Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In just under one week, the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn the 2018 legislative session. A common theme I have expressed to you this session is the power of constituency.
First and foremost, my job as your representative is to be your voice in Olympia, to stand up for issues that matter to you, your concerns, and the things that have the most impact on our daily lives.
Two major events took place under the dome this week where my colleagues and I stood up for you.
An unprecedented vote | Senate Bill 6199
An unprecedented vote took place on the House floor Thursday when House Republicans refused to vote on a bill during floor debate. As part of the legislative process, our job is to have discussions and debate on what makes a bill good and why it should be supported, and what makes a bill bad and why it should not move forward.
Senate Bill 6199 was brought to the House floor on Thursday afternoon. We knew the debate would be passionate as both sides have very different views on the issue. The debate began as all floor debates do with members from each party standing to express their thoughts.
House Republicans conveyed compassion and raw emotion as we all stood to read emails from you, our constituents, expressing your concerns on this bill. Just about every speech was gaveled down, meaning we were censored, quieted, and not allowed to properly debate the issue.
If we cannot bring your concerns forward as you have elected us to do, then what in the heck are we doing here? We stood for your voice and refused to vote on the bill.
Here is some background information on the issue. Washington state has more than 30,000 individual home care workers. Nearly two-thirds of these home care workers are providing care for a family member, who are most often elderly parents or children with developmental disabilities.
Prior to 2014, home care workers had to join the SEIU 775 union to receive state reimbursements for providing care, pay union dues or an agency fee, and undergo union-mandated training. As a result of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Harris v. Quinn, individual providers cannot be forced to be a union member or pay an agency fee.
Senate Bill 6199 would change that federal court ruling in our state. Under this policy, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) would no longer pay individual provider wages, shifting the cost to be contracted out to a private third-party entity. This would force home care workers to pay up to $1,000 per year to participate in a union, without the option to opt-out. Home care workers are paid $14 per hour and are on a very fixed budget. Forcing them to shell out around $1,000 a year is a huge burden to place upon these caregivers.
Putting the financial interests of one powerful union ahead of the rights of tens of thousands of workers and interests of millions of taxpayers is wrong. Moving to a private employer is a poorly disguised and intentional act to circumvent workers’ constitutional protections and prioritize powerful special interests ahead of the rights of lower-paid workers. This is not a judgment about whether or not home care workers should be in the union. We think the worker should have a choice, which is a right affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
For more information on the opposition of this bill, please read the editorial by The Seattle Times titled: Legislators, don’t cave to in-home care union – reject bill that would increase DSHS costs.
The Legislative Transparency Act | House Bill 2255
Many of you have contacted me regarding Senate Bill 6617 – also known as the Legislative Public Records Act. You expressed your concern on the process, and asked questions as to what exactly this bill does in providing an open government. You can read my statement on this bill by clicking here.
The only thing constant is change. Late Thursday evening, at the request of the majority party, Gov. Inslee vetoed Senate Bill 6617. You can read the House Republican response letter to this veto action, in its entirety, by clicking here.
This veto does not mean the issue of publicly disclosing our records is closed. For the time being, we return to the status quo under current Public Records law.
We heard the public concern on the process of Senate Bill 6617. We recognize that the process was too quick. It did not allow the public and key stakeholders to rightfully provide input into the merit of the bill. By moving the bill so swiftly through the Legislature, it created the impression we were trying to hide and conceal our records, rather than provide openness and transparency. This was not the intention of our actions, but we understand that is how it was perceived. The veto was a call to action to do the right thing. We believe the right to this wrong is through House Bill 2255.
On December 5, 2017, Republicans introduced House Bill 2255 – the Legislative Transparency Act. This bill would apply the state Public Records Act to the Legislature, while maintaining that each of the 147 lawmakers are not their own state agency. It also preserves constituency privacy.
The majority party refused to give this bill a hearing in the House State Government, Elections and Information Technology Committee at the beginning of session. House Republicans are now urging Speaker Frank Chopp to move forward with a full public hearing and advance this bill completely through the legislative process.
I will keep you posted as this issue continues to evolve.
It’s an honor to serve you!