Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am writing from the state Capitol as we wrap up the first week of the 2015 legislative session.
The opening ceremonies on Monday were a reminder to me of the responsibilities you have given me. We in the Legislature are called by our fellow citizens to be stewards of a free and just state. Even as I took the Oath of Office for the third time, I couldn't help but be struck by the significance of the occasion. Former governor Dan Evans was recognized at the Capitol this week on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration as governor. In his remarks he recounted the many moments that stood out in his memory as he reflected on his years of public service. The most meaningful moment of all, he said, was when he stood and raised his hand to take the oath as State Representative.
As session gets underway, there's a lot of work to do. At the forefront of the 2015 session is our K-12 education funding obligation. In the time since the State Supreme Court issued its McCleary ruling, the Legislature has made strides to fully fund K-12 education. Furthermore, revenue collections are up over 8 percent for this budget cycle. So instead of raising taxes to address K-12 education, the Legislature should fund education first within existing revenue. We should restructure our budget process to ensure that education funds are budgeted before anything else—after all, the State Constitution tells us that education is Washington's “paramount duty.”
Court rulings like McCleary, as well as ballot initiatives, have determined much of the agenda for 2015. We will have extensive deliberations about mental health, marijuana, firearms rights, classroom size, and the governor's capital gains and carbon tax proposals.
Transportation will be a major issue of consideration. I will continue to work for the completion of Highway 167 from where it dead-ends in Puyallup out to the Port of Tacoma. This is the number one economic development project in Washington state. I will also continue to push for reforms at the Department of Transportation to improve accountability and efficiency.
I was assigned to four committees for the 2015-17 term. I will serve as the ranking Republican on the Higher Education Committee and assistant ranking Republican on the Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee. Additionally, I will serve on the Transportation Committee, and the Rules Committee, which determines the bills to be considered on the House floor.
In my role as the lead Republican on the Higher Education Committee, I will work to establish the conditions needed to prevent further tuition increases at our state colleges and universities. With the leadership of the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate two years ago, the legislature was able to freeze tuition without raising taxes. We can do that again this year. We can also reduce costs for students, saving money on textbooks and administration. We also need to promote innovation as we seek to deliver quality higher education to our state's emerging workforce.
As I've done for the last four years, I plan to send out a weekly e-mail update and also will be recording regular legislative video updates. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you are coming to Olympia, and call or e-mail if you have thoughts on legislation.
Keep in touch.
468 John L.O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7968 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000