Dear Friends and Neighbors,
March 8 was house-of-origin cutoff. Bills that are not passed out of the House as of that date are likely “dead” for the session, unless they are deemed necessary to implement the budget. Then it is exempt from the cutoff.
You often hear me talk about the volume of bills before us – introduced, in committee, on the House floor. Here are some numbers for you, as of March 8:
- 1,166 bills introduced in the House.
- 376 House bills passed and sent to the Senate.
- 890 bills introduced in the Senate.
- 282 Senate bills passed and sent to the House.
This is the start of Week 10, where we go back to the committee process and hold public hearings on the Senate bills.
Telephone Town Hall – Wednesday, March 15
Rep. Mike Steele and I are hosting a telephone town hall on Wednesday, March 15 from 6 – 7 p.m. We hope you can join us. To participate, you can call (509) 404-3050. You will be able to ask questions by pushing star (*) on your telephone keypad.
If you can't participate but have a question you'd like us to address, please send an email. We can compile a list of questions from constituents and time permitting address them during the hour-long event. Or, get back to you on an individual basis. Just send an email, along with your first name and hometown, to Cary.Condotta@leg.wa.gov and in the subject line write “Telephone Town Hall Question.” With the hundreds of emails we get, this will make it easier for us to find your questions. I hope you can join us on Wednesday.
McCleary update and the 'levy cliff' bill
As I have shared both House Democrats and Senate Republicans have passed their “McCleary” education funding proposals through their respective chambers. The behind the scenes negotiations have begun. An eight-member team, with two state lawmakers from each caucus are meeting on a regular basis. Reps. Paul Harris and David Taylor are representing the House Republicans. They were part of a small team that has been looking at this issue since last summer. Everyone is providing input and sharing ideas. So far it has been a constructive process.
Last week the House passed a bill, Senate Bill 5023, that would extend the “levy cliff.” 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 opposed the bill. I believe passing this bill takes away the urgency we need to reach a final solution to the McCleary order. Plus, there is a good chance a final McCleary plan will make the “levy cliff” issue irrelevant.
One of the biggest issues we are facing this session is the “Hirst decision.” A reminder for those who may not be familiar with the Hirst 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.
This court ruling has far-reaching effects on other counties, property owners, land developers and rural communities. There have been many pieces of legislation introduced, but at this time, Sen. Judy Warnick's Senate Bill 5239 appears to be the best option to address this issue. It has passed the Senate. We hope to keep it intact or make it stronger in the House.
I have received a lot of questions about my tourism bill, House Bill 1123, because it was not voted out of the House Appropriations Committee before the fiscal committee cutoff. It is not dead. Because there is revenue associated with it, both to implement and the dollars it would generate, it could be tied to the budget. We are working on finding a proper funding mechanism. It is important to try to get this passed, as I believe it will generate three to four times the amount of money it will cost to put a program into place. Read this article from the Yakima Herald this week: Lack of state funding makes it tough for small towns to chase tourism dollars.
Visitors in Olympia
One of the best things about being in Olympia is when the people from the district show up. One of the most bright and festive days during the session is Latino Legislative Day, as you can see by the photos in my update. Mariachi Huenachi performed in the rotunda and it is always great to talk with them.
Additional updates from Olympia
For more on what is going on in Olympia you can watch legislative video from last week by clicking: Rep. Condotta's Legislative Update, March 10. If you missed my previous video click Rep. Condotta's March 1, video update to view it.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the issues in this email update. Once again, I hope you can join us for the telephone town hall on Wednesday.