Session adjourned; in-person town hall cancelled for COVID-19; telephone town hall on Tuesday

Senator Hans Zeiger 25th District Letter from Olympia
staff

My legislative assistant Aaron Hallenberg, session aide Monica Marchetti, and intern Andrew Willett did an outstanding job coordinating my schedule, handling correspondence, greeting constituents, and much more during the 2020 legislative session.

Letter from Olympia

Dear Neighbor,

The 2020 legislative session ended yesterday. Reps. Chambers, Gildon and I were planning to host a town hall tomorrow to share a 2020 legislative session wrap-up. Unfortunately, due to the latest developments surrounding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we have decided to cancel the in-person town hall and host a telephone town hall next week instead.

Join me for a telephone town hall.

I hope you will join me and Reps. Chambers and Gildon for a telephone town hall next Tuesday, March 17 from 6-7 p.m. Only households with landlines will receive an invitation phone call, so residents wanting to participate via cell phone or from somewhere other than their home may call (253) 234-4923. I hope you will join us, and I look forward to chatting with you then!

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response

On Thursday, the legislature unanimously set aside $175 million to fund our state’s response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  You can read more about the legislation we approved here.

Here is a link with detailed information from the Washington State Department of Health along with some helpful tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with an elbow, sleeve or tissue
  • Good personal health habits (diet/exercise) help prevent respiratory infections, including coronaviruses and influenza
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Supplemental operating budget

On the final day of the legislative session, we passed the supplemental operating budget. I did not support the final passage of the 2020 supplemental operating budget because we continue to grow the size and breadth of government. While the final budget spends less money than earlier proposals, it fails to offer much-needed property tax relief to Washingtonians. With a $1.5 billion budget surplus, we could have easily afforded to provide some property tax relief.

To put state spending in perspective, the chart below shows just how much the state has spent since 2013. The rate of government spending during Governor Inslee’s administration will hit two times the rate of wage growth: 80% vs. 40%!

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I will note one bright spot in this supplemental budget. The bill includes my proposal for homelessness diversion to refocus government on getting people out of homelessness the moment they enter the coordinated entry system, whether that means paying a month’s rent or reconnecting people with a relative who can take them in in another state and paying for travel costs. This kind of intervention will save money and literally divert people out of homelessness.

Local projects funded in the capital budget

One budget that passed with bipartisan support was this year’s capital budget. Projects benefiting the 25th Legislative District include:

  • $1,070,000 for The Farm, an agricultural educational program of the Franklin Pierce School District in Midland
  • $322,000 for field improvements at the Puyallup Valley Sports Complex
  • $257,000 for Dawson Playfield improvements in Midland
  • $217,000 for planning and acquisition for the Puyallup Food Bank
  • $150,000 for New Beginnings Homes to expand maternity care services in Puyallup
  • $5,000 for historic marker sign reinstallation at Maplewood Elementary School in Puyallup

Comprehensive sexual health education

Last year, at the request of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Senate Democrats introduced SB 5395, which would mandate the teaching of comprehensive sex education from kindergarten onward. I did not support this bill when it was passed out of the Senate last year. After it was passed in the Senate, the bill stalled in the House of Representatives but returned this session.

When this bill came to the floor of the House for a vote, House Republicans fought for more than 6 hours against this overreaching legislation, offering around 200 amendments. None were accepted. Unfortunately, after many long hours, the House of Representatives passed this bill at 2 a.m.– along party lines and sending it back to the Senate. My office has received hundreds of emails opposing this bill.

On Saturday, the Senate debated and passed this bill on its final passage with House amendments, along party lines. See my floor speech below to learn more about why I oppose this legislation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeShd1Zot0I&feature=youtu.be

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Making it to the finish line

I highlighted some of the bills I am working on in recent email updates. Here are two of my bills that have made it through the Senate and the House and are heading to the governor’s desk:

Nonprofit fundraising tax exemption (Senate Bill 6312)

This bill will permanently exempt nonprofit organizations and libraries from paying use taxes on auction and fundraising prizes under $12,000. This amount will be reevaluated each year to adjust for inflation. Nonprofit organizations and their volunteers make our state better in countless ways, from lifting up the poor, to ministering to our spiritual needs