Legislative Work

Being elected and serving in the House of Representatives on behalf of the 22nd legislative district this past year has been both a pleasure and a responsibility that I will never take lightly.  My committee assignments include vice chair of the Education Committee, vice chair of the State Government Committee, and a member of the Finance Committee.  At the beginning of the summer, I was also appointed to the Legislative Ethics Board representing the Democratic House Caucus.  One of the highlights of my new job is getting to work with my seat mate, Beth Doglio, and Senator Sam Hunt to serve our constituents in the 22nd LD.  It is a mix of public policy, law making, helping real live people find solutions to their situations and promoting more progressive government.  

Highlights of the 2017 session included passing the Washington State Family Leave Act (some representatives started working on this 23 years ago), a solution to McCleary, and the de-linking of high stakes standardized tests from high school diplomas.  Legislation this important cannot be passed in political isolation.  It takes both Democrats and Republicans who are committed to finding solutions.  Like every job I have ever had, it takes building trusting relationships in order to find common ground.  So far we have not found common ground on water, and even though we have full agreement on a capital budget, it is hung up in the water debate . . . stay tuned.

During the 2017 session I had the opportunity to prime sponsor several bills:

HB 1344 - Extending the period for which a bond levy may be increased.
This bill was signed by the Governor on May 16, 2017.  If the voters of Thurston County decide to build a new county court house, this new law will allow us to finance bond levies over 25 years instead of the current 9 years, making it financially feasible.

SHB 1521 - Removing the requirement that an employee must work at least six months before taking vacation leave.
This bill became law on July 1, 2017.  Our state employees are the backbone of Thurston County.  When the recession hit back in 2008, our state employees took cuts in pay, furloughs, and lay-offs in order to make the state budget balance. Since 2008, they have never gotten their salaries back to par, and continue to lag behind other public and private sector jobs. The contracts that we approved during the 2017 session make strides in improving salaries, but we also need to improve other working conditions.  SHB 1521 is part of that goal by allowing new employees to use vacation time during the first few months of employment.  Let's face it, life doesn't always wait to happen until you have been in a new job for six months. If you have earned the vacation time, you ought to be able to use it.  Washington State wants to be the employer of choice.

EHB 1913 - Creating a leasehold excise tax exemption for certain leasehold interests in facilities owned or used by schools, colleges, or universities.

EHB 1913 actually became part of the final SSB 5977 (Relating to Revenue) which was signed by the Governor on July 7, 2017, becoming law on October 19, 2017.  This legislation will exempt community and technical college bookstores and food service operations from paying excise taxes on the sale of books, supplies and food to our community college students, easing the financial burden of getting through school.

HB 1533 - Addressing wage and salary information.
This was a progressive bill that I was proud to introduce for the first time.  It passed through the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards on January 30th, but died in Rules. Why is this bill important to pursue? Research shows that women in Washington get paid 80 cents to the dollar for the same job as men in Washington.  Minority women get paid 46 cents on the dollar.  Asking for salary history sounds neutral, but it is not, since the previous salary was probably not fair.  When women (or men) step out of the workforce to spend a few years raising children, asking the previous salary sets an even worse precedent.  Employers should be asking about education, work experience  and job skills rather than previous salary. In the professional world, employers and employees often don't even have a salary discussion until a job offer is made.  The potential employee hoping to make a good enough impression that the new job will bring a substantial increase in salary, and the employer wanting to get a better idea of how much the potential employee is worth.

HB 1896 - Expanding civics education in public schools.
There are few among us this year who do not see the need for better civics education in our schools.  Working with the League of Women Voters I sponsored HB1896 which would expand civics education teacher training program within the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to select a team of social studies teachers who will develop teacher training materials, provide teacher training across the state, and develop a process for sustaining and building teacher capacity.  Although the bill got off to a late start, it received a warm response.  Since this is only the first year of a two-year session, I will continue moving this bill forward in January.

HB 1484 - Providing an enhanced retirement benefit for public employees' and teachers' retirement system plans 1.
Along with Representative Norm Johnson, and Senator Sam Hunt, I worked on taking steps to bring PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees back into the COLA process. In 2011, the legislature made the unconscionable decision to stop COLA payments to our oldest, most vulnerable retirees. These same retirees also had their monthly medical benefit cut.  It is our goal to right this wrong.  We have two new concurrent bills ready to drop.





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