Archive for WA House

‘Legislative Year in Review’ recaps the extended 2015 session

By | July 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Legislature adjourned on July 10 after a record-setting 176 days. In this hour-long edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights of the significant bills that passed — and failed to pass — during the regular and overtime sessions.

Lawmakers narrowly avoided a state government shutdown by passing a two-year operating budget that was signed into law just before midnight on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee. But the session didn’t end there. Senate leaders were drawn into an additional week of negotiations after a debate in the chamber over Initiative 1351, a class size reduction initiative passed by voters that came with a $2 billion price tag.

Senate Democrats and Republicans eventually reached a deal to delay implementation of the class size initiative for four years, while also suspending a new high school biology graduation requirement for two years. That agreement allows nearly 2,000 high school seniors who failed the exam this year to earn a diploma.

As part of the overall budget, college students will get a tuition cut and additional money will be funneled into early education and preschool with the Early Start Act.

Lawmakers also passed a $16 billion transportation package funded by a 11.9-cent gas tax increase that pays for projects across the state — marking the first time in a decade the state has made a significant investment in transportation infrastructure.

Also on the show: We recap debate over several bills that passed this year, including an oil train safety measure, an involuntary commitment bill known as Joel’s law, medical marijuana reform, the establishment of a new Washington State University medical school and a gun notification bill known as the Sheena Henderson Act.

Plus, details about the bills that generated heated debate but failed to pass — including the creation of a new type of payday loan, a proposed $12-an-hour statewide minimum wage, restrictions on initiative signature-gathering and eliminating personal exemptions for vaccines.

“Legislative Year in Review” airs at 6 and 11 p.m. every night on TVW through July 19. Or watch the show online below:

Elson Floyd honored by Legislature

By | June 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

Legislators in both chambers honored late Washington State University president Elson Floyd with a resolution on Thursday, highlighting how the charismatic leader lobbied the Legislature for a new public medical school even as his own health was in decline.

Floyd died Saturday at 59 from complications from colon cancer, two weeks after taking medical leave.

“He was the definitive champion for moving WSU forward and a tireless advocate for creating a WSU medical school,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane.

Elson Floyd

Elson Floyd

The resolution adopted by lawmakers lists several of Floyd’s accomplishments at the university, including the establishment of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center and the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.

Research funding increased by an “astounding” 57 percent under Floyd’s tenure, while enrollment reached “record highs” — including a spike in the number of students from diverse backgrounds, according to the resolution.

“To know Elson was to like him, to respect him, to admire him. It’s so tough that such a gift was taken so soon,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

The university president had a way of bringing Republicans and Democrats together, Baumgartner said, as evidenced by the passage of a bill by the Legislature in March that allows WSU to establish its own medical school.

On Thursday, a bill was introduced in the House to name the new medical school the Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine. The Senate is expected to file a companion bill.

TVW taped both the House and Senate floor resolutions — links will be posted online here.

Pat McCarthy addresses debate over free tickets for lawmakers at U.S. Open

By | June 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy says she believes the “hullabaloo” over legislators accepting free tickets to the U.S. Open has dissuaded some lawmakers from attending the golf championship, but she hopes the dozen lawmakers who did accept the offer will go back to Olympia to educate their caucuses.

“The twelve that accepted are bipartisan and from the House and Senate. They can be the proselytizers of how great an event it is,” McCarthy said.

Pierce County invited 45 legislators to watch the competition and attend a three-hour briefing on the tournament’s economic impact. The briefing was designed to meet a Legislative Ethics Board rule allowing legislators to accept the free ticket if official business was involved, but the county drew strong criticism for closing the briefing to the press.

McCarthy said legislators need to take in the entire experience.

“You can’t just do a PowerPoint presentation. You have to see it. The magnitude of it is so huge and so important for the state of Washington,” she told TVW’s Anita Kissee of “The Impact” during an interview this week.

McCarthy said the tournament will bring $8 million “into the state coffers that wouldn’t be there” without the U.S. Open.

The Impact” this week looks at the state investments that helped to make Chambers Bay appealing to the U.S. Golf Association and goes in-depth on the statewide economic impact of the event.

The show will air Wednesday, June 17 at 7 & 10 p.m. It includes an extended interview with McCarthy and others.

House Democrats come down on new revenue in latest budget proposal

By | June 1, 2015 | 0 Comments

House Democrats on Monday released a revised $38.4 billion budget proposal that calls for about $550 million in new taxes, down from the $1.5 billion in taxes they sought in their March budget proposal.

The two-year operating budget proposed by Democrats remains about $640 million apart from the no-new-taxes budget proposal released last week from mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said the latest Democratic offer is a “substantial compromise” that moves toward the Senate on several items.

