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Senate Majority Coalition Caucus elects 2017 senior leadership

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus today elected senior leaders for the caucus and the Washington state Senate.

The MCC filled its top leadership spots with senior senators. Leadership positions carry a 2-year term and new leaders begin their duties immediately.

“We’re anxious to start the 2017 legislative session. We have some big issues to tackle, and our leadership is committed to guiding the Senate and our caucus as we protect Washington’s future,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

“Sen. Fain has been spectacular as Floor Leader and I’m excited to have Sen. Becker and Sen. Bailey join leadership as well. They are both dynamic Senators who are enormously dedicated,” continued Schoesler.

Deputy leadership positions and committee chair positions will be decided in December.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schoesler: Governor’s highway changes nowhere near enough

Senate leader says proposed changes to I-405 are ‘a small fix for a huge problem’

OLYMPIA…Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released the following statement in response to today’s announcement by Gov. Jay Inslee regarding changes to traffic management on Interstate 405.

The unpopular imposition of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on I-405 was one of the many management failures cited recently when the Senate majority decided against confirming former state transportation secretary Lynn Peterson’s appointment. Inslee’s announcement came barely a week after he publicly attacked Schoesler and other senators over Peterson’s dismissal while denying any state Department of Transportation highway projects are failures.

“We’re glad the governor has finally acknowledged that the I-405 HOT lanes are an issue and that he’s choosing to adopt, in his proposal, some of the reforms that had already been suggested by Senator Hill. However, it’s important to note that he has not consulted with the Senate majority about his plan. He is ultimately responsible for its effect on the I-405 corridor. We hope he will work with us in the future so Washington commuters and employers can finally enjoy comprehensive, permanent, and meaningful congestion relief.

“These changes are a small fix for a huge problem and are nowhere near enough to solve the real issues of poor management at the Department of Transportation. We’re hoping those are also on the governor’s to-do list.”

Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond had introduced a set of I-405 reforms in mid-December, in Senate Bill 6152. Sen. Hill is a member of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.

Schoesler calls for May 15 finish to special session

OLYMPIA…Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler today repeated the call to lawmakers in Olympia to end their special session by May 15. Washington lawmakers are scheduled to begin an overtime session Wednesday, but it could run 30 days – or even longer.

Schoesler added that lawmakers should see a mid-May deadline for school districts to plan their budgets as reason to finish by May 15.

“Now that Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to continue budget negotiations, lawmakers need to be responsive to a critical May 15 deadline for the state’s school districts,” Schoesler said.

“Delay is bad enough. School districts face a budget-planning deadline of May 15, and without a specific appropriation, they must send out pink slips to teachers and other employees. They also can’t start hiring the new teachers both chambers have agreed to fund. We are dramatically increasing education funding this year, and these delays put schools, teachers and important programs in limbo.”

Schoesler observed that members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus are on the job Monday in Olympia even though the Legislature is not in session. “Our committee chairs are planning work sessions and committee hearings to keep momentum going with the goal of finishing budget negotiations before the May 15 deadline,” Schoesler said.

Under the constitution, special sessions can last as long as 30 days. But if they fail to finish their work in the allotted time, they could be forced to remain longer. If lawmakers fail to pass a budget by July 1, inaction will force a shutdown of state government.

Schoesler noted that the Senate has passed all the bills necessary to implement a new state operating budget. The Senate proposal does not raise taxes. The House, under control of the House Democratic Caucus, has proposed a budget that would require a $1.5 billion tax increase. But the House has balked at passing a bill to raise taxes, leaving their proposal unbalanced and making it impossible for budget negotiators for both sides to begin talks from an even position.

The situation has been complicated by Gov. Inslee’s declaration that he will not sign a budget that does not contain a major tax increase. “Governor Inslee has given the Legislature an ultimatum to pass the largest tax increase in state history or we don’t get a budget deal,” said Schoesler, “This threat of a D.C.-style government shutdown doesn’t belong in this Washington.”

Majority Leader: ‘Troy Kelley has damaged public trust – time to resign’

OLYMPIA… Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released this statement in reaction to the federal indictment of state Auditor Troy Kelley.

“The damage has been done and it’s time for Troy Kelley to resign immediately. There is nothing he can do to restore public trust given his evasion and silence on these serious allegations. We have grave concerns the office of the auditor can be effective as the state’s top watchdog with Troy Kelley as its leader. Once public trust is damaged, it is very difficult to restore. The people of Washington expect the highest standards of transparency from the auditor’s office and those standards have not been met.”

