Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season with friends and family and are staying warm and safe this winter.
I am once again over on the other side of the mountains serving you in the state House of Representatives where my colleagues once again elected me as Caucus Chair. It's an honor to be recognized and respected by my fellow House Republican lawmakers but it fails in comparison to the trust and faith you've placed in me to be your voice in Olympia.
Session issues and priorities
This session has the potential to be one of the most difficult in recent memory as the Legislature is tasked with finalizing compliance with the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision to fully fund basic education. Here's a quick breakdown of what's been accomplished the last few years:
- Additional $4.6 billion in K-12 education the last two budget cycles
- Smaller K-3 class size
- Full-day kindergarten
- Teacher raises
- Increases to materials, supplies and operating costs (MSOC)
- Unprecedented tuition reductions in public colleges and universities (no other state has done this)
The last major component of the McCleary decision is to end our overreliance upon local levies to fund basic education, often referred to as “levy reform.” A bipartisan education funding task force met throughout the interim – as well as a core group of House Republican budget and education leaders – to vet solutions and ideas that balance the needs of our students along with the need to protect taxpayers from excessive burden. Ultimately, whatever moves forward as a final product will have to be extremely bipartisan in nature, given the incredibly close numbers in the House and Senate. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions as draft legislation is brought forward for discussion and debate. At a minimum for me, it is important that schools are held harmless financially as we potentially transition to a different levy system to fund basic education.
I'll be focusing on solving the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision to ensure domestic, exempt wells can be drilled and used and property can be developed. This is a huge issue which has impacted many areas of the state that are not currently served by city or county utilities. The decision has ignored decades-long accepted practices and case law and it cannot be allowed to stand without clarity and direction from the Legislature. I will also be focused on tax incentive legislation that may bring jobs to the 7th District, lifting regulatory burdens, holding state agencies accountable, healthcare access, private property rights, land use issues, wolves and wildfires. It's going to be an intense and busy few months. I hope you are able to stay engaged throughout the legislative process and offer me your thoughts, questions and opinions.
Grizzly bears in the North Cascades? Because wolves weren't enough?
It appears ours federal government via the National park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are intent on adding another apex predator to our backyard. Grizzly bears are being considered for reintroduction into the North Cascades. To submit written comments to the two federal agencies, click here. You can also attend one of these regional open houses and give your comments in person (all events are 6-8 p.m.):
- Cle Elum – Feb. 13 at Putnam Centennial Center
- Cashmere – Feb. 14 at Riverside Center
- Winthrop – Feb. 15 at the Red Barn
- Omak – Feb. 16 at the Annex Facility at Okanogan County Fairgrounds
For more information about the open houses and to register for the webinars, click here
Honorary Lifetime Membership award from Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation
After serving eight years in the state House of Representatives, it's common to receive awards from various stakeholders, associations and interest groups. They come with the territory and are a nice recognition but don't hold a candle to the voices I hear from back home. I serve you and your interests first and foremost. If they happen to line up with other groups, so be it.
I think this is the case with an award I was extremely excited to receive last week from the Board of Directors of Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation. I was given their Honorary Lifetime Membership award for my efforts to preserve our hunting, fishing and outdoor heritage. It's an honor to work toward preserving our way of life so that we have something substantial to pass on to our children and grandchildren. I'll continue fighting for our hunting and outdoor heritage! It is absolutely worth protecting and sharing the positive things our heritage does for wildlife and for our communities.
Paging in Olympia
Each year I have the opportunity to sponsor several legislative pages from the 7th District. I enjoy visiting with our pages and hearing about their experience while they learn about the legislative process first-hand.
Last week I hosted brothers Gavin and Preston Furulie from Colbert. They are Eagle Scouts who attend Mount Spokane High School and are the sons of Grant and DeLori Furulie.
Pages have to be between 14-16 years old, have permission from parents or guardians, and also have permission from school. They spend their time in page school, delivering interoffice mail around the legislative campus and can even present the flags during opening ceremonies. If you or someone you know would like to be a legislative page, contact my office or click here for more information.
I'll send out periodic e-mail updates throughout session to keep you informed of important issues and to solicit your thoughts. Watch for a survey coming up in my next e-newsletter where you'll have the opportunity to take a short but very important online questionnaire. I'll also be having another telephone town hall with Rep. Joel Kretz in the coming months.
As always, thank you so much for entrusting me to work on your behalf in Olympia. It is an honor and privilege to serve you.
427A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7908 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000