There is just about one week left of the short 2014 Legislative Session. We have worked hard in the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus to get our business done so that the Legislature can end on time on March 13th.
Budget Talks Continue, Major Legwork Already Done
At the end of February the bipartisan Senate Coalition proposed a supplemental budget that would increase funding for K-12 education, expand college opportunities and support other essential statewide services.
The Senate’s $96 million budget proposal builds on the bipartisan effort made in the 2013 regular Legislative Session. Because we began this session without facing a budget deficit for the first time since 2008, we were able to focus on addressing the most critical needs of our state without increasing taxes.
The Senate Democrats and House Democrats have both released their budget proposals and negotiations are ongoing to find common ground before session ends. I am hopeful we will come to a sound and timely agreement that protects taxpayers’ resources and also adequately meets our State’s needs.
REAL Hope Act Passes House, Signed by Governor
In my last update, I mentioned that the Senate passed the REAL Hope Act, which will direct $5 million more into the State Need Grant program and allow the children of undocumented immigrants the ability to apply for these grants. The House also passed the bill 75-22 and it was signed by the Governor. The Legislation, while certainly a compromise, will capitalize on the K-12 investment we’ve already made in these young people. I am confident it will give them greater opportunity to become productive citizens.
Governor Out of Touch on Death Penalty
Governor Inslee recently made national headlines for announcing a moratorium on the death penalty while he is in office. His decision doesn’t overturn or pardon any death sentences. It does mean, however, that he will suspend any death penalty cases that come across his desk while he is Governor.
I believe Governor Inslee’s decision is out of touch with voters and with the Legislature they voted to represent them. The Legislature is the appropriate venue in which to have this debate.
The death penalty is certainly a complicated and conflicting issue, but the Legislature has consistently rejected previous efforts to suspend or end corporate punishment in Washington State. Governor Inslee should represent the will of the people and not ignore the importance of the legislative process.
Senate Democrats Flip Flop on Their Own Reform
In other head-scratching news, the Senate Democrats recently turned heads by voting against their own education reform legislation after what must have been some strong lobbying from the Washington Education Association (WEA).
In a 28-19 vote, the Senate voted against a bill they wrote themselves. Senate Bill 5246 would have required school districts to use standardized test results when evaluating teacher performance.
Washington State is one of a handful of states that were waived from the requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act to use students’ standardized test results as part of teacher evaluations. The Federal Government is now requiring Washington to comply with the teacher evaluation requirement or else lose $40 million in federal Title 1 dollars.
As if this weren’t enough, if nothing is done, nearly every parent of a school-aged student will receive notification letters that their local school is failing—not the kind of information that builds confidence in local government and elected officials.
Although the impact of losing Title 1 funding would be widespread, it is distributed according to need. This means the loss of this money will affect districts with predominate numbers of minorities and children of migrant workers the most—some of the very students both the House and Senate are trying to protect with the REAL Hope Act.
No matter what side of the issue you are on, we all believe our teachers are critical to the development and preparation of our young people and to the vitality of our State’s future.
We certainly can have different views of how to evaluate teacher performance, but it’s frustrating to me to see Democrats flip flop at the last second because of pressure from the teacher’s union. This is a glaring example of lawmakers wanting to protect the hand that doles significant dollars during election time. We need to demand better from our lawmakers.
2014 Legislative Shootout
I recently had the chance to take a break from the Capitol campus for a couple of hours to join other legislators at the annual Legislator Shootout. The event is sponsored by the Evergreen Sportsmen’s Club and was lock-loaded fun. There’s even a video!
Lastly, I wanted to mention that I enjoyed chatting with my constituents the other week during a Telephone Town Hall. However, you don’t need a town hall to tell me what’s on your mind. I always look forward to hearing from my constituents.