Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the 22nd day of this 30-day special session, and yet very little progress has been made in three weeks. The schedule is controlled by Speaker Frank Chopp and I'm disappointed to hear that after today we likely will not return again to Olympia until next Tuesday, the day before the special session is scheduled to end. It seems the Speaker, elected by the majority party, has all but given up on an expedited agreement and that we will have a second special session.
I am as frustrated as many of you who have written or called my office. The Legislature's main job is to write a budget for the state, and so far those in control have no budget to show for 127 days of session. I'm sorely disappointed with the Speaker and his lack of organization. Each day all the legislators are here costs taxpayers up to $16,000 – it is unacceptable for our time to be wasted. I want you to know I am not accepting per diem (housing or travel costs) during the special session.
The major issues in play are, of course, the budget, workers' compensation reform, and the capital budget.
I remain concerned that budget priorities here are mixed up – cuts to education are too great and are made to save social programs. Our kids must come first.
Workers' compensation is yet another thing being held up by Speaker Chopp. The Senate already passed a bipartisan measure in the regular session, and all 42 of our House Republicans support the reasonable, compromise legislation. In addition, nine Democrats in the House sponsored their own bill reforming the system, which is identical to previous proposals. That means there are at least 51 people in the House ready and willing to vote for a major reform to our injured workers' fund. I believe workers should have the right to choose how they are paid out of the fund, and I believe they are competent enough to make this voluntary decision. Our 2nd District has the highest unemployment claims in the state – this reform would go a long way toward getting people working again.
Some of the projects contained in the capital budget will require the state to take on additional debt. I can't support any additional debt for the state.
Things don't look great today, but I promise I will do everything I can to help resolve issues in the most responsible way.
It's an honor to serve you.