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Dear Neighbor,

With less than two weeks remaining in the 2024 legislative session, the majority party has scheduled public hearings on three of the six voter-backed initiatives.

Legislative action on these initiatives is a state constitutional mandate. Despite that, the majority waited until the last minute to fulfill half of their constitutional obligation on measures signed by over 800,000 Washingtonians.   

Although only three initiatives received a hearing, I want to know what you think about all six.

If you haven’t already, let me know what you think the Legislature should do with the initiatives by filling out my six question survey.  

Survey Results . . . so far!

Public hearings this week

  1. Initiative 2111 would prohibit state and local personal income taxes in Washington state.
  2. Initiative 2113 would fully restore the ability of law enforcement officers to engage in vehicular pursuit.
  3. Initiative 2081 would establish a parental bill of rights, so that parents would have authority over their child’s school and medical records.

If you do not wish to testify in a committee hearing, you can still submit written testimony on a bill for the archived legislative record.

You can also choose to have your position noted for the public record. The Committee Sign In – Remote Testimony page also allows you to select a chamber, committee, and bill, then indicate you wish to have your position noted for the archived legislative record.

Legislative Democrats are not holding public hearings on three initiatives.

  1. Initiative 2124 would allow people to opt out of the new state-run, long-term-care program.
  2. Initiative 2117 would repeal the Climate Commitment Act, the state’s new carbon tax program.
  3. Initiative 2109 would repeal the state’s new capital gains tax.  

A community up, not Olympia down, capital budget

Last week, the House unveiled its 2024 supplemental capital budget proposal.

The $1.27 billion spending plan invests heavily in K-12 school construction, mental health facilities, housing, and early learning facilities. 

As the ranking member on the House Capital Budget Committee, I was the lead Republican negotiator and budget writer for the proposal.

This community-up, not Olympia-down, budget proposal would make quality investments throughout the state. I say “community-up, not Olympia-down” because these investments came from individuals, organiations, and local governments  They identified local problems and partnered on solutions.

I appreciate all the hard work, from both sides of the aisle, on reaching an agreement that would help educate our kids, improve the delivery of behavioral health services, substance abuse treatment, unsheltered support, and maintain critical infrastructure.

20th District highlights include:

  • $4.9 million for a Cowlitz County and Cowlitz PUD landfill methane capture project.  
  • $2.795 million to replace and upgrade heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units in living units and workspaces at Green Hill School, which are at the end of their useful life. 
  • $1.950 million for the Boys & Girls Club of Lewis County’s United Learning Center. 
  • These funds will help build a childcare center at the Boys & Girls Club to provide a safe and educational place for kids to learn and play.  
  • $1.154 million for the Cascadia Tech Natural Resources Learning Center in Kalama in partnership with Kalama High School.  
  • Once built, students will experience hands-on learning and workforce education. 
  • $206,000 for the Southwest Washington Fair and Equestrian Center to design a new covered equestrian center and barns with a future goal of holding equestrian, 4-H, and rodeo events year-round.  
  • $62,000 for a Kalama Community Building architectural survey to understand the scope and scale of preservation and renovation required to ensure its longevity.  
  • This will measure the building’s mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems and conduct an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) feasibility survey. 

While the final budget may differ from this proposal, I look forward to working with my colleagues across the rotunda to deliver positive results for our state and district.

For statewide highlights, read my press release here.

You can also find a full list of specific projects on the state’s budget website here.  

A special report on the erosion of open government  

The Washington Coalition for Open Government recently released a special report on the status of the Public Records Act. The report catalogs problems identified in recent years and a list of findings and recommendations.

One of the key findings in the report found that wait times for records increased from 15 to 23 days between 2019 and 2022.

Last spring, with the introduction of House Bill 1856, I spearheaded an effort to make Washington state government more open, transparent, and accountable to citizens.

The measure would have commissioned a legislative task force and broad-based study on the establishment of the Washington Office of Transparency Ombuds, which would serve as a nonpartisan and independent agency tasked with helping Washingtonians access public records.

Sadly, the bill never received a hearing.

It’s my hope that this troubling new report on the erosion of public access to state government will propel interest in solving this problem.

I was recently a guest on the Top of Mind podcast with Julie Rose to discuss this very issue. Ordinary citizens of Washington should not need a lawyer to navigate the public records process. Openness should be the default, not the exception.

Legislative page highlight

I am proud to have sponsored Will Cummings who served as a House page February 12-16.  

I met Will a year ago when he was advocating in Olympia for greater investments in mental health in K-12 education. It was great to see him return to Olympia as a page and I look forward to working with him on the policies important to his classmates.

During the 60-day session, there are eight different weekly opportunities to be a page between Jan. 8 and March 7. When applying, potential pages can select which weeks they are available to work.

Eligible students must be at least 14 years of age and have not reached their 17th birthday.

Pages earn a stipend of $65 per day and can also earn up to 20 hours of community service.

Students interested in participating next year can find more information about the program here.

Applicants who need financial assistance for the expense of traveling and staying in Olympia may also apply for the Gina Grant Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship, which helps to offset expenses. Applications for the scholarship can be found here.

You can also contact my Olympia office at (360) 786-7896.

I work for you year-round

If you have questions, comments or suggestions about government, please call, write, or email me. Don’t forget: I work for you all year.

Thank you for the honor of allowing me to be your voice in Olympia.

Sincerely,


Peter Abbarno

State Representative Peter Abbarno, 20th Legislative District
representativepeterabbarno.com
411 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
peter.abbarno@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7896 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000