Former MCC Majority Leader Tom honored

Tom portrain Schoesler

Today the Majority Coalition Caucus unveiled the official Majority Leader portrait in a ceremony to honor the leadership of former Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue.

Current MCC Majority Leader Mark Schoesler had this to say:

“It seems like just yesterday Senator Tom and I put aside our past differences to bring the Majority Coalition Caucus together to successfully focus on jobs, education and sustainable budgets. Today we honored him for his service and wish him the best.”

Senate continues to offer better solutions and ideas to move Washington forward

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, on the cutoff for Senate committees to vote out policy bills: “We continue to offer better solutions and ideas to move Washington forward. The cutoff for policy bills shows that we’re serious about job growth, funding education as a first priority, and making sure the state lives within its means. We’re making great progress on transportation reforms, student achievement and helping families realize the dream of college for their children. “We’ve already changed the way things get done in Olympia by moving the state’s revenue forecast up a month earlier and requiring a 4-year balanced budget to add greater accountability for how your tax dollars are spent. The announcement that projected revenue has increased $274 million for the next budget cycle is cause for optimism. It’s a plus for our fragile economy and quiets the drumbeat of those who say we must raise taxes on hard working families to feed bigger bureaucracies.” What’s alive in the Senate? Below are key bills by committee. This represents the first time in over a decade we have the opportunity to pass serious job creation, transportation reforms and government accountability measures. The fiscal cutoff is Friday, Feb. 27 for bills with budget impacts and in Transportation and Ways& Means. Accountability and Reform:

  • SB 5737 (Miloscia)
    • Miloscia’s omnibus Performance Management Act. It sets up a new executive office with oversight of agency Lean management plans and efforts to implement Baldrige quality assessments. It also directs how cost savings from properly implemented performance management should be allocated.
  • SB 5206 (Becker)
    • Agencies found to be out of compliance after financial or legal audits must submit remediation plans. If follow-up reveals they have not complied with remediation, they must bid the agency function out for contract.

Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development:

  • 5129 (Pearson)
  • Concerning overriding considerations of the public interest in management of the waters of the state
  • 5442 (Warnick)
    • Concerning eligibility criteria for the community economic revitalization board programs
  • 5733 (Warnick)
    • Concerning livestock transaction reporting

Commerce and Labor:

  • SB 5515 (Braun)
    • Excluding retirement as a collective bargaining negotiating issue for home care individual providers. Gov. Inslee has negotiated retirement for individual providers for the first time among “partial public” employees.
  • SB 5671 (Baumgartner)
    • “Harris v. Quinn fix” – Brings state statutes governing “partial public employees” into conformity with the U.S. Supreme Court case. Requires the state to deduct union dues only when these workers have voluntarily given their written consent.  Helps shield the state from liability.
  • SB 5509 (Braun)
    • “Workers Compensation Occupational Disease” – Requires that an occupational disease arise out of and in the course of employment. Statute of limitations is also changed from two years to one year (except for hearing loss which remains two years)
  • SB 5332 (Braun)
    • “Union Waivers” – Applies local ordinances equally to union and non-union firms. The majority of unions with workers in Seattle waive sick and safe leave requirements.  Yet, they are major financial backers of such policies.
  • SB 5514 (Braun)
    • “Good Faith Defense” – Creating a good faith defense for employers within the Minimum Wage Act. Employers are not liable and cannot be assessed a penalty for wage/overtime violations if they can establish they relied in good faith on L&I’s written guidance.
  • SSB 5329
    • “Open Meetings” – Requiring public employee collective bargaining sessions to be open meetings to the public.
  • SB 5510 (Braun)
    • “Workers Compensation Wage Simplification” – Changes time-loss from a sliding scale to flat rate w/monthly minimum and clarifies that time-loss payments are calculated using the 66.67% formula of wages earned over the past 12 months.
  • SB 5513 (Braun)
    • “Worker Recovery Act” – Removes age restrictions for eligibility to voluntarily enter into a structured settlement and puts into statute that “best interest of the worker” is not a requirement for represented workers (i.e. Zimmerman fix)

Early Learning & K-12 Education:

  • SSB 5452 (Litzow)
    • Improving quality in the early care and education system. Creates a high quality early learning system.
  • SSB 5744 (Litzow)
    • Regarding school employee workforce reductions and assignments. Ends forced placements by requiring a teacher and a principal to agree before a teacher is assigned to work in a specific school. Creates a performance-based framework governing reductions in force (RIF) due to declines in enrollment or revenue losses.
  • SSB 5748 (Litzow)
    • Clarifying the teacher and principal evaluation process with the intent of strengthening process(Waiver bill.)For teachers who teach reading, language arts, or mathematics in a grade in which the federally mandated statewide student assessments are administered, student results from the relevant statewide assessment must be used as one of the multiple measures of student growth in teacher performance evaluations.

