The scheduled 60-day session came to an end on March 8 and on time for the first time in four years. I'd like to take a few moments to highlight some of the accomplishments of the 2018 session.
Within the first two weeks of the session, which began Jan. 8, we successfully negotiated a solution to the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision and passed both the fix and a capital budget.
As you may recall, Hirst stopped economic development in many parts of rural Washington and had the potential to cause a huge tax shift to those who own properties with access to water.
The Hirst fix, Senate Bill 6091, grandfathers in existing wells and removes the mandate the state Supreme Court imposed on counties to find legal, available water. This is a big win for property rights in Washington state.
Bringing home capital construction projects
As a member of the House Capital Budget Committee, I was pleased we were able to secure nearly $44 million in both the capital budget and the supplemental capital budget for a number of important projects in the 12th District, including:
- $4.8 million for Wenatchee's Miller Street realignment and storm drain repairs.
- $2.8 million for Wells Hall replacement at Wenatchee Valley College.
- $1.6 million for the Wenatchee-Chiwawa Irrigation District.
- $1 million for the Chelan County Emergency Operations Center.
- $753,000 for the Columbia Valley Community Health Clinic in Chelan.
- $556,000 for the Chelan County Waste Facility.
- $400,000 for acquisition of the Castle Rock/Saddle Rock area for trails near Wenatchee.
- $350,000 for the Wenatchee water resource inventory area (related to Hirst).
- $80,000 for replacement of the Lake Chelan State Park moorage dock pilings.
Supplemental transportation budget provides funding for projects to keep 12th District moving
The 12th District will receive about $23 million in additional funding from the 2017-19 supplemental transportation budget for many local projects. Here are some of the most noteworthy:
- $4.3 million for realignment of the intersection between State Route 150 and No-See-Um Road.
- $2.1 million for State Route 28 and State Route 285 in the Wenatchee area.
- $2 million for replacement of Goodwin Bridge in Cashmere.
- $400,000 for improvements to the Wenatchee Confluence Parkway.
- $280,000 for improvements to the Woodin Avenue Bridge in Chelan.
Other wins. . . No new taxes!
In February, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council gave its quarterly report and the news is positive. Washington state is expected to bring in an additional $1.3 billion over the next four years — and that's without tax increases.
The news really took the wind out of the sails of those proposing tax increases during the 2018 session. Gov. Jay Inslee had advocated for a $3.3 billion carbon/energy tax, which would have increased prices of electricity, natural gas and gasoline. Democrats passed a capital gains income tax from the House Finance Committee, despite the fact that Washington voters have rejected an income tax 10 times! Yet, the state's revenue surplus made it difficult for proponents to convince anyone that tax increases are needed. Simply put, they are not! We successfully defeated both proposals.
Steele bill to ensure accessibility for trained service animals will become law
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, you could face a $500 fine if you misrepresent your pet as a service animal. Gov. Inslee signed my bill on Wednesday that protects access for trained service animals that help individuals with disabilities, while cracking down on fakes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act National Network says “A service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals.”
Every time a person fakes a service animal, it puts the real service animals in jeopardy, and it risks harm to others.
House Bill 2822 makes it a civil infraction, with a $500 fine, for people trying to falsely pass their pets off as service animals.
It's not right to park in a disabled parking spot if you don't have a disability. It's not acceptable to pretend to be blind to get a reduced bus fare. And it's wrong to take advantage of service animal rules so you can have the same privileges as disabled people who need assistance from legitimate service animals. I'm glad we were able to get this bill through the Legislature and signed by the governor so that we protect legitimate access and work to curb abuses.
District office opens April 2 in Chelan
Now that session is behind us, I will be re-opening my 12th District office in Chelan on Monday, April 2. My legislative assistant, Wanda Brosey, will be glad to help you. We are located at 216 E. Woodin Ave., Suite 3 in Chelan. The phone number is (509) 888-4846.
The office will be open Mondays through Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The office is closed on Fridays. I invite you to drop in to visit. You may also reach my office through email. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you.