Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We're entering the home stretch of session, with just two weeks to go. Here's an update on the latest goings-on in Olympia.
Great turnout at 2nd District town hall meetings
Last Saturday, Feb. 22, my seatmate Rep. Graham Hunt and I hosted town hall meetings in Yelm and Graham (in Graham we were joined by other area legislators too). It was a great opportunity to get your feedback, and the turnout was the best I've seen in my four years as a legislator.
You had a lot of concerns about privacy, revitalizing our rural economies and some of the questionable ideas coming out of Gov. Inslee's office. You can get a re-cap of the town hall meetings by watching my latest video update:
Boosting jobs & the economy – especially for rural areas
We're still a long way from doing everything we should to promote more jobs and economic growth outside of Seattle, but we have made some progress this year. Here are some of the bills being considered that would help those of us in rural areas:
House Bill 2192 holds state agencies accountable for providing better customer service to people — including business owners — who apply for permits.
HB 1888 legalizes industrial hemp. This could open up new economic opportunities for growers, processors and manufacturers.
HB 2744, sponsored by Rep. Hunt, assists veteran-owned businesses.
HB 1224 gives rural counties some exemptions from the Growth Management Act.
Please click here to watch my Comcast Newsmakers interview on why Olympia should be doing more to promote jobs throughout Washington.
Propaganda vs. reality
House Democrats held a news conference yesterday in Olympia, with the topic ostensibly being their proposal for a supplemental budget. Their presentation had two tracks: First was their budget plan, which as the Appropriations Chairman said, 'doesn't do much.' The Democrats want the session to end on time as much as everyone else, so they've put forward a modest proposal that doesn't change much, although they tried hard to dress it up with fancy rhetoric.
But the second aspect of their news conference was a $200 million tax hike. This was their propaganda piece clearly designed to appease their base. They kept it separate from the budget, no doubt because they know it'll never pass. After all, it includes a sales tax on bottled water that voters in 2010 soundly rejected. Even their presentation made it plain to me that this piece was designed to be negotiated away.
One piece seriously lacking in the House Democratic plan was support for higher education and the Opportunity Scholarship program, which receives additional funding in the Senate budget proposal. This program is critical for young people to compete in our very difficult job market.
It's important to realize that at the end of all the flowery speeches, this supplemental budget changes the state General Fund by just half a percent. We'll tackle a new budget in next year's session – that will be when major spending decisions will be made.
That's all for this week. Thank you for taking the time to read my update, and I'll talk to you soon.