Energy Environment and Telecommunications:

  • SB 5056 (Ericksen)
    • Concerning the use of chemical action plans
  • SB 5057 ( Ericksen)
    • Concerning the safe transport of hazardous materials – oil train safety
  • SB 5735 (Ericksen)
    • Providing incentives for carbon reduction investments (New Energy Plan)

Financial Institutions and Insurance:

  • SB 5974 (Benton)
    • Requires the Insurance commissioner to review the barriers to offering supplemental coverage options to veterans and their dependents.
  • SB 5899 (Liias)
    • Establishes the small consumer installment loan act. Addresses check cashers and sellers and small consumer installment loans.

Government Operations & State Security:

  • SB 5181 (Pearson)
    • Authorizes mobilization & reimbursement of fire department resources to respond to wildfires, landslides, earthquakes floods, and other disasters (that this was not passed previously became a topic after Oso)
  • SB 5777 (Becker)
    • Amends the State Employee Whistleblower Protection Act to include improper ex parte communication and other changes (related to this summer’s OIC judge investigation)
  • SB 5978 (Roach)
    • Sets the Presidential Primary as the 2nd Tuesday in March and sets procedures for the Secretary of State’s proposal.

Health Care:

  • SB 5052 (Rivers), passed out of Senate 36 to 11, Feb. 13
    • Creates the Cannabis Patient Protection Act.

 

  • SB 5175 (Becker)
    • Recognizes the application of telemedicine as a reimbursable service by which an individual receives medical services from a health care provider without in-person contact with the provider. Reduces the compliance requirements on hospitals when granting privileges or associations to telemedicine physicians.
  • SB 5142 (Becker)
    • Prohibits, except for the small business health options program, the state health benefit exchange from aggregating or delegating the aggregation of funds that comprise the premium for an enrollee. Requires the state health benefit exchange to: (1) Capture detailed enrollment and demographic data for enrollment processed for qualified health plans and Medicaid plans and post monthly enrollment reports to the web page; (2) Ensure the qualified health plans report data back to the exchange on enrollees that may enter a grace period; and (3) Jointly with the office of the insurance commissioner and the state health care authority, monitor the process of moving the payment function out of the exchange.
  • SB 5084 (Becker)
    • Modifies statewide all-payer health care claims database provisions relating to improving health care quality and cost transparency by changing certain definitions regarding data, reporting and pricing of products, responsibility of the office and lead organization, and parameters for release of information.
  • SB 5477 (Dammeier)
    • Requires child-resistant packaging for substances intended for use in a vapor product that is sold at retail in this state.

Higher Education:

  • SB 5954 (Braun)
    • Reduces tuition at public higher ed. Institutions based on average state wage (14% premiere university ;10% regional university ;6% community colleges)
  • SB 5487 (Baumgartner)
    • Authorizes Medical & Forestry programs at Washington State University
  • SB 5349  (Bailey)
    • Requires Higher Ed institutions to provide student with financial literacy seminars

Human Services, Mental Health & Housing:

  • SB 5269 (O’Ban)
    • Allows a family member to petition the court for review when a designated mental health professional (DMHP) declines to detain a mentally ill person for evaluation and treatment.
  • SB 5404 (O’Ban)
    • Creates an office of homeless youth programs with the goals of providing stable housing, education and employment opportunities, permanent connections, and social and emotional well-being for homeless youths.
  • SB 5564 (O’Ban)
    • Amends the Youth Opportunities Act to better address low-income youth.  Refocuses on efforts to compensate victims by eliminating most non-restitution legal financial obligations (LFOs), giving judges discretion to consider the youth’s ability to pay when ordering restitution, allowing judges to order community service in lieu of paying restitution, and affording youth the opportunity to get their record sealed after completing their restitution payments or community service.
  • SB 5644 (O’Ban)
    • Requires the DMHP to temporarily detain an individual in boarding status if an appropriate treatment bed cannot be found in time.  Also modifies hour time limits for DMHP to complete ITA evaluation, clarifies that regional support networks are responsible for providing adequate networks of evaluation and treatment beds, grants DSHS statutory authority to issue single bed certifications in certain circumstances, and disallows court from dismissing ITA petition on technical violations (i.e. when time limit has expired).