“We reduce our spending substantially and we reduce our revenue package by two-thirds,” Sullivan said during a budget briefing with reporters.

Lead budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said Democrats are reducing by $207 million the amount allocated to school districts to buy health care benefits, although he cautioned that could change as talks with legislators continue.

Democrats on Monday highlighted where they spend more in their budget than Republicans, including $168 million in human services, $150 million for teacher cost-of-living pay raises, $114 million for early learning and $50 million for mental health.

To pay for the increased spending, Democrats are calling for a capital gains tax of 5 percent on the profits of sales of stocks and bonds that would raise between $500 and $600 million in new revenue for the state. The tax would affect about 32,000 residents.

Senate Republicans have maintained the state does not need new taxes to meet budget and education spending obligations. The $37.9 billion budget proposal released last week by Senate Republicans increases spending in several areas compared to their March budget, including paying the full cost of negotiated pay raises for state workers.

Watch the Democratic press conference at this link. The budget is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday at 11 a.m., which TVW will air on television and at this link.

Hunter said legislators also plan to consider a bill this week that addresses school levies and teacher compensation. The bill is not yet scheduled for a hearing — we’ll update this with the TVW link once it is.

Full budget documents are available here.

Categories: Budget, Democrats, TVW, WA House
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First step in impeachment proceedings of Troy Kelley introduced in House

By | May 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Two state representatives filed a resolution Tuesday to begin the process of impeaching State Auditor Troy Kelley for “malfeasance of office,” which they say includes the abandonment of his office and illegally delegating authority to an unelected official.

Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, and Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, introduced the resolution at a press conference Tuesday that calls for the indicted auditor to resign. If Kelley refuses, the resolution creates a committee of six members of the House to begin drafting articles of impeachment.

“All of this lies squarely on the shoulders of Troy Kelley,” MacEwen said. “It rests squarely with him and the resolution rests with him.”

However, the resolution looks unlikely to advance to a vote on the House floor while negotiations on the budget are ongoing.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said in a statement released just before Tuesday’s press conference that “now is not the time” for impeachment proceedings, adding that House Republican Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen agrees.

Chopp said impeachment proceedings would be a “major distraction from the more pressing and time-sensitive challenges” facing the Legislature as it negotiates a two-year operating budget.

Stokesbary said he remains optimistic there will be time during the special session to vote on the resolution. “I think it is possible to handle multiple things at once,” he said.

TVW taped Tuesday’s impeachment press conference — watch it online here.

Kelley is taking an undefined leave of absence from his position as auditor while facing federal charges of tax evasion, stealing money and lying under oath. He has delegated authority to Jan Jutte, the office’s director of operations.

It takes 50 votes for the House to impeach. The Senate would then hold a trial, which requires two-thirds of the chamber’s members to vote for a conviction and remove Kelley from office.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said at a media availability on Tuesday the resolution is a step to explore “whether you really have a case.”

“If the majority in the House is willing to look into it, I think a resolution to study it is better than taking the next step,” Schoesler said.

The Republican media availability is posted online at TVW here. Members also answered questions about budget negotiations, saying they are continuing to go through the House and Senate budgets line-by-line to identify differences.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said they expect to spend another day going through the budgets, then he believes the next step is up to the House. “Are they willing to pass a tax package they’ll vote for and then allow us to frame a box that we can sit down and negotiate with?” he said.

The House has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday on a proposed capital gains tax, and a hearing Thursday on a cap-and-trade plan that would raise $500 million.

Mary Dye selected to replace Rep. Susan Fagan in 9th District

By | May 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Mary Dye, a wheat farmer from Pomeroy and state committeewoman for the Garfield County GOP, was sworn in on Friday to replace the 9th District’s Rep. Susan Fagan, who resigned her seat following ethical violation allegations.

Mary Dye is sworn in Friday (picture from WA House GOP)

Mary Dye is sworn in Friday (picture from WA House GOP)

Washington State Republican Chairwoman Susan Hutchison said the party “acted quickly” to replace Fagan in one week, allowing Dye to participate in the special session.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said Dye will represent the “interests and values” of the 9th District, a large rural district that encompasses the counties of Adams, Asotin, Franklin, Garfield and Whitman, as well as part of Spokane County.

County Commissioners from the six counties selected Dye from a field of three candidates to fill the position.

“Her knowledge and experience in agriculture and her family’s deep roots in Garfield County make her a natural leader on issues important to the 9th District,” Schoesler said in a statement.

 

Categories: Republicans, WA House

Special session update: Budget briefings, cap-and-trade proposal forthcoming

By | May 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Budget writers met this week for two days of budget “briefings,” but have yet to resolve more than 1,000 differences between the budgets passed by the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate, according to Democratic legislative leaders.

“Going through each section of the budget, going through where the differences are, where the decisions have to be made — that’s what is happening right now,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan told reporters on Thursday.

The Legislature began a 30-day special session on April 29 after adjourning regular session without a two-year operating budget in place.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said there remains “major differences” between the two budgets, highlighting a difference of $450 million more in the Democratic budget for K-12 basic education than the Republican approach.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said Democrats don’t have the money for the $450 million expenditure. “They can spend it, but they can’t pay for it,” he said at a Republican media availability.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle are pushing to get an early revenue forecast update to see if the state will collect more revenue.

Waiting for June 17, when the revenue forecast is scheduled to be released, is “just too late,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island. (more…)

Rep. Susan Fagan to resign on Friday following ethical violation allegations

By | April 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

Rep. Susan Fagan, a Republican lawmaker from Pullman, will resign at the end of the day Friday following allegations of ethical violations that include filing fraudulent expense reports to collect several thousand dollars in taxpayer money.

Fagan delivered her resignation letter to Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, according to the governor’s office.

Officials are investigating Fagan for five categories of misconduct: Claiming expenses for “fake or nonexistent events,” inflating mileage, listing the wrong location of events to qualify for travel payments, pressuring her aides to change expense reports and using state funds improperly for political campaigns.

“In sum, there are allegations of theft, fraud, and improper use of staff by the member to falsify expense reports in order to receive payments of state taxpayer money from the House to which the member was not otherwise entitled,” according to a letter of complaint to the Legislative Ethics Board written by House Chief Clerk Barbara Baker and released to the media on Wednesday.

Rep. Susan Fagan

Rep. Susan Fagan

Fagan said in a statement it is with a “sad heart” she is resigning her seat in the 9th District, which encompasses several rural districts in Southeast Washington. Fagan called it a “disappointing and painful to end my public career.”

“I should have been more precise with my records, and I did not give my reimbursement reports the respect and attention they deserve. That is my fault. At no point did I try to derive personal gain from expense reimbursements,” said Fagan.

Fagan made the decision to resign and pay the money back following a meeting with House Republican leadership.

“I am very disappointed with Rep. Fagan’s conduct,” said House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen. “Her misuse of state travel and reimbursement funds is a serious breach of public trust.”

Fagan has served in the district since 2010. Officials say the Legislative Ethics Board is continuing its investigation and further action will be determined by the board.

Categories: WA House

Special session begins, House passes recreational marijuana bill

By | April 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature began its 30-day special session at noon on Wednesday, four days after lawmakers adjourned the regular legislative session without passing an operating budget.

The Democrat-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate remain at odds over whether the state needs new revenue as part of the operating budget that funds the state for the next two years and puts additional money into public schools.

Lawmakers are also expected to take up a transportation package and legislation related to school levy reform during the special session.

On Wednesday, the House began special session by passing several bills off the floor. Among them is House Bill 2136, which makes several changes to the state’s legal marijuana market and streamlines taxes.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said the bill “updates and modernizes and reforms” a number of provisions in Initiative 502, the ballot measure that legalized marijuana.

City or county bans on pot stores would be subject to a public vote during the general election under the bill.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, urged members to reject the proposal. “There are communities that voted no this when the initiative was before them, and they are still voting no today,” he said. “They do not want this to be part of our society.”

The bill passed 70 to 25. Carlyle said negotiations with the Senate are ongoing.

Washington’s regular legislative session ends; special session to begin April 29

By | April 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature gaveled out of the 2015 regular session Friday – two days earlier than the 105-day regular session was scheduled to end, but still weeks or more away from a budget deal.

split2Late in the session, lawmakers said they’d need more time to reach an agreement on how to fund the state for the next two years. The Democrat-led House and GOP-controlled Senate are still far apart on the basics.

House leaders say more revenue is needed to fully fund education and more as the state faces Supreme Court sanctions after an unprecedented court ruling. But the Senate is sticking with a no-new taxes proposal.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced a 30-day special session beginning April 29. The two chambers will have to make some concessions to find an agreement, he said.

“It is time to compromise and for all of us to compromise,” he said during a press conference earlier in the week. “I understand I won’t be getting everything I proposed, and I have told lawmakers they each need to now starting moving towards each other’s position. The House is going to have to find a way to reduce spending and the Senate will have to add revenue.”

Both sides will also have to compromise on a $15 billion transportation plan. The House and Senate agree state projects should be funded with a nearly 12-cent gas tax increase, but they’re stuck on the details.

The special session can adjourn before the full 30 days if they reach a deal. If not, Inslee can announce another special session to give lawmakers more time.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate