Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have reached the policy and fiscal committee cutoff dates for the legislative session. Click here for a great explanation of the legislative cutoff process. If bills have not passed their respective committees, they are likely “dead” for the session. There are exceptions, specifically, bills necessary to implement the budget. Technically no bill is ever dead until the end of session.
In this legislative update I will:
- give you an update on the latest revenue forecast;
- discuss the West Coast port resolution;
- provide a status report on bills I have moving through the legislative process; and
- discuss the bad labor bills passed by the House of Representatives.
Please contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about pending legislation or state government issues.
When the Economic Revenue Forecast Council came out with its February forecast, it was good news for the Legislature. The forecast increased the current budget cycle by about $107 million and they increased the forecast for the 2015-17 biennium by more than $120 million. It takes a little more pressure off the budget negotiations and is further evidence we don't need to raise taxes. We now have an increase of $3.1 billion in projected revenue for the next biennial budget.
West Coast port resolution
The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union finally reached an agreement, and the port slowdown is finally over. The two sides have been renegotiating a labor contract since May. Unfortunately, because of the hesitancy by President Obama and the federal government to get involved, it cost producers and manufacturers in the 13th District alone millions of dollars. It cost us jobs and affected consumers. Had this been addressed earlier, all of that could have been prevented. I asked the feds to get involved back in November. Sen. Warnick, Rep. Dent and I recently issued a statement regarding the resolution, which you can read by clicking: “13th District lawmakers react to West Coast ports deal.”
Surcharge on Gorge tickets legislation
House Bill 1009 passed the policy committee and the Finance Committee, which is a big hurdle for legislation. This legislation will help the Quincy hospital handle the workload they see when the Gorge is having concerts and events. It takes the pressure off of local taxpayers by putting a $1 surcharge on the concert tickets and asking those who rely and utilize the hospital and emergency managements to chip in. The bill is in the House Rules Committee and eligible to be placed before the full House of Representatives for a vote.
Royal Slope legislation
House Bill 1586 passed the House Transportation Committee and is also eligible to come before the full House for a vote. This legislation would authorize the transfer of the Royal Slope railroad right-of-way from the state transportation department to the Port of Royal Slope. I am hopeful that by returning it to local control it could bring some economic development to the community.
Achievement index rating system
Every school gets graded by the state, and I believe the grading process isn't fair. It measures two components – how many kids are passing and how many kids are improving. It creates an unusual situation. A school whose performance indicator goes from 60-70 percent receives a better performance rating for a school who may have improved from 80-85 percent – they improved a greater percent, but the other school is actually performing better. Educators and school administrators support this measure and we hope to see it on the House floor soon.
Bad labor bills
Three bad labor bills passed the House of Representatives this week. House Democrats voted to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour, require employers with more than four full-time employees to provide paid leave to employees and establish an Employee Anti-retaliation Act.
These bills are job-killers, especially to small employers. We are hopeful the measures will be stopped in the Senate.
A couple weeks ago I was able to have my wife and kids with me on the floor for the annual Children's Day celebration. It was an honor to have them with me. It is a great reminder having them on the House floor that the work we do is to make Washington a better place to live and raise our families.