Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Tonight at midnight will be the halfway point of the scheduled 105-day session. We are making progress on major issues facing our state:
Fixes for McCleary and Hirst
- Competing education plans from Senate Republicans and House Democrats to satisfy the state Supreme Court requirements have each passed their respective chambers. Negotiations are beginning to hopefully bring us an education funding plan that could be supported by both parties and finally put McCleary behind us.
- We are working to address a state Supreme Court ruling, known as the Hirst decision, that put the status of exempt private wells into question and threatens future land development. I discussed this issue of the potential impacts to water rights in my last email update to you. There's a growing sense of urgency from Republicans and Democrats that we need to fix this problem. The measure most relevant to fix Hirst is Senate Bill 5239. It would ensure that water is available to property owners.
Dead or alive
We have passed our first major deadlines of the 2017 session. Friday, Feb. 17 was the “cutoff” for bills from their house of origin to be passed out by their respective policy committees. This past Friday, Feb. 24 was the deadline for fiscal bills (measures that spend money) to be passed out of their respective house-of-origin committees. The next legislative deadline is the house-of-origin cutoff on March 8. Between now and then, we will be spending all day and some evenings on the House floor as we send bills over to the Senate for consideration. Here's our “Dead or alive” bill list to date.
Washington Voting Rights Act wrong for Washington
As your state representative, it is my duty not only to shepherd good bills through the Legislature that would help make Washington a better place to live, work and raise a family, but also my equal duty to stop bills that would be harmful to our great state. One of those harmful bills passed the House Monday on a near party-line vote, 51-46.
Known as the Washington Voting Rights Act, House Bill 1800 would allow any member of “a protected class” to bring a lawsuit to force a change to a district-based electoral system from an at-large system where they believe polarized voting is occurring. A “protected class” is defined as voters who are members of a race, color or language minority group.
The act would apply to elections within certain political subdivisions, including: counties, cities, towns, school districts, fire protection districts, port districts and public utility districts. It would not apply to state elections, elections in a city or town under 1,000 people, or school districts under 250 students.
If a court determines existence of polarized voting, it could require the subdivision to redistrict or create a district-based election system. “Polarized voting” is defined in the bill as “voting in which there is a difference in the choice of candidates or other electoral choices that are preferred by voters in a protected class, and in the choice of candidates and electoral choices that are preferred by voters in the rest of the electorate.”
The court may award attorney fees and costs to a plaintiff who prevails on a claim to enforce the act. Prevailing defendants may be awarded certain costs, but not attorney fees.
Here are some reasons why I opposed it and why I think this bill is bad for Washington:
- There is a federal Voting Rights Act that addresses the same issue. The bill is unnecessary.
- Some of the proposed solutions create constitutional issues. In particular, it goes against “one man, one vote,” which provides that one person's voting power ought to be roughly equivalent to another person's within the state.
- It gives special preferences to protected classes in elections while everyone else's vote is not equal.
- It would create a tremendous cause of action for expensive lawsuits.Taxpayers would foot the bill for private attorneys to sue districts where minorities live.
- Intent to discriminate is not required to show a violation under the Act.
- The act is based on a California state law that was written by a group that uses it to sue subdivisions of the state, collecting millions in attorney fees.
If you'd like to hear more of my views on the Washington Voting Rights Act, listen to my interview with Ed Bremer on KSER. We discuss the issue in the final few minutes of the program.
Rep. John Koster and Rep. Dan Kristiansen in the broadcast studio for their 39th District telephone town hall.
Successful telephone town hall provides valuable feedback
More than 400 people participated in the 39th District telephone town hall I held last week. I was very pleased with the input and the questions we received from all who joined us. I encourage you to continue that feedback with your emails, letters, phone calls and office visits. Your information helps me to better represent you in Olympia. Please stay in touch! My contact information is below.