Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now over a third of the way through the 2015 legislative session, and I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some information on important bills and measures that are moving through the process.
Every two years, the Legislature passes what is called a biennial budget. This covers the anticipated needs of state operations, services and transportation. In alternating years, we pass supplemental budgets. Though they are only a fraction of the biennial budget, they cover critical needs to the state that we weren’t able to plan for.
A supplemental budget passed both the Senate and House of Representatives last week nearly unanimously, and was signed into law by the Governor yesterday. It will provide emergency funds for the Oso landslide as well as the record forest fires we experienced in Eastern Washington last summer.
There will also be more money restored to underfunded mental health and foster care programs that were cut significantly during the recession. Following some recent lawsuits, the Supreme Court ordered that the state put back some funds. The money will be used for more beds in psychiatric facilities to help people who suffer from mental illness and to help foster parents, who currently only receive about half of what it costs to take kids in.
To watch my video update on this and other issues, please click here.
A bill I think is long overdue is hopefully poised to pass the Legislature this year (SB 5433), requiring schools to include curriculum that teaches our students about the rich history, laws and sovereignty of Washington’s 29 federated tribes.
I often get questions about Indian law and the parameters of sovereignty through my legislative office, and my hope is that this bill will pass so we can raise a generation of Washington students with a solid understanding of, and appreciation for, the tribal issues that make our region so unique.
Keeping Washington Whales Wild
Last week the Senate Natural Resources & Parks Committee held a hearing on SB 5666, which would ban whales, dolphins, porpoises and others “cetaceans” from being held in captivity in Washington.
There was a lot of support from individuals and groups who gave great public testimony, including Grace Campbell, a student at Woodward Middle School on Bainbridge Island, and former Secretary of State Ralph Munro (pictured), who was a leader in early efforts to ban the capture of orca whales from our state’s waters.
To watch video of the public hearing, please click here.
Agate Pass Update
As scheduled, work on the Agate Pass Bridge is underway. Traffic has been reduced to one alternating lane across the bridge from 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., and so far traffic has been manageable and work is progressing well. Thank you all for your patience.
Crews have been simultaneously cleaning the bridge, making repairs and retrofitting the railing. In total, crews have hand-removed about nine tons of dirt and debris from the bridge! With that phase complete they move on to rust removal, with all work due to be completed on time, by Feb. 28. Below is a before and after cleaning shot of a section of the bridge.
For more information on the project, please click here.
As always, thank you for subscribing to my newsletters and I look forward to hearing from you!