Eighteen days remain of the scheduled 105-day session in Olympia. This week, both the operating and the capital budgets were released.
Below is an update of many activities and actions under way right now at the state Capitol. As we enter these last days, I encourage you to pay close attention to your Legislature as we take final votes on major issues that could impact citizens in our district and throughout the state. Watch the debate on TVW, the state's public affairs channel which is broadcast on cable. Or go online and watch from www.tvw.org.
Then make your voice heard. Call the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000, or you may call my office directly at (360) 786-7984. You can also e-mail me through my Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Shea.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
HOUSE DEMOCRAT OPERATING BUDGET PROPOSAL RELIES ON GIMMICKS
On Monday, House Democrats released their operating budget proposal, House Bill 1087, and scheduled a public hearing three hours later in the House Ways and Means Committee, giving the public very little time to review the 472-page document. The 2011-13 fiscal cycle's plan relies on gimmicks, fund transfers and $553 million in fee increases to support more than a one billion increase in spending over the 2009-11 budget. It also leaves unbalanced the current year's budget by delaying a $240 million payment to schools for one day (from the current fiscal year which ends June 30 to the next two-year fiscal cycle which begins July 1). In other words, it would push part of the balance of this year's shortfall into the next fiscal cycle.
I'm also concerned the House Democrat budget would eliminate funding for reduction of kindergarten through 4th grade class sizes, increase nursing home fees, and allow for a four-month early release from prison for some offenders.
In addition, it provides no reforms that are needed to prevent the state from continued budget shortfalls.
The measure is expected to come to the House floor for a vote on Saturday.
Today, House Republicans will unveil our budget proposal which is based on the following principles:
- No use of one-time money for ongoing programs
- No transfers from other budgets
- Provides strong reserve to meet unforeseen emergencies or revenue drops
- Protects constitutional mandates
- Is transparent and contains no gimmicks
- Utilizes the priorities of government: education, public safety and protection of the state's most vulnerable population
- No new taxes
More details of the House Republican budget will be available tomorrow afternoon at: houserepublicans.wa.gov.
STATE PATROL RESPONDS TO LEGISLATORS' REQUEST ON GUN INVESTIGATION
Chief John Batiste has admitted the Washington State Patrol made mistakes in sending a letter to gun owners on March 9 that requested receipts for any sales of AR-15 rifles since July 2010.
Batiste responded to a letter I sent that was signed by 36 representatives and senators asking him to explain the March 9 letter. (Click here to see the press release on this issue.)
The chief wrote: “I fully acknowledge the letter used to initiate contact with gun dealers should have been more clearly worded. In particular, we should have been very explicit that any response was voluntary. I am also concerned that the questions were overly broad. As a a result, I have directed that a second letter be sent. This letter will make very clear that a response is voluntary, and we will narrow the scope of the request. We are still asking for assistance, but we want to make as little work as possible for gun dealers. I very much regret the concern that was caused by this letter. I want to make it abundantly clear that we are not creating any sort of registry of AR-15 owners. We are merely trying to solve this case.”
Batiste said this all began when the State Patrol discovered it was missing an AR-15 rifle from its inventory. I am concerned with the broad fishing expedition used by the State Patrol when it should hav
e just provided the serial number of the missing rifle to gun dealers and asked if they came in contact with that weapon.
PORT OF ENTRY BILL AWAITS SENATE FLOOR VOTE
The Senate Transportation Committee has approved a bill I authored that would require commercial cattle trucks that come into Washington's Pend Oreille and Spokane counties from Canada via Idaho to stop at a port of entry for inspection or face a $1,000 fine.
Hundreds of Canadian commercial cattle trucks enter Washington weekly, coming mainly through Idaho. Many out-of-state cattle truck drivers who are aware of the state's port of entry inspection station have been entering Washington using Highway 290 to the north so they can bypass inspections on I-90.
This causes several problems. First, the cattle trucks are causing traffic congestion on a two-lane roadway through the Spokane Valley. They are not only a danger to the local traffic, but these heavy trucks are creating an intense amount of wear and tear on East Trent Avenue, which is designated as Highway 290.
Second, disease could be introduced to healthy cattle stock in Washington. The first U.S. case of mad cow disease was discovered in 2003 involving an infected Holstein cow at a Mabton dairy farm. That cow had been transported into Washington from Canada. If Canadian cattle truck operators are avoiding the port of entry inspections, we have no way of knowing whether sick animals are being transported into our state. That creates serious concerns for our food supply.
House Bill 1922 provides for the enforcement of inspections to ensure the safety of in-state cattle herds and another tool to keep our food supply safe.
The measure is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate. It passed the House on March 5 with a vote of 98-0.
LOCAL STUDENT SERVES AS PAGE
I was honored to sponsor Holly Nelson, an eighth-grade student at Riverside Middle School in Chattaroy, as a page in the House. During her week in Olympia, Holly was responsible for delivering messages and documents to legislators in their offices, committee rooms, and in the House chambers. Pages also participate in various ceremonial tasks, such as presenting flags before floor sessions. Along with her assigned duties, she also continued her regular schoolwork and attended page school to learn about state government.
Holly enjoys playing varsity volleyball and basketball. She is the 14-year-old-daughter of Gary Nelson and Heidi Sue Coldsnow of Elk, Washington.
For more information about the House page program, go to: http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Pages/HousePageProgram.aspx