Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For the past week we have been on the House floor voting on bills that came out of committees. Wednesday is the cutoff to pass bills out of their “House of origin.” In other words, it is the deadline for House bills to be sent over to the Senate and vice versa.
While the Legislature has been processing legislation for the past five weeks, the state Senate also gained some attention on Feb. 5, when they voted not to confirm the appointment of Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, essentially removing her from office. There are significant problems in the state DOT – lack of oversight of the Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) tunnel boring project, faulty pontoons and costly overruns on the SR 520 bridge project, repeated concerns with our ferry system and most recently, problems with tolling on I-405.
The governor called the Senate's action partisan politics. It's important to note the Legislature has a constitutional oversight role over our agency administration and we take that seriously. It is up to us to offer the “checks and balances” essential to constitutional government.
There is concern the lack of accountability in our state agencies beyond the WSDOT. Within 24 hours of the Senate's vote against Secretary Peterson's confirmation, Secretary Dan Pacholke of the Department of Corrections announced his resignation. His agency is being investigated for the early release of more than 3,200 prisoners, resulting in the deaths of two people. This fall the secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services also resigned. That means our state's three largest agencies will be operating with interim leadership.
There is good news, however, and that is the prospect for bipartisanship in the Legislature. The House is narrowly Democratic, and the Senate is narrowly Republican. Since the House and Senate are so closely divided we can and must work together. Here are just a few good examples of bipartisanship in recent legislation related to education:
- House Bill 2366 would set up a new education funding task force to find a solution to the state's overreliance on school levies to pay for basic education.
- House Bill 2214 would provide more flexibility to local districts and students, by streamlining high school assessments.
- House Bill 1737 would address the substitute teacher shortage.
These bills are now in the Senate for consideration. A lot of good ideas for legislation comes from constituents. I would urge you share any ideas you may have with my office.
Last week, “my day in a life” email update gave you a little insight on what a day in Olympia can look like for a legislator. Here is a brief perspective from Puyallup Herald reporter Heather DeRosa who recently spent a day following Rep. Melanie Stambaugh and I around the Capitol campus. Click “Zeiger, Stambaugh share 25th District priorities for legislative session” to read her article.
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