  Law& Justice:

  • SB 5067 (Padden)
    • Addresses the unreliability of accomplice and criminal informant evidence and testimony to ensure that the jury is fully informed when an accomplice or informant testifies.
  • SB 5106 (O’Ban)
    • Creates a civil cause of action for the remote unauthorized access of webcams and provides remedies that more fully compensate victims.
  • 6019 (Padden)
    • Concerning greater independence of state Administrative Law Judges. Removes reviews of rulings from agency heads and removes adverse rulings as part of employee evaluations. Any challenge to a ruling will be taken to county superior court.
  • 5503 (Padden)
    • Increases the sanctions for habitual property offenders to provide more effective deterrents to recidivism. Enhances the courts’ discretion to more appropriately sentence habitual property offenders with significant histories of burglary and theft
  • 5766 (Roach)
    • Changes the duties of monitoring agencies that provide home detention programs using electronic monitoring.
  • 8205 (Padden)
    • Proposes an amendment to the state Constitution so that justices of the Supreme Court are elected by qualified electors of a Supreme Court judicial district.

Natural Resources and Parks:

  • SB 5405 (Pearson)
    • Establishes a legislative task force to study the risks, options, and benefits of transferring federal lands in Washington to the state.  Contains requirements for the selection of the task force and reporting to the legislature.
  • SB 5769 (Schoesler)
    • Allows a county weed control board to place a lien on lands owned by the state to cover the costs of controlling noxious weeds on state land.
  • SB 5960 (Dansel)
    • Requires WDFW to update the 2011 wolf conservation and management plan to ensure the establishment of a self-sustaining population of gray wolves while also ensuring social tolerance of wolf recovery.

Trade& Economic Development

  • SB 5111 (Brown)
    • CPR Act – Community Prosperity & Revitalization. Provides a mechanism for local governments and state and federal agencies to perform a coordinated and comprehensive review of projects of statewide significance and encourages their expeditious completion.
  • SB 5756 (Braun)
    • Provides a preferential business and occupation tax rate, business and occupation tax credit, and sales and use tax deferral for the manufacturing of rotorcraft, including the components used in the manufacturing process.
  • SB 5923 (Brown)
    • Addresses the increase of single-family residential construction. Requires the department of commerce to study and develop a report on the payment and collection of impact fees from school districts, county governments, and city governments associated with single-family residential construction building permits. Requires counties, cities, and towns collecting impact fees to adopt a permanent system for the collection of impact fees from applicant’s residential building permits.

  Transportation:

  • Eight Reform Bills:
  •  SB 5990 (King)
    • Requires that sales and use tax on transportation projects be transferred to the Connecting Washington Account (within the Motor Vehicle Fund). Becomes effective on only new-law revenue projects upon becoming a law. Becomes fully effective on all other transportation projects starting with the 2019-2021 biennium.
    • SB 5991(King)
      • Designates 20% starting in the 2015-2017 biennium from the ELSA account for WSDOT storm water legacy projects and culvert projects.
    • SB 5992 (King)
      • Requires WSF to use a design-build, fixed price contract. Design and Coastguard approval must be complete before construction begins. WSF must hire an Independent Owners Representative to manage ferry contract(s). Initial bids will have a Build in WA requirement, but if they are all above 5% of the engineer’s estimate, the contract will be rebid and out-of-state companies may bid. The project budget may not contain more than 5% of the fixed price contract as contingency.
    •  SB 5993 (King)HELD UP IN COMMITTEE
      • Changes WSDOT apprenticeship requirements from 15% to 13%, and makes the apprenticeship provision apply only to projects costing $3 million or more. Percentage decrease in apprenticeship requirements sunsets in ten years (2015-2025). Makes prevailing wage surveys able to be submitted electronically. Excludes the payment of prevailing wages to off-site workers involved in the manufacture or fabrication of nonstandard items used or incorporated into the project on new law transportation projects. Restore funding for helmets to hardhats program.
    • SB 5994 (King)
      • Limits the use of a local hearing officer to only those appeals of critical area permits where WSDOT consents – otherwise, appeal goes to the superior court. Declares that WSDOT is not required to obtain various local zoning permits for construction staging areas related to the construction of state highways. Provides that only WSDOT or another permittee may appeal building permits issued by cities, towns, or counties for temporary buildings supporting highway construction. “To the greatest extent practicable” permits must be issued to WSDOT within 90 days of filing the permit application. Exempts highway maintenance and certain minor highway improvements from the Shorelines Management Act. Exempts projects from the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) if they are categorically excluded under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
    • SB 5995 (King)
      • Adds “congestion relief and improved freight mobility” to the existing Mobility Goal.
    • SB 5996 (King)
      • Addressing the permitting of certain transportation projects (ESHB 1978). Creates a seven-step required permitting process for all transportation projects. undertaken by WSDOT that require the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act. Requires the Dept. of Ecology to undertake rule-making and convene a work group regarding local permitting of transportation projects under the Shoreline Management Act. Directs WSDOT to continue using the multiagency permit program and places various requirements upon the staff and the program. Requires WSDOT environmental staff to develop all environmental documentation and oversee project work in order to ensure compliance. Removed sections 10 and 13 in previous version to eliminate expert review panel for 520 and AWV project and right-sizing provisions.
    • SB 5997 (King)
      • Encourages WSDOT to use Design Build on projects over $10 million. Creates Expert Review Panel to include two outside experts, WSDOT, AGC, and ACEC to make recommendations for improvement of Design Build Project delivery.
  • SB 5481 (Hill) Addresses numerous customer complaints about state tolling system
  • Transportation Revenue:
    • SB 5987 (King)
      • Concerning transportation revenue.
    • SB 5988 (King)
      • Concerning additive transportation funding and appropriation
    • SB 5989 (King)
      • Authorize bonds for transportation funding.

Ways& Means

  • SB 5944 (Hill) SMART Act Requires an expiration date for new statutory state spending of no more than ten years. Requires new state spending program to include a state spending performance statement.
  • HB 1105 (Hunter) Supplemental Budget, signed by governor Feb. 19, 2015
    • Supplemental changes are made to the 2013-15 Biennial Operating Budget relating to funding for fires and disasters, children and family services, mental health services, and the judgment against the state in Rekhter v. Washington Department of Social and Health Services. State Near General Fund plus Opportunity Pathways appropriations for the 2013-15 biennium are increased by $66.2 million. In addition, $77.2 million is appropriated from the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) for fires and other disasters, including mobilization, response, and recovery. The total budget is increased by $217.9 million. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council must produce a revenue forecast in February 2015 instead of March 2015.
  • SB 5910 (Hill) – in the Supplemental Budget
    • Requires the economic and revenue forecast supervisor to submit a quarterly revenue forecast by February 20th during a short session and a long session. First early forecast completed.

 

Sheldon joins Senate Rules Committee as membership is finalized

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, will return to the Senate Rules Committee as part of a deal that finalizes the membership of the quiet-but-powerful panel.

Membership of the committee will expand by three, two positions going to Democrats, Sheldon and Andy Billig of Spokane. Also joining the committee is state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. Total membership of the rules committee will grow from 18 to 21 members.

The necessary rule change and appointments were ratified by a voice vote on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

Sheldon had served on the Rules Committee for the last two years, but he lost his seat when he was defeated for re-election as Senate president pro tempore on the opening day of the 2015 legislative session. The Senate rules give the president pro tem an automatic position on the committee.

“I was proud to serve as president pro tem, and I am very happy to be returning to the Senate Rules Committee,” Sheldon said. “It’s the most powerful committee you’ve never heard of. Its meetings are held in public, but it doesn’t meet according to a regular schedule and it doesn’t take testimony. Yet every bill that passes the Senate passes through the Rules Committee.”

Bills passed by Senate committees are funneled through the Rules Committee, whose members decide which measures advance to the Senate floor.

Sheldon is one of two Democrats who joined with Senate Republicans to create the Majority Coalition Caucus in 2012. “There are two ways you can look at it,” he said. “I am a Democrat, and we are adding two Democrats to the committee. But we’re also adding two members of the majority caucus and one member of the minority caucus, so we maintain our numerical advantage.”

Under the new arrangement, the committee has 13 members of the Majority Coalition Caucus, including Sheldon. There are seven members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the committee is chaired by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat.