Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Nearly a month from now, lawmakers will congregate in Olympia to kick off the 2018 legislative session on Jan. 8. This session will be different from the last for a couple of reasons: 1) This session is only scheduled to last 60 days — far less time than last year's 105-day session that went into triple overtime; 2) as a result of the November elections, Democrats will control both chambers of the Legislature. How the compressed time frame and one-party rule will affect policy development has yet to be seen.
With the holidays approaching and as many of your calendars fill up with events with friends and family, please know my office and I stand ready to serve you. Should you have any questions or ideas for how to improve our government, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.
Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas and happy new year!
Supporting local schools and education opportunities
In an effort to continue my support for local education and education choices for families and as a member of the House Education Committee, I made a point these past few months to visit with students, educators, school superintendents, and others involved with educating our youth.
Earlier this month, I visited a unique public school classroom at south Spokane's Ferris High School known as the Newcomer Center. It features a program designed to equip high-school-aged refugee and immigrant children with the foundational English, basic reading, and English for math needed to transition to mainstream classrooms. It is also a place for students to get acquainted with their communities and acclimated to their new homes. This year, the Newcomer Center has students from Iraq, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Sudan, Burma/Myanmar, Chuuk, Syria, Mexico, and Guatemala. In past years, they've had students from Vietnam, China, Nepal, Rwanda, Congo, Iran, Somalia, the Marshall Islands, El Salvador, Colombia, Malaysia, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, and many other nations. It's a safe and inviting program for students to build confidence and learn at an appropriate pace. And who better to teach that program than the 2018 Washington State Teacher of the Year (and District 81's teacher of the year) Mandy Manning. Mandy is in her 19th year teaching and has been teaching in Spokane Public Schools since 2008. You can learn more about her here.
My tour also consisted of a visit to two charter schools – Spokane International Academy (SIA) and Pride Prep – Innovation. Both have been a boon to families seeking education options for their children, providing opportunity and access to more than 800 students combined. SIA currently has a 300-student wait list and seeks space to expand while Pride Prep-Innovation currently has a 120-student wait list and has plans to expand into a full-fledged high school in the next three years. SIA's Chief Executive Officer Travis Franklin and Pride Prep-Innovations' superintendent Brenda McDonald shared their schools' missions and some of the challenges charter schools face in Spokane and in Washington state, including access to adequate facilities to meet demands.
Get an up-close-and-personal look at your Legislature in action this winter
Want to see your state government in action? Maybe stepping foot on the state House or Senate floor is on your bucket list? If you're between the ages of 14 and 16, you need look no further than the Legislative Page Program. Each week during the legislative session, teens from across the state converge at the Capitol to work in the state Legislature. Pages are vital to the efficient operation of our Legislature and serve an important role, from fulfilling ceremonial tasks to distributing amendments and other important paperwork to lawmakers. In addition to their various duties, pages are required to participate in Page School, during which they learn about the legislative process and hear from guest speakers who play a role in government operations. This is by far the best civic education opportunity outside of the classroom.
For more information about the program and to apply, click here.
No matter your age, there are, of course, many other ways to interact with your state government:
Visit leg.wa.gov. This the official website for the Washington State Legislature. Learn about bills being considered by the Legislature, view committee agendas and materials, plan your trip to the Capitol, and more.
Watch TVW. You can watch committee hearings and floor action in both chambers on TV or online at tvw.org.
Visit my website. Learn about everything I'm working on on your behalf by going to RepresentativeMikeVolz.com. From there, you can also read these email updates and contact me directly.
I know that for many of you, traveling to Olympia in the winter when the Legislature is in session would be impractical. Please know you can always call my Olympia office at (360) 786-7922 or email me at Mike.Volz@leg.wa.gov (please note my district office will be open for a few more weeks and can be reached at (509) 456-2750). And if your travels do bring you to Olympia between Jan. 8 and March 8, be sure to call my legislative assistant, Phil, so we can schedule some time to meet.
3 things you need to know for the 2018 session
A comprehensive Hirst fix and a construction budget are top priorities
Lawmakers left Olympia at the end of the 2017 session without a solution to the state Supreme Court Hirst case and a new, two-year capital budget. As a result, some construction projects throughout the state have been left in limbo and rural property owners continue to suffer from the adverse effects of the ruling. In fact, with properties lacking access to water, the Spokane County Assessor has been forced to devalue thousands of parcels for a loss of roughly $75 million in Spokane alone.
What this battle really boils down to is a fundamental right to water access. It's really a tragedy when Seattle developers can drill wells in rural Washington to pump water into Seattle, but if you live on that very land in rural Washington, you can't drill a well. The hypocrisy of it is glaring and we need a long-term solution to ensure people have access to water on their property.
As far as the capital budget goes, the House already passed a capital budget proposal once, and we just need to get that over the finish line.
State Supreme Court agrees with Legislature's education-funding plan, tells lawmakers to expedite implementation
Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court issued their latest order in the McCleary education-funding case. The good news: The court essentially endorsed the Legislature's K-12 education-funding solution (HB 2242) as a constitutionally compliant policy. The bad news: They don't think the policy is being implemented fast enough. The statutory and court-ordered deadline for fully funding basic education is Sept.1, 2018. HB 2242 and the 2017-19 operating budget fund a portion of the new salary allocation system and full-implementation isn't scheduled to occur until the 2019-20 school year. It's estimated an additional $1 billion would be needed to move up the implementation to the 2018-19 school year.
Bottom line: This means the Democrat-controlled Legislature will need to find approximately $1 billion in 2018 in order to fully fund salaries for the 2018-19 school year. If the court finds that this has not occurred by the end of the 2018 regular session, the court could look to impose additional remedial measures.
2018 is a supplemental budget year
Every two years, the state Legislature is tasked with passing a biennial budget. This is usually accomplished during the first session in a biennium and the second session is typically reserved for making adjustments to that two-year budget. What this means for this coming session is lawmakers will be much more focused on making small revisions to previous appropriations. It also means bills that call for sweeping reforms or big government programs are less likely to be approved. With this refined focus in mind heading into the next session, there should be no reason for the Legislature to go into overtime in 2018.