Opinion editorial: 2017 legislative sessions filled with hard-fought successes, some disappointments

On Aug. 8, we traveled across the 16th District from Dayton to Prosser, meeting with newspaper editors and reflecting on the successes and disappointments of this year’s Legislature. It was a refreshing change to be home from Olympia, finally, following a regular session and three special sessions that began Jan. 9 and ended July 20. Our last stop was with Victoria Walker, editor at The Record-Bulletin, who invited us to share this update with you.

Difficult negotiations on complicated issues, mainly education funding and tax reforms, pushed the Legislature into a record 193 days at the state Capitol. Even after that, unfinished business remains — namely a Hirst water fix and a capital construction budget.

Here’s a look at some of the successes and disappointments of this year’s legislative sessions:


  • We passed an operating budget that will invest an additional $7.3 billion in K-12 education and reforms in the next four years.
  • We reached a McCleary solution that will: fully fund basic education; create equity for students, teachers and taxpayers; promote local control; and address the state Supreme Court’s rulings through reforms.
  • We stopped new taxes on energy, business and capital gains.
  • We provided more than $120 million for programs and services to help the mentally ill, expanded meals-on-wheels for seniors, and created a new Department of Children, Youth and Families to serve our at-risk children and families better.
  • Legislation passed that will allow school districts to build schools outside of urban growth boundaries and save money.
  • A bill creating a two-tiered drivers’ license system and delaying REAL ID enforcement at airports until 2020 was passed.
  • We made the fourth DUI a felony and increased funding for officer training.

Personal successes

  • Sen. Walsh passed legislation to extend vocational training for up to two years for welfare recipients to help them secure family-wage job skills.
  • Rep. Nealey’s two bills to reduce abuse of public records requests and help local governments fulfill legitimate requests passed the Legislature.
  • Rep. Jenkin’s measure passed that will streamline the permitting process for small, local wineries to participate in nonprofit wine auctions.


  • Majority House leaders refused to bring any bill to the floor that would have helped families negatively affected by the Hirst decision. The state Supreme Court ruling makes it nearly impossible and cost-prohibitive for many rural property owners to drill a well on their land.
  • Without a Hirst fix, Senate Republicans have decided they will not pass a capital construction budget, including the bond bill. The $4.2 billion budget funds infrastructure, including water projects, across the state. However, our Republican colleagues and we believe it is unfair to allow the state to build projects using taxpayer funds, while those same taxpayers must beg for water to develop their lands.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee partially vetoed an agreed-upon bill that would have reduced the business and occupation tax rate for manufacturers, giving them the same rate enjoyed by Boeing and the aerospace industry. This would have attracted jobs.

For more information on these or other bills, contact our local offices or visit our websites:

Sen. Maureen Walsh – (509) 527-4151 – Walla Walla

Rep. Terry Nealey – (509) 526-6284 – Walla Walla

Rep. Bill Jenkin – (509) 545-2210 – Pasco

Thank you for the honor of allowing us to serve you!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla; Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton; and Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser; serve the 16th Legislative District.

State Representative Terry Nealey, 16th Legislative District
404 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7828 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000