Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with family and friends. Beginning tomorrow, Sunday, Dec. 1, legislators will be under election-year restrictions until Jan. 13, the first day of session. That means after this newsletter, I will not be able to send out additional newsletters during that time frame. However, I will be able to respond to any emails, mail, phone messages or other direct communications from you. Since these restrictions begin shortly, I wanted to touch base with you one more time before session begins.
Judge blocks implementation of I-976
During the Nov. 5 general election, voters sent a strong message to the Legislature and other elected officials — with around 53 percent of the statewide vote — that they want $30 car tabs, just like they passed years ago. Some local governments — especially transit agencies — chose lawsuits as their first response to I-976's passage. Several days ago, a King County judge ordered Washington state to cease efforts to implement the initiative on Dec. 5, when it was due to take effect, pending the outcome of the lawsuits.
While certain public officials did not like the vote, it's wrong for them to seek ways to go around the voters' wishes. I expect this to be a high-profile issue in the 2020 session, and I will work to make sure the voters' wishes are heard and honored.
For further questions on this issue, the Department of Licensing has provided this fact sheet.
Washington, Oregon governors sign I-5 bridge agreement, but third bridge must be part a real solution for congestion relief
Just after I-976's passage, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement saying, “I have directed the Washington State Department of Transportation to postpone projects not yet underway.” Yet days later, Inslee was in Vancouver with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announcing a revival of the I-5 Columbia River Bridge (CRC) project. The obvious question is — why?
Will the project include light rail like the failed CRC proposal? Initially, both governors have said the bridge will have bus rapid transit, of which I also have concerns. However, neither Inslee nor Brown would close the door on light rail, saying a traffic analysis would be completed first to determine the best transit solution. They are also expecting tolls to help pay for the bridge, which was the other factor that led to the CRC demise.
Third bridge — possibilities are strong for a viable path moving ahead
I've long advocated for a third bridge solution separate from the current bridges that could help handle the high freight traffic and help to relieve congestion for commuters.
As it stands, we know that even if the Interstate bridges are replaced under the current efforts, bottlenecks on the Oregon side of the I-5 bridge would still mean commuters would remain stuck in traffic — even after paying their toll. So then, what is accomplished by spending all this money on replacement of the I-5 bridges?
The good news is that an official with the Washington Department of Transportation recently confirmed that a third bridge solution was included in the federally-approved environmental impact statement process. Although that bridge was slotted for possible light rail or mass transit, I am working to see what the possibilities are to transition this into a third bridge for vehicles (not light rail or mass transit) in order to significantly reduce congestion for commuters and move freight more efficiently for our business community.
Read my letter to Gov. Inslee from last year regarding the third bridge issue.
Fostering jobs and economic development through regulatory reform
When the Legislature meets for the scheduled 60-day session, beginning Jan. 13, one of my top priorities will be introducing legislation that relieves the excessive regulatory burden on our employers and small businesses across the state, giving them further opportunities to expand, create jobs and further economic development.
Over the summer, I met with business owners across the district. I was concerned about how the billions of dollars in additional taxes would affect them. And while they told me the tax increases are certainly troubling, the biggest obstacles holding them back are the explosion of government regulations added to their plates every year.
One of my main objectives in the coming session is to reduce the amount of regulations and penalties that hinder small businesses. Many are struggling to comply with the burdensome regulatory environment in our state. Instead of a “punitive and punishment” approach by government agencies, they need to move to a “good faith and guidance” approach. If businesses are legitimately trying to comply with the law, government agencies need to recognize that by first offering relevant guidance and technical assistance — BEFORE penalty and enforcement. This moves the state away from a punishing environment toward one that provides a healthier environment for our job creators.
Sex education in our schools continues to be a concern
You may remember the battle we had last session over Senate Bill 5395, a measure requested by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal that would mandate comprehensive sex education in Washington's public schools. Just to recap, the measure would have allowed graphic details to be shared with young children about sex and discussions about gender identity, completely ignoring the wishes of parents.
We successfully stalled the bill last year, but over the summer, advocates have had time to regroup — and I do believe this issue will be back in the coming 2020 session. In fact, a new mandatory sex ed measure, House Bill 2184, was introduced at the end of the 2019 session in April, which has been referred to the House Education Committee when the 2020 session begins in January.
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.” I'm concerned this policy is being mandated for students — including kindergarten age. Parents at the local level are the ones who should decide what their children learn regarding this topic.
This issue has even been controversial in our own local school districts. Earlier this year, the Battle Ground School District voted at first to implement a custom sex ed curriculum in its classrooms, then because of local voices and concerns, later voted it down.
I will always come down on the side of parents. The decision of when and what should be taught should be made by parents — not government officials. Their voices should be heard, and their wishes respected. On Jan. 15, parents concerned with legislation that seeks mandatory sex education in all grades, including kindergarten, plan to rally on the steps of the Capitol in Olympia. Please watch my website for more information.
New district office
I'm pleased to report that I opened a new 17th District office last month in Vancouver. It is staffed by my legislative assistant, Patty Daniells and located at 11815 N.E. 113th Street (corner of Highway 503 and 113th Street). We will remain open at that location until session begins in January, when I will re-open my Olympia office. More details of my district office, location and phone number can be found here. I invite you to drop by with your comments, questions and input about legislation and state government.
It is an honor to serve you!