Life in Olympia moves at a fast pace. Yesterday, I had the privilege of filming a short segment on the set of TVW, the local legislative public access station, as well as co-hosting my first telephone town hall meeting.
Rep. Mike Steele participates in “Inside Olympia” with host Austin Jenkins
But life here moves quickly every week. I thought I would highlight the week of March 6-10 in hopes of giving you some insight into a week in Olympia. I hope you'll enjoy spending “a week in the life” with me.
Monday and Tuesday, March 6-7
On Monday, March 6 we began our second week of all-day floor action. I arrived on campus at 8:00 A.M. to check my emails and return phone calls before we officially convened on the floor of the House. We spent all of Monday and Tuesday debating and voting on bills that had been passed out of committee.
By the time bills make it to the floor of the House, they're more difficult to amend. Most of the work on a bill can and should be done in committee.
When we spend long hours on the House floor, I'll step away from my desk briefly to meet with constituents who traveled to Olympia. It was during this time that I had the chance to meet with a group of retired teachers and discuss the importance of funding teacher retirement. These conversations are invaluable.
Rep. Mike Steele works on the House floor with Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser
On Monday and Tuesday we stayed on the floor well into the evening hours, taking only short breaks for lunch and dinner. A deadline called “cutoff” loomed over our heads. We're only given until Wednesday, March 8th at 5:00 P.M. to pass bills that originated in the House off the floor, otherwise they're considered dead for the session.
Wednesday, March 8
Wednesday, March 8 was cutoff. We worked throughout the day to debate and vote on as many bills as possibly by 5:00 P.M. The only bills which aren't subject to the 5:00 P.M. deadline are bills which are considered “N.T.I.B.” or “necessary to implement the budget.”
Thursday, March 9
On Thursday, we returned to our normal schedules of committee hearings and regular meetings. This is the schedule I prefer, as I believe the real policy work to fix the most difficult challenges facing our state is done primarily in committee meetings. This is when Representatives can dig into the weeds of a topic and work to forge true, bipartisan solutions.
We also have the opportunity to hear public testimony during committee meetings — both from individuals who may be impacted by a proposed piece of legislation, as well as from industry experts in whichever field we're discussing.
While operating under our normal committee schedules, I also have more opportunities to meet directly with constituents. I have appreciated the diligence of the Mayor, Council and staff of the city of Brewster as they continue to visit Olympia and we work together to solve the issues that face their water supply.
Friday, March 10
Typically on Fridays I would spend the day taking meetings with constituents and other groups visiting the capitol. This Friday was unique, however. I jumped in my car and spent the day driving back to Wenatchee for a town hall meeting.
A true showcase of democracy, I believe town hall meetings are a vital tool to help me better serve you. I'm happy to have participated in an event like this. We spent more than an hour discussing education funding, teacher salaries, and the best way to give equal opportunities to the kids of Washington state.
After a weekend home in Chelan, I was recharged and ready to continue advocating on your behalf in Olympia on the issues that matter the most.
Highlights of Bills
Rep. Mike Steele gives remarks on a bill on the House floor
With the long hours of floor session, I had the privilege of amending, strengthening, and supporting some particularly meaningful legislation. Below are a few highlights I'd like to share with you.
House Bills 1717 and 1493 – Biometric Identifiers
I'm proud to have supported both of these bills, which are design to protect your most important personal identifying information. If signed into law, they would prohibit private companies and state agencies from enrolling a biometric identifier of an individual in a database to create identification of the individual, or changing the use of an enrolled biometric identifier, without first providing clear and conspicuous notice and obtaining the individual's consent.
House Bill 1369 – Expanding the definition of veteran
Veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice for our everyday freedoms, and they deserve every benefit we can offer them. That's why I voted in favor of a bill that would expand the definition of veteran to include members of the military who have received a form DD-214, NGB-22, or equivalent or successor paperwork which classify their service as honorable.
House Bill 1508 – Breakfast after the Bell
This is a bill I'm proud to have worked on closely with the Democrat sponsor to amend and find bi-partisan agreements. This bill provides breakfast for kids in public schools during their first class of the day. The success of this program has been tested and proven in other states, offering substantial benefits to especially vulnerable children and those that may have to travel far distances to school in rural areas. I offered amendments which would partner local agriculture distributors with schools to provide especially nutritious options, as well as amendments which would make the cost free for the most vulnerable and minimal for those than can afford minimal cost.
With session more than half over, it's important I hear from you. We'll have many critical bills from the Senate coming in front of us over the next four weeks. We'll also be faced with the tough decisions of how to best balance our state budget as well as fund education.
I hope you contact my office so we can discuss what matters most to you. Please call me at (360)786-7832, or email me at Mike.Steele@leg.wa.gov