Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2011 legislative session has unfortunately come to an early close. With an official adjournment scheduled for Sunday, legislators were sent home two days early despite unfinished business – including the state operating and capital construction budgets that were left unresolved. The Legislature will be called into a special session Tuesday and no one is sure for how long. What we do know is that each day of a special session can cost up to $16,000 – a burden that will fall on taxpayers.
I'm very disappointed in this outcome, as it represents a complete failure of leadership from the majority party. Each and every legislator entered this legislative session in January with a clear understanding of the budget problem and – thanks to voters and the passage of Initiative 1053 – new tax increases would not be a part of the solution. While these decisions are difficult, they are no more difficult than the choices that have been made by individuals, families and small businesses. This is what legislators were elected to do.
I support a House Republican alternative budget solution that would save more, spend less, and prioritize state government. It is responsible, transparent and sustainable. The plan would also provide certainty to taxpayers and our state economy. I encourage you to learn more about it here.
Strengthening our economy through workers' compensation reform
The other important priority this legislative session was strengthening our economy. A critical first step in helping our employers was taken through unemployment insurance reforms that will provide rate relief this year and more certainty in the future.
The next step that should have been taken was workers' compensation reform. Our employers will be facing double-digit rate increases if something is not done to address runway costs in the system. The Senate passed a great measure, Senate Bill 5566, which would create a voluntary settlement option that is used in 44 other states. It would not decrease benefits for injured workers. Every Republican and some moderate Democrats in the House would vote for it, if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, the House majority leadership would not allow it to move or even be voted on.
Helping veterans with employment
When a veterans' group approached me about sponsoring a bill that would permit employers to implement voluntary veterans preference policies in employment decisions, I said “absolutely.” House Bill 1432, signed into law Wednesday, will allow private employers to establish preferences in employment for veterans, widows or widowers of veterans, and spouses of certain veterans. You can see a picture of the bill signing below.
This legislation is the first of its kind in the nation. I feel it's important because as our veterans return from their duties overseas, they need to be reintegrated back into our communities. Employment can be a critical vehicle for this transition. The measure will provide veterans with more employment opportunities and is an appropriate way to honor their service and sacrifices.
Special session updates
As we prepare for special session, I will continue to keep you informed regarding our budget deliberations. This is a critical time for the future of our state. Please look for more legislative updates from me soon. In the meantime, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of assistance.
A thank you to my legislative pages
I'd like to thank my three legislative pages this year — Daniel Cook, Aja Corliss and Erin Lamos. Each took a week to come to Olympia, attend page school, learn about the Legislature, and help with the delivery of messages to state lawmakers and staff. I really appreciate their efforts and willingness to help. If you are interested in learning more about the House Page Program, please click here.