Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is Day 72 of the scheduled 105-day legislative session. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide an update and to encourage your involvement as we work toward the final weeks of the session.
State operating budget proposal to be released Friday
On Friday, with only 30 days remaining of the session, House Democrats will release their operating budget proposal. While they've kept details very quiet, it is speculated that the plan could increase government spending by as much as $5 billion.
The current two-year budget which ends June 30 spends more than $34 billion. The state will be bringing in an additional $3 billion without tax increases, which should be sufficient to cover additional K-12 education spending under the state Supreme Court's “McCleary Decision” requirements. If Democrats want to push spending up to $39 billion, it will mean their budget is short by $2 billion. The governor has already been pushing for tax increases. I believe the state should live within its means without asking citizens for more money. We will wait until Friday to see what the Democrats propose.
Four prime-sponsored bills advancing
It's been a very busy time in the Legislature, but also very productive. Four of my bills have passed the House of Representatives and are now in the Senate. Three of them have had hearings in their respective Senate committees. They include:
- House Bill 1010 – Optometrist referral: This is a measure that would allow optometrists to provide referrals of their patients to occupational therapists. Under current law, a patient with low vision who is under the care of an optometrist must get a referral from a physician if they need occupational therapy. That can be difficult, especially in rural areas like the 14th District where people might have to drive for miles to get a referral. This bill would help save the burden of contacting the physician for an appointment just to get a referral to see an occupational therapist. Passed the House unanimously. Awaiting executive action in the Senate Health Care Committee.
- House Bill 1031 – College in the High School: This measure would expand the College in the High School program from 11th and 12th grade into 10th grade and allow students to receive college credit if the classes are successfully completed. This measure was requested by teachers and students at West Valley High School in Yakima where this program is very successful among upper classes. Passed the House 96-1 and awaiting executive action in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Read my press release on the bill.
- House Bill 1998 – PUD natural gas production: This bill would allow public utility districts to produce renewable natural gas and use it for internal operations and for sale. The legislation is a request from the Klickitat County PUD, which operates the landfill gas project in Roosevelt. They have the fourth largest landfill in the United States and they are able to collect methane gas from that landfill. If this bill goes through, the PUD wants to invest about $30 million dollars to build a renewable energy plant that would produce about 30 years of renewable natural gas that can be sold as transportation fuel for cars and trucks – and even for state ferries. Passed the House unanimously. Scheduled for executive action today in the Senate Energy and Environment and Telecommunications Committee.
- House Bill 2055 – Fiscal impacts of ballot measures: This bill would allow supporting and opposing statements to be included in the Voter's Pamphlet, along with a fiscal impact statement prepared by the Office of Financial Management, and a statement from the Attorney General's office explaining the ballot measure. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee. Read my press release for more information on this measure.
Reaching across the aisle
I learned many years ago from the late Sen. Alex Deccio the value of working with legislators from both parties, Republican and Democrat. Thanks to my friend, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, who chairs the House Education Committee, we passed my College in the High School measure, House Bill 1031, from her committee and from the House. This morning, we were guests on KIT Radio in Yakima with Lance Tormey and Brian Teegarten, and we talked about our work together on that bill and other legislation. You can listen to that interview here.
Honoring retired Capitol Theatre CEO Steve Caffery
The Legislature frequently recognizes and honors those who have been leaders in our state. Steve Caffery certainly fits that qualification. Steve has served as the CEO of the Capitol Theatre in Yakima for 28 years. During that time, he has restored the theatre into what I would say is one of the most outstanding old-style theatres in the Pacific Northwest. Steve has also been a key player in the economic and cultural development of downtown Yakima, having served as the president of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau and the vice-president of the Yakima Downtown Association.
Earlier this year, Steve retired from the Capitol Theatre. I sponsored House Resolution 4618 to honor Steve for his years of service. The resolution was adopted in the House. Read my news release on the resolution here.
Steve and his wife, Anne, are good friends. They've really made a difference in our community. We're going to miss them. I wish them the best in their retirement years.
Rep. Johnson sponsors teens for page program
This year, two young women served as my legislative pages. Rosana Bravo is a 15-year-old student at A.C. Davis High School in Yakima. She served, along with my granddaughter, Aaliyah Johnson from Litchfield Park, Arizona.
During the legislative session, young people are chosen to serve for one week in the House Page Program. Page duties are varied. They range from ceremonial tasks, such as presenting the flags, to operational chores like distributing amendments during legislative sessions. Each job is vital to the efficient operation of the Legislature.
Contact my office for more information
As we enter the final weeks of the session, it will be important for me to know where you stand on the issues we will be deciding. Contact my office any time you have questions, comments, suggestions or need more information. My contact information is below. Finally, thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you and the other citizens of the 14th Legislative District.