Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 legislative session is underway, and I am back in Olympia ready to serve you. Considered a “supplemental budget year,” the 2016 session is scheduled for only 60 days.
Washington is one of the fastest growing states in the nation for increased education spending. The 2015-17 budget approved last year is strongly supported by both sides of the aisle. This budget includes an additional $2.9 billion for K-12 education, and decreases class sizes in grades K-3, expands full-day kindergarten, and increases teacher salaries.
A plan for McCleary
During the 2016 session much of the attention will continue to be on education and what the Legislature is doing to address the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling. Members of the bipartisan McCleary Working Group convened last year. They have introduced legislation, House Bill 2366 and Senate Bill 6195, that outlines the next steps for addressing K-12 funding reforms.
The Legislature has been steadily increasing basic education funding over the past three years and is preparing to take on some of the most difficult aspects of funding reforms relating to local levies and compensation for educators.
A levy swap is a means of allocating new state funding toward K-12 basic education obligations by lowering local maintenance and operating levies while simultaneously increasing state revenues. The idea is to shift the source of the dollars from the local school districts to the state. While it is premature to know the exact impact to the 44th District, generally speaking the majority of our school districts will get additional revenue.
Fixing the Express Toll lanes on Interstate 405
In order to address issues raised by many constituents in my district regarding the new Express Toll Lanes on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood, I have sponsored House Bill 2312. Changes need to be made to improve toll lane policies and reduce congestion. Drivers simply are not getting the service or congestion relief that they were originally promised.
The proposal moves away from designated entry and exit points, instead allowing continuous access except in specific locations where vehicles should not cross for safety reasons. With thousands of complaints coming in from area residents effected by the new tolling system, this proposal has strong bipartisan support.
This session I will continue to work across the aisle to refine House Bill 1094. This proposal would restrict the collection and tracking, for commercial purposes, of so-called “biometric identifiers” – through fingerprint and eye scans, facial identification, or voice analysis. Data privacy protection is important to all of us. The collection of this data would be restricted unless a person is first informed or gives consent. The same goes for the sale of such information. We need to make the biometric identifier rules clear — ownership needs to remain in the hands of the consumers.
As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns and ideas. My Olympia office is open – if you'd like to make an appointment with me or my legislative aide, Cami, just send us an email at Mark.Harmsworth@leg.wa.gov or give us a call at (360) 786-7892.