Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This Wednesday will mark the halfway point of the scheduled 105-day session in Olympia. Last week, we reached our first major deadlines of the session. By last Friday, all bills must have been passed out of their respective committees (except for legislation necessary to implement the budget). Those measures not reported out of their committees are considered “dead” for the session.
For a list of “Dead and Alive bills,” click here.
Hundreds of bills made it through the committee process. That means our focus now shifts from committee work to floor sessions, where all 98 House members have an opportunity to amend, accept or reject the proposals that have cleared the committees. We have until March 7 to pass bills from the House, so that means we will likely be working late nights and maybe even this weekend to advance those measures.
The quarterly revenue forecast for the state will be released March 17. Once budget writers receive the new figures, they will begin working to craft a spending plan to pay for the operations of the state from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013. Preliminary indications are that the state will be facing a shortfall close to $6 billion.
In the meantime, we must still deal with a remaining $240 million shortfall in the current fiscal year's budget, which ends June 30.
In the budget, I am fighting on your behalf to protect education, public safety and our state's most vulnerable citizens.
I invite you to read more about these issues below.
As always, I encourage you to keep informed and involved. You'll find more information on my Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Johnson.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
JOHNSON VOTES AGAINST EDUCATION CUTS
As a former educator and school administrator, I know how important it is to the learning structure to keep our class sizes to a manageable level. When the Legislature approved the 2009-11 budget nearly two years ago, they provided funding to reduce kindergarten through 4th grade class sizes. Schools across our state hired the teachers necessary to carry out this goal. Unfortunately, they are now going to have to find ways to make up for that money spent. And that's why I voted against a supplemental operating budget on Feb. 18.
The measure brought before us attempts to address little more than half of the $600 million shortfall for the current fiscal year. In doing so, it cuts that kindergarten through 4th grade funding. Not only does it make the cuts, it does so retroactively, going back to September. The legislation pulls the rug right out from under our schools that were promised this funding. That's wrong!
I supported an alternative proposal that would have protected this money for our schools while eliminating funding for failing and costly social programs. Unfortunately, that proposal was rejected.
Education is our state's paramount duty and it remains a top priority for me in the budget. That's why I voted against House Bill 1086, which was later signed into law by the governor.
BILL TO EXPAND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL MEDICAL STUDENTS PASSES HOUSE
Although many bills died last week in their respective committees, I was very pleased that the chair of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, Rep. Eileen Cody, helped move legislation forward that I authored, which will expand training opportunities for medical students at Pacific Northwest Health Sciences University in Yakima.
As a part of their education, medical students must work for certain periods in rotation with hospitals and/or with doctors to gain firsthand knowledge of the practice of medicine. These working periods are known as “clinical rotations.”
House Bill 1183 would prohibit entities that receive state funds from entering into agreements with hospitals or physicians that would prevent medical students from participating in clinical rotations.
We are having a loss of doctors through retirements. This bill would speed up the rotations for medical students to complete their third and fourth years so they can become doctors and begin serving many of the underserved areas of the state.
The measure passed the House last Tuesday with a vote of 94-0. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.