Opinion editorial by Rep. Brad Hawkins: 2014 legislative session delivers many successes
It is good to be home in our beautiful 12th District after spending the last 60 days at our state Capitol during the legislative session. Many of those days in Olympia were rainy, by the way. The best part about returning home is both the sunshine and the opportunity to visit with the people I am honored to represent. During my discussions with folks back home, the most frequent question that comes up is, “How did everything go over there in Olympia?”
I'm pleased to report that lawmakers worked together and achieved many successes in a very short amount of time. Here are some examples and highlights:
Bipartisan Budget Success
For the second year in a row, state legislators successfully came together to pass a bipartisan budget (without raising taxes) that was widely supported in both the House and the Senate. The 2014 supplemental operating budget was approved in the House by a vote of 85-13, and in the Senate, 48-1. We didn't have a budget deficit this year or much additional revenue to invest, but we accomplished our work together and on time. This we can all be proud of.
Individual Legislative Success
In my first term, I quickly learned the importance of working with legislators from both parties – and working hard for my legislation. As a result, three of my bills have successfully cleared the House and Senate. One was signed into law last year during my first session. The other two bills were sent to the governor toward the end of this session.
The two for this year include:
- House Bill 2105 is a government transparency measure. It makes a modest change to the state's Open Public Meetings Act to require public agencies to post their meeting agendas online at least 24 hours in advance. Interestingly, the Open Public Meetings Act was first enacted in 1971 and requires public agencies to issue notice of their meetings (such as the date, time, and location), but does not speak to posting meeting agendas. My bill is an effort to modernize the law to reflect our current online society. This measure has been delivered to the governor and he is expected to sign it soon.
- House Bill 2106 is related to primary ballots and partisan county offices. This bill will relieve counties of the burden of running primary elections for county partisan offices when only one person files to fill an unexpired term. I introduced it in response to the Chelan County election last August in which a countywide election was required, even though only one person's name appeared on the entire primary ballot. The governor has signed this measure into law.
Education Funding Success
The supplemental operating budget we passed this year makes $155 million of new investments, with about two-thirds of the new dollars directed to education. It provides approximately $64 million more to K-12 education, $35 million more to higher education, and $56 million more to protect our most vulnerable citizens. The budget also continues a freeze on college and university tuition increases for the second straight year! These are remarkable successes for families with kids in school, especially considering our modest, but steady economic recovery.
Taxpayers Protection Success
As a result of slightly more revenue flowing into the state than anticipated, we set aside $315 million in the state's ending-fund balance. Combined with $582 million in the budget stabilization account, we now have nearly $900 million in total reserves (savings). This will protect taxpayers from unanticipated costs/emergencies in the budget.
Although millions of dollars in tax increases were proposed, the Legislature adjourned without raising taxes. Plus, we adjourned on time (the first time in five years) without a special session. These are big wins for taxpayers!
Businesses Stability Success
We not only stopped tax increases against employers, we also successfully halted legislation harmful to job creation, such as Gov. Inslee's minimum wage increase proposal. Although at $9.32 an hour, Washington has the highest state minimum wage in the nation, the governor wanted to raise that to $12 an hour. Our district depends on small businesses already operating under a very thin margin, including many tourism- and service-related businesses. A minimum wage increase, as proposed under House Bill 2672, would have been devastating to North Central Washington employers and would have hurt the ability for young first-time wage earners to get a job. Fortunately, this bill died in a House committee.
Constituent Service Success
I greatly appreciated your phone calls, e-mails and letters throughout the session. I believe the biggest success in our office is delivery of good customer service to my constituents. My legislative assistant and I worked hard to make sure every constituent received a personal response. I also spent as much time as possible with people from back home who visited the state Capitol. Constituents who travel over the mountain passes in the middle of winter obviously place a high priority in coming to the Capitol, so I want to honor them by setting aside the appropriate time to hear their thoughts and ideas.
In fact, your ideas, comments and suggestions are important to me throughout the entire year. Your input is vital to the success of the legislative process and the process of delivering successful results as we have done in this 2014 session. I look forward to delivering many more. Please contact my office in Wenatchee at (509) 662-5733 any time I can be of service to you. Visit my website for more information at www.representativebradhawkins.com.
It's good to be back home again. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, represents the 12th Legislative District. He holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He serves on the House Education, Transportation, and Business and Financial Services committees.
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