Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Sine Die is Latin for “without a day.” It's when the legislative body adjourns without scheduling a day to reassemble. However in recent years, the Olympia definition seems to have evolved into “without an end.”
Unfortunately, it's looking like there will be a special session. Final negotiations on the operating budget will likely take us into overtime. If you are frustrated by this, you are not alone.
Eliminating prioritization of “low-barrier” housing over sober living shelters
When you see someone struggling with homelessness, the impulse to help is undeniable. But, some methods to help are better than others. While I applaud the efforts of those working to improve the lives of those in need, we need to be mindful about how good intentions can have unintended consequences.
The House will vote soon on House Bill 1570, the Washington housing opportunities act. I've authored an amendment that would eliminate the current prioritization of low barrier homeless shelters over other types of homeless housing, like sober living shelters. This would create a level playing for sober living and low barrier facilities looking to receive grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce.
Shelters with limited entry requirements are referred to as “low barrier.” This approach offers access to shelters without requiring proof of sobriety, or enrollment or completion of substance abuse treatment. Low barrier homeless services often prioritize shelter for people who are actively using drugs, or abusing alcohol, over those choosing to abstain. Too often sober living clients are put at the back of the line for services. Many times, these are women with children just trying to get back on their feet. This needs to change. Read more about amendment 553.
REAL ID compliance
Why is our driver's license system so hard to fix? The REAL ID Act is a federal law passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Basically, it requires states to upgrade their security features on state ID's. In the decade-plus since, most states have revised how they issue driver's licenses and other state IDs to comply with the federal law. Washington hasn't.
As a result, our Standard Driver's License isn't secure enough for the Feds to trust. Basically, we don't ask for very strong proof of identity when someone applies for a license.
So, why are we having such a difficult time complying? Here's the truth. The hot button issue that some people won't even talk about is that you must prove you are in the United States legally, it's called “proof of presence.” You need to be a natural born citizen, naturalized citizen, hold a green card, or other proof that you are a legal resident.
Washington is one of the few states that allows people who cannot establish legal presence to get a driver's license. That's why we are having problems syncing up our system with the national requirements of the REAL ID Act.
Senate Bill 5008 talks about fixing this problem. However, what it really does is keep our current dysfunctional system in place for a couple more years. It doesn't solve the problem. That's why I was a “no” vote.
When I ran for office, I made a promised not to “punt” on the issues. The hard decision to comply should be made now. I'm afraid in two years we are going to end up at the same place, with a driver's license system that doesn't meet the national security requirements. Delaying won't stop the inevitable. We need to meet these national security requirements.
Transportation budget vote
The House passed the 2017-19 state transportation budget, 77-19. I was one of the 19 House members who voted “no.” Here's why.
It adds burdens to the people of the 19th District without offering equal or greater benefits. State budgets are long and complicated, and difficult to summarize. But here are two quick points.
First, it doesn't advance the funding for the Oregon Way/Industrial Way corridor improvement project that is essential to better freight movement to and from the Port of Longview and the surrounding area. The project is funded, but its current schedule stretches out several years into the future. At one point, it looked like we might be able to compress the schedule to finish the project sooner. That didn't happen. So, no.
Second, the transportation budget funds the continuation of a pilot project that is developing a Road Usage Charge (RUC).
Road Usage Charge (RUC) pilot project
This is a mileage tax that Washingtonians would have to pay based on how much they drive on state roads and highways. Basically, it could mean putting some kind of GPS tracking device on your vehicle, or other reporting mechanism, to track your miles. This raises a big red flag about privacy concerns. Also, for people like you and me, living in more rural areas, it would cost more than people living in more urban areas. Many of us tend to drive longer distances – every day.
Right now it's only a pilot project. However, some lawmakers would like to see it rolled out to the entire state. This is a non-starter for me. We can't allow this to happen. Listen to my floor speech advocating for the end of the RUC pilot project.
For my part, I will continue to stand up for the issues that impact our district. My two “no” votes on REAL ID and RUC are examples of just that. If you have questions, comments or concerns about state government related issues, please feel free to contact me at (360) 786-7806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.