2018 session to begin Monday, with changes in Senate

Senate portrait header

January 4, 2018

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2018 legislative session begins this coming Monday. Our state constitution limits sessions in even-numbered years to 60 days, meaning we will adjourn the regular session March 8.

The purpose of the “short” sessions (“long” sessions are 105 days in odd-numbered years) is to address unfinished business, discuss emerging issues and make mid-course adjustments to the two-year budgets adopted the previous year.  

The unfinished business includes a fix for the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which involves permit-exempt wells, and adopting the capital budget for 2017-19, which funds public construction projects, land acquisitions and other capital-related investments. The other two budgets for 2017-19, which pay for state-government operations and for transportation projects and maintenance, were approved during the 2017 legislative session.

Court response could mean adjustments to new school-funding agreement

In June the Legislature adopted historic school-funding reforms. These changes are supported in the 2017-19 budget, which invested an additional $3.8 billion in K-12 education, including more funding for career and technical education, gifted education, special education, and staff compensation. For the first time in decades, over half of state spending (nearly 51 percent of the budget) is dedicated to K-12 education.

By agreeing on new policies that increase the state portion of the common-schools property tax and reducing and capping local levy rates (local tax rates), the Legislature returned state government to its constitutional role of providing for basic education. At the same time, the changes mean significant additional funding for our schools (see the chart below; click on it for a larger version) and a more reliable and equitable educational funding system for students regardless of their location.

I hoped that our actions would provide closure to the landmark 2012 state Supreme Court decision on education (the McCleary case). The court responded in mid-November, basically agreeing with the changes but not the timing. This may result in some modifications during the 2018 session.

K-12 funding

Change in control of Senate means new committee assignments

The Senate still has 12 policy committees and two budget committees, yet many on our side of the political aisle will be serving on different committees in 2018.

This is because voters in east King County recently chose a Democrat to serve the year remaining in the term of the late Senator Andy Hill, a Republican. That gave Democrats a one-seat majority in our 49-member Senate (25 to 24), and the majority decides how the committees are structured – including how many seats go to which political party.

The 2018 committee structure gives our caucus 25 fewer slots than we had as the majority in 2017. That forced a major reshuffling of assignments. Only three Republican senators saw no change, while the remaining members, including me, are experiencing significant changes.

For this session, I will be serving on three committees: Early Learning and K-12 Education; Energy, Environment and Technology; and Higher Education and Workforce Development. I’m excited to bring my 10 years of local school board experience to the K-12 education issues and my 16 years of PUD experience to energy, environment, and technology issues. I will also serve as the “ranking member” of the Higher Education Committee, which will present me with both more opportunities and responsibilities in this important area. I’ll also continue in my elected leadership position of Assistant Floor Leader, although this year it means assisting the Minority Floor Leader because Republicans are in the minority.

Thank you, tree fruit growers

The tree fruit industry is extremely important to the people of the 12th District, so I was excited to be the Leadership Luncheon speaker at the Washington State Tree Fruit Association's annual meeting. Audience members wanted to know about the change in Senate leadership and the issues likely to come before us this year, as well as my 2017 legislation regarding the state Supreme Court's Sakuma decision.

When the luncheon ended the WSTFA presented me with its "Legislative Champion" award in recognition of my work on the Sakuma issue. I was very honored by this recognition, especially considering how tree fruit represents an economic cornerstone of our area and our state.

WSTFA award w-students

With West Mathison of Stemilt Growers (at left) and CWU business students, led by Professor Mark Pritchard (at right), after receiving the state Tree Fruit Association’s Leadership Champion award.

Legislative offices exist to serve and represent citizens back home, so please contact my office if you have any concerns or questions. Thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your 12th District state senator.


Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District
E-mail: brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov 

Website: senatorbradhawkins.org

107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000