The end of the 2018 legislative session

March 9, 2018

floorGreetings from Olympia,

The Legislature has finally adjourned for the year. That means I am looking forward to spending time back in district connecting with you to discuss the work we have done.

I am concerned about the state’s future. For the past five years, the Senate Republicans have put families first by fully funding basic education, adopting sustainable bipartisan budgets, and refraining from implementing new general tax increases.

In only a few months, the new Democratic majority in Olympia has seemingly returned us to out-of- control spending and disingenuous budget gimmicks. That is most apparent in the 2018 supplemental budget that jeopardizes future budgets and our state’s credit rating. Even with over $2 billion in unexpected revenue coming to the state, growing government was priority number one.

We have real obligations such as making our final payment toward fully funding basic education, and dealing with the 2018 property tax spike that resulted from the education-funding plan approved in 2017. We had the resources to do both, but the majority disagreed. Instead, they spent your tax dollars on pet projects and ignored state law by doing an end-run around the voter-approved rainy day fund, stealing $700 million. To add insult to injury, their plan to provide property tax relief to hurting families does not go far enough.

In the final hours of the legislative session, proposals were rammed through with little debate or notice, circumventing the legislative process. We had an opportunity at the beginning of the year to do right by taxpayers, stimulate job creation and invest in mental health – in fact, we had a budget proposal to do just that, but it was not accepted.

healthcareMaking a difference

This year, I was able to two of my bills through the legislative process. One that I am particularly proud of is an expedited processing for adult family home licenses. Senate Bill 6113 was delivered to the Governor March 5 and awaits his signature. The bill directs the Department of Social and Health Services, which regulates and licenses the facilities, to give priority processing of applications in order to prevent service delivery disruptions. That can make all the difference for residents who shouldn’t be at risk because of paperwork.

I am also waiting for the Governor to sign Senate Bill 5179. This law would require coverage for hearing instruments under public-employee and Medicaid programs. This is a needed expansion of coverage to those struggling to pay for these expensive medical devices. This legislation will not only help aging populations who are hard of hearing but also low-income adults and children who may be struggling to succeed in class without access to hearing aids.

transparencyOpen government and no process

I heard your concerns about an open and transparent government and took those to heart. I did vote in favor of Senate Bill 6617, the public records legislation, because it was the only solution in front of the Legislature to deal with that issue. In the minority, we have no say in the scheduling of votes, what bills are heard or brought to the floor for a vote. The media’s lawsuit created a challenge for how the Legislature deals with sometimes-sensitive correspondence with constituents. The proposal was a good-faith effort to respond to the court’s ruling to maintain transparency and protection privacy. That is a challenging balance.

I encourage you to avoid the headlines and read the legislation for yourselves. Click here to read a non-partisan summary of the legislation.  

In essence, the court ruled that each senator is their own state agency, setting up an untenable process to deal with public records. The judge and the state Attorney General suggested that the Legislature change the law. The law did clarify how legislative records should be treated and made new types of records available to the public that were previously not subject to disclosure, such as calendars and correspondence with lobbyists.

This is about not just transparency but also a lack of process by the new majority. We’ve had numerous bills, this one included, that seem to not follow any sort of process, whether by convention or by law. Debate was cut off, our ability to speak silenced, and critical bills appearing out of thin air with huge ramifications passed in the dead of night.

It is an honor to serve as your state Senator. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns regarding your state government.

Sincerely,

signature

Barbara Bailey,

Your State Senator