Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Friday, March 1, was the deadline for all fiscal bills originating in the House to have passed their respective House committees. Otherwise, they are considered “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the state budget are exempt from that cutoff date. A few days prior was the policy committee deadline. So all of those bills that had passed their House committees had been sent to the Rules Committee, of which I am a member. The Rules Committee determines which bills come to the House floor for a vote by every House member.
So our focus moved from the committees to the House floor, where we voted on hundreds of bills.
Nealey bills gain House approval
Three of my prime-sponsored bills were voted from the House, including:
- House Bill 1146 – would replace the requirement for certified water right examiners to have a $50,000 bond as long as they can furnish evidence to the Department of Ecology that they have insurance or the ability to show financial responsibility. This would make it more affordable for qualified individuals to become certified water right examiners. The measure passed the House unanimously. It had a public hearing today in the Senate Agriculture and Water and Rural Development Committee, and is scheduled for a vote in that committee this Thursday, March 21.
- House Bill 1175 – would increase the amount of Superior Court judges in Benton and Franklin counties jointly from six to seven. This would help reduce the backup in the court system. The bill passed the House, 87-9. It is scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- House Bill 1808 – would provide a legal means of disposal of marijuana inadvertently left at retail stores holding a pharmacy license. Since marijuana is still considered a controlled substance under federal law, but is now legalized in small amounts in Washington, pharmacies are concerned their licenses could be in jeopardy if someone inadvertently leaves behind marijuana. This bill would allow the pharmacy to notify law enforcement for proper disposal if they discover one ounce or less of marijuana left behind on the premises. The bill passed the House 97-0. It's been referred to the Senate Health Care Committee.
Gun background checks bill dies
The final day for House bills to pass the House was last Wednesday, March 13. So we worked some very late hours and a Saturday to move through the bills. One measure that was to be brought to the House floor was House Bill 1588, the universal background checks gun bill. I voted against it when it passed from the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 19. We had expected to vote on the bill on the House floor last Tuesday, March 12. However, Democrats found themselves split. There was not enough votes among their caucus to reach a majority, so the bill died.
There is a lengthy list of bills that passed and legislation that died during the floor cutoff. You can read that list here: Bills: Dead and Alive.
Next up: Revenue forecast and operating budget
Now the focus begins on crafting a two-year state budget. Tomorrow, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will be releasing its quarterly state revenue forecast. The forecast is used as the foundation to show the Legislature how much money the state is expected to receive from taxpayers. The state's two-year operating budget for 2013-15 will be crafted using this projection. As the newest member appointed to that council, I will be releasing a statement following the council meeting tomorrow. Watch for the news release on my Web site: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Nealey.
Mark your calendar for Thursday, April 4 – Telephone town hall meeting
As your state representative, its important that I hear from you! That's why I am joining with my seatmate, Rep. Maureen Walsh, to hold a telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, April 4, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. We'll be talking with folks across the district. To join the conversation, call toll-free: 1-877-229-8493 and enter PIN number: 15516.
Your comments are welcome!
Please contact my office with your questions, comments and suggestions. My legislative aide, Meagan Allen, will be happy to take your call. The phone number is (360) 786-7828. You can also call toll free and leave a message for me on the Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000. Or you can e-mail me at email@example.com. Please do not hit “reply” to this e-mail newsletter as it will not reach my office.
Thank you for giving me the honor and privilege of serving you!
The first budget of the 2013 legislative session was released last Thursday by House Republicans. I am proud to support this plan which prioritizes and funds education first before any other state programs. Please read on in this opinion editorial that I will soon be sharing with some of our local newspapers.
Funding education first – Our paramount duty
The Washington State Constitution says: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” The word “paramount,” according to Webster's Dictionary, means “superior to all others.” In other words, “first!”
For too long, the Legislature has not put education first. Money for Kindergarten through 12th (K-12) grade schools comes from the state's general fund – the same fund which pays for nearly all other state programs, with the exception of transportation, and capital construction projects, each of which have their own separate budgets.
Every two years when the Legislature meets to craft a state operating budget, K-12 education is forced to compete against other non-education programs, departments and agencies for the same dollars in the general fund. Legislative budget writers have often used this as a political game, funding the other needs of state government first, and then using the remaining dollars for education. Then when those K-12 education dollars come up short, they come to you, the taxpayer and say, “we need more of your tax dollars to fund education. It's for the children. Let's not shortchange their future!”
In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state is not living up to its constitutional duty to fund basic education. In December, one of our local newspapers asked the question, how is “basic education” defined? That has been one of the biggest challenges of the Legislature, because basic education may mean different things to different people. But there's another point the high court made. It said, “'paramount' means the state must amply provide for the education of all Washington children as the state's first and highest priority before any other state programs or operations.”
If we are going to properly fund education, we need to take the politics out of it. We should never hold our children and their educational future hostage for tax increases. That is why I am in full support of a plan by House Republicans to fund education first!
Fund Education First is a solution that would require the Legislature to pass a separate, K-12 education budget before any other state appropriations. This would remove education from competing against other agencies for the same dollars in the state general fund and ensure it is properly funded each budget cycle.
Under our proposal (House Bill 1057), we would increase education funding by $903 million in the 2013-15 budget cycle. This would include the following increases:
- $302 million for K-3 class-size reduction;
- $229 million to expand all-day kindergarten in 61 percent of the school districts;
- $158 million for increased instructional hours for grades 7-12.
- $128 million for a 29 percent increase in materials, supplies and operating costs.
None of these increases would require a tax increase. That's because we prioritize funding in the budget so that education gets the first dollar, not the last dime.
Our proposal includes more than just funding. It comes with a comprehensive plan to provide reforms and accountability with those dollars to ensure our children are getting the best education possible. I invite you to read the details of our plan at: houserepublicans.wa.gov.
When it comes to education, Washington's constitution says it should be “paramount” or “first.” It's time we live up to our constitutional duty to fund education first – not just because it's in the constitution – or because the state Supreme Court says we must, but to ensure every child in Washington receives the best opportunity to learn and succeed.