Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The state Legislature is now more than halfway through the 2017 session, which is scheduled to adjourn April 23. Whether lawmakers will wrap up all of their work by April 23 remains to be seen, but the Legislature has made steady progress toward reaching an agreement on the budget and meeting the state's education-funding obligations.
Clearing up an error in The Inlander
Much to my surprise, an article came across my desk this week claiming I had voted against a bill that would limit the parental rights of sexual assault perpetrators. That bill, House Bill 1543, passed the House 94-2 and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday, March 22.
That article was FALSE. At the time of the vote, I had the flu and was excused from the floor. Had I been present, I would have voted in support of the bill. Rape survivors should not be forced to co-parent with their rapists.
Once the Senate finishes reviewing the bill, the House will likely get one final opportunity to vote on the bill before it reaches the governor's desk. I look forward to casting my vote at that time.
To their credit, The Inlander has issued a correction in the online version of the article and has assured me they will be distributing a printed correction in their next edition.
Good news from state revenue forecast
Thursday's state revenue forecast brought some good news for Washington. Revenues are up — we'll have $2.6 billion more to spend in the next budget cycle than we do in the current cycle that ends June 30. That's without any tax increases.
With this latest information, budget writers should have all they need to piece together their 2017-19 budget proposals. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus will likely release their budget sometime this week, and House Democrats will follow with their proposal the following week.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which deals directly with the state operating budget, I'll have the opportunity to debate this bill before it reaches the full House chamber for a vote.
Stay tuned for more information about these proposals in the coming weeks.
Majority parties in the House and Senate have passed their education-funding proposals, and negotiations are underway. Eight lawmakers — two from each caucus — are at the negotiating table. The two negotiators from the House Republican Caucus, Rep. Paul Harris of Vancouver and Rep. David Taylor of Moxee, have said they are committed to staying at the table until a comprehensive proposal prevails.
As I mentioned in my last update, the state must discontinue its overreliance on local levies in order to fulfill its education-funding obligation as determined by the McCleary decision. Not to mention the variance in levy rates across the state adversely affects our students. As it is now, Seattle's local levy rate is $1.28, which raises $3,712 per student. In Pasco, the levy rate is $4.05, yet it only raises $1,267 per student. That's not fair to taxpayers, and that's not the equitable education our students deserve. As we work to level the playing field, it's important we ensure no school district receives less money under any new plan compared to what they would have received under current law.
For the past 10 months, our lead House Republicans on education funding have been working on and refining solutions to bring forward for discussion. As negotiations on the education-funding element of the budget continue, I'll keep you posted on key reforms and investments.
Volz bills advancing
Two of my bills unanimously passed the House and are making their way through the Senate. Click here or watch the video below to learn more about the legislation.
House Bill 1820 received a hearing this week in the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee, and House Bill 1991 is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday, March 21, in the Senate Local Government Committee.
Town hall draws large, passionate crowd
Many thanks to the more than 150 people who attended the town hall meeting Rep. Jeff Holy and I hosted last Saturday. We were pleased by the number of people who chose to spend their Saturday with us. I also appreciate the number of those who remained well past the official end time to ask questions and share their concerns.
We had a number of productive conversations, ranging from education funding and teacher compensation, to affordable health care, tax proposals, and more.
If you weren't able to make it out for the town hall, please don't hesitate to contact me using the information at the bottom of this email. I look forward to hearing from you!