We are coming up on the conclusion of Week 9 in the legislative session. We have spent nearly two weeks on the House floor debating and voting on bills being sent over to the Senate for their consideration. Here are some of the more high profile pieces of legislation we were able to get through.
No more high stakes testing
House Bill 1046 would maintain accountability in graduation requirements while discontinuing the Certificate of Academic Achievement and Certificate of Individual Achievement state tests.
I know this is a big issue in our district. I have heard from educators we spend too much time teaching to the test. We are wasting valuable classroom time and it is a waste of money. As an educator, I can tell you firsthand some students just don't test well. We should not need a test as required proof that a student has successfully met standards.
Small business 'bill of rights'
A bill identifying what specific rights or protections small business owners have when selected for an audit, inspection, or other government agency enforcement action received unanimous approval Monday in the state House of Representatives.
House Bill 1352, would help define the rights of small businesses. Through these definitions, the state would set up a process to inform business owners of their rights and protections when selected for an audit or inspection, as well as identify what rules the government must follow.
There needs to be a better way for state agencies to communicate the rights and protections small businesses have in these enforcement actions, and what rules the agency will follow.
Help for homelessness due to wildfires
The state House of Representatives approved legislation to help communities threatened by, and recovering from, homelessness due to wildfires.House Bill 2010 allows the state Department of Natural Resources to allocate provided funds for radio communication equipment, education and outreach efforts, technical assistance, fuel mitigation, and other residential wildfire risk prevention measures.
This applies to four northeast counties in Washington and would allow targeted funding toward areas with higher wildfire risk, a higher percentage of low-income residents, and whose fire protection service providers have a shortage of reliable equipment and resources.
13th District Telephone Town Hall
Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Tom Dent and I are holding a telephone town hall meeting on Monday, March, 13.
To participate, residents can call (509) 941-2750 during the event. If listeners have questions during the call, they can press the star (*) key on their telephone keypads.
Since the 13th Legislative District covers such a large geographic area, the telephone town hall is an effective tool to reach constituents across all four counties at one time. We are looking forward to your participation and questions about issues before the Legislature and our state.
You will be able to ask questions and participate in surveys.
One of the top priorities must be to come up with a solution to the “Hirst decision.” For those who are not familiar with this court ruling on Oct. 6, the state Supreme Court ruled Whatcom County's comprehensive plan failed to provide for protection of water resources in accordance with the Growth Management Act (GMA). The ruling put the status of exempt private wells into question even though the county complied with the Department of Ecology's rules that allows permit-exempt wells if fewer than 5,000 gallons of water are taken per day.
The Hirst decision has far-reaching effects on other counties, land developers, rural communities and current and potential land owners. Sen. Judy Warnick's Senate Bill 5239 could help us address this issue. It has passed the Senate. We hope to keep it intact or make it stronger in the House if possible.
McCleary update and the 'levy cliff' bill
Both Senate Republicans and House Democrats have passed education funding plans. Negotiations on a McCleary solution are happening behind the scenes. There are eight state lawmakers, two from each caucus, meeting on a regular basis.
During the debate on the House Democrats' plan, House Republicans proposed seven amendments to ensure the bill would make our K-12 funding system ample, equitable and accountable. All but one of the amendments were rejected by majority Democrats.
House Republicans continue to be very involved in negotiations. We want a solution that will truly address the school funding issue and not have us back in Olympia faced with a McCleary 2.0 situation.
The House did pass the “levy cliff” bill on Thursday after the Senate passed it Wednesday night. They call it the levy cliff bill, because school districts can raise up to 28 percent of their levy base though local property-tax money. However, the percentage is supposed to drop to 24 percent in 2018. School districts are worried with the levy or revenue drop (i.e. off the cliff) they would be forced to make cuts or layoff staff.
I supported the bill reluctantly. I am a little concerned by passing this we may lose our urgency in solving the McCleary issue. The levy cliff situation may go with a final plan in place. However, the levy cliff bill was amended in the Senate that provided some accountability and guidelines school districts will need to follow with their levy dollars.
I was interviewed Friday morning by Q13 Fox TV about the levy cliff issue. Click: Manweller discusses levy cliff on Q13 morning news.
A couple of bills I am working on made it out of the House and are now in the Senate.
House Bill 1755 would provide a simple notification to employers about third-party settlements and help employers prepare for a workers' compensation rate increase. Employers should not have to go to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to obtain information
House Bill 1468 would provide some needed continuity in our voter registration deadlines. The bill would change voter registration deadlines for all methods of registration to 11 days before an election or primary. Currently, there is a 29-day registration deadline for online and mail-in registrations, and an 8-day deadline for in-person registrations at county election offices.
Please let me know if you have any questions about any of the issues I have mentioned in this update. I hope you can join us for our telephone town hall on Monday.