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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is a pleasure serving as your 5th District state representative. Trusting me to share your voice in Olympia is an honor and privilege. Per my previous e-mail update, I was pleased to vote for a bipartisan supplemental state operating budget that put more money into K-12 education, held tuition steady at our state colleges and invested more in services for the most vulnerable, including those suffering from mental illness.
This year, I focused most of my effort in the Legislature on House Bill 2725, which would have created a new appeal process for family and close friends when county officials decline to order an involuntary commitment of someone suffering from severe mental illness. In these dire situations, the bill would have allowed immediate family members to ask a Superior Court judge to consider the case, and if an involuntary commitment is approved, to oversee the treatment and progress of the patient. This bill passed in the House, but was stalled in the Senate due to concerns about cost and how changing involuntary commitment laws could infringe on personal liberties.
Sadly, this bill came about due to a situation in which close friends and family of Joel Reuter tried desperately to get him committed involuntarily when they recognized he was suffering a schizophrenic episode and falling deeper and deeper into the illness. Because of our very narrow laws on involuntary commitment, Joel did not get the treatment he needed and was killed by law enforcement as he brandished a gun, endangering himself and others.
Mental illness is a health care crisis in this state and nation. We are housing patients with mental illness in our emergency rooms, many are homeless, or in and out of jail. I understand we need a high bar to involuntarily commit someone for treatment, and my bill would have provided ample safeguards, but we also need to have a way for the people who know a person best to appeal to a higher authority in life-and-death situations. I will continue my work with Mr. and Mrs. Reuter on this issue next session.
I was also committed to ensuring we did not pass a transportation tax package prior to enacting critical accountability and transparency measures within the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). We cannot ask taxpayers for more from their paychecks when we have costly failures such as those on the 520 Bridge and the Seattle Tunnel Project, costing taxpayers millions, and possibly billions, in cost overruns. I believe any tax transportation tax package must be put to voters either on a referendum or initiative. This means WSDOT must rebuild trust with voters so they feel confident supporting new and higher taxes for transportation projects and maintenance.
Additionally, I was pleased that efforts to increase taxes on hard-working Washingtonians to grow the size of state government were stopped. I believe that with tax collections growing at a pace of roughly 7 percent every two years, we can and should balance our state budget within existing taxes we all send to Olympia.
Finally, we want you to know what is happening in Olympia, and how it affects you. However, this is an election year, and under the provisions of a 1991 law (created by Initiative 134) there are limits on what and when we can contact you. After this e-mail update, the soonest we can send another is just before the 2015 legislative session. However, the initiative does permit us to respond to your direct requests for information, and we encourage you to write or call whenever you have a question or a comment to share on legislation or other matters. Please be sure to be clear that you would like a response from our office to ensure we are not contacting you outside of the ethics provisions explained above.
As always, my door is open. I welcome your feedback and we're happy to help you in any way we can. If you need a speaker for a community event, or would like to meet with me one-on-one, please contact my office. My contact information and website address is below.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7852 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000