Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We wrapped up the initial committee schedule of the legislative process on Friday, Feb. 27. Only bills voted out of their respective committees and bills necessary to implement the budget are alive. To check out a list of some of the more high profile bills, some good and some bad, click dead/alive list.
We are spending our time on the House floor now voting on the bills that made it out of their committees. Those bills will be sent to the Senate for consideration. The House had passed 190 bills as of Thursday, March 5. The Senate is also voting on bills and we will start the committee process all over again on March 12 with the Senate bills we receive.
With floor action comes long hours, nights and possibly weekend work. If we are not on the floor voting on bills, we are in caucus going over the measures. We have had some lively debate, particularly on the bill to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour.
Gun legislation stalled in House Judiciary Committee
My House Bill 1533, which would ensure museums and historical societies are exempt from the law now in place as a result of Initiative 594, did not make it out of committee before the cutoff. However, I was hopeful it could pass as part of House Bill 2164, the bill House Republicans drafted in an attempt to address all the unintended consequences of I-594. Unfortunately, the Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee refused to hear my bill despite widespread bipartisan support.
I have heard from many constituents this session about the vaccination bill – House Bill 2009. The bill would eliminate the philosophical or personal objection exemption from child immunization requirements. I am not supportive of this measure. It takes the decision out of the parents' hands and their right to protect their children. As a mother and grandmother, that is very concerning to me. That is also what I am hearing from the 42nd District. My office has been overwhelmed with calls and emails against this bill. Many want to insert into the bill that you get to choose to vaccinate. I will keep you updated on its status. At this time, the bill is on the House floor calendar, which means we could vote on it at any time.
Senate transportation package
On Monday, the Senate passed a $13.9 billion transportation package that would increase the gas tax by 11.7 cents over the next three years and also increase a number of fees. I do not support this proposal. It is my understanding $7 billion of the package will not go to roads, but projects such as mass transit and bicycle paths. The Senate did pass a number of reforms, but I am concerned they did not go far enough. We must have transparency and trust with our Washington State Department of Transportation. They have not been able to show us they can handle megaprojects without cost overruns and major problems; look no further than Bertha, the tunnel boring machine in Seattle, or the pontoon issues with the new floating bridge.
I had my first bill pass off the House floor this week unanimously. House Bill 1806 would make some technical changes to election laws. You can watch my floor speech by clicking here. After some light hazing, which is a tradition when a legislator passes their first bill, my colleagues stood and congratulated me, as you can see in the accompanying photo.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions, comments or concerns with any legislation before us. Your input is important to me as I work to do what is best for Whatcom County and our state.
Luanne Van Werven