in opposition to this bill, but was not given the opportunity.
As you may know, I've been very vocal about my opposition to this measure, primarily because state government is deciding what's best for children, not parents. I'm extremely concerned with many aspects of the curricula school districts may use that is graphic.
My colleague and Education Committee member, Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, stated it well during the workshop when she said, “A lot of people are very upset with having a standardized curriculum for K-3. When I looked at the curriculum, I'd be happy to read some of this, but I know the chair would gavel me because it is completely inappropriate for me to say here. And I think that if it is inappropriate for me to say on the dais, I don't think that's something that I would want to teach a kindergartner.”
The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill next Thursday, Jan. 23. I welcome your comments before the vote is taken. You can also share your feedback with House Education Committee members by contacting them directly at the following link: http://leg.wa.gov/House/Committees/ED/Pages/MembersStaff.aspx.
2020 legislative priorities
Since it is a short session (60 days), I have prioritized bills according to constituent feedback and certain issues I've told my district I would focus on. My top priorities this session include: business regulatory reform, sex trafficking prevention, and parental rights. Here's a list of new bills for 2020:
- House Bill 2330 – Business regulatory reform: – The objective of this measure is to move agencies away from a punitive, penalty-minded mode to a good-faith and fairness mode of operation when dealing with business owners. I've talked with small business owners and constituents who say the burden of regulations and trying to keep up with all of them is extremely difficult and consumes a tremendous amount of resources.
- House Bill 2331 – Open Public Meetings Act: This would require agendas to be posted 72 hours in advance versus 24 hours, which would promote government transparency and accountability.
- House Bill 2332 – Lyme disease: Would allow certain medical practitioners to administer long-term antibiotic therapy to Lyme disease patients if needed. Currently this is not allowed in Washington, so it's much more difficult for those with this disease to get the treatment they need to get better. This proposal came from a local citizen with the disease and from Lyme disease patients and professionals at a stakeholder meeting I hosted during the interim.
- House Bill 2333 – Advisory vote descriptions: This measure would require the attorney general to include in the Voter Pamphlet advisory vote descriptions of any tax exemptions/preferences, in addition to taxes included in a bill. It also must include the bill title, along with substantive changes made to the bill from time of introduction to being signed into law. Currently, since only taxes are included, it could be misleading to constituents, as they might think a bill would raise taxes. However, overall in effect, if there is a graduated tax exemption over time, then the overall net effect of the bill may actually be a tax reduction. This was the case with the timber industry bill, which was one of the November 2019 advisory vote items. Many constituents thought the bill raised taxes, not reduced them. My proposal would help constituents have an accurate and complete description of what the bill does.
Bills I introduced last year are also running again this year. They include:
- House Bill 1836 – Child sex crimes: This is a sex trafficking prevention bill.
- House Bill 1738 – Reducing B&O taxes for small businesses.
- House Bill 1082 – Massage therapists: Requested by the city of Vancouver, this is another bill to fight sex trafficking.
- House Bill 1736 – Adaptive agriculture equipment: This measure is to help disabled veterans who work in the farming industry.
- House Bill 1835 – Additional Washington/Oregon bridge: This bill would provide $300,000 for a consultative study to determine the best way forward for a third bridge/connector west of I-5.
I will provide more details of these bills in future email updates as the session progresses.
Olympia office is now open
While the Legislature is in session, my 17th District office in Vancouver will be closed until March, and I have re-opened my Olympia office. Although I'm now two hours away from the district, I still want very much to be accessible to you — the citizens of the great 17th. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions, comments or concerns. If you plan to be in Olympia, call us in advance for an appointment. I enjoy meeting with constituents and we have a beautiful state Capitol to tour, if you have the time to do so. You will find my contact information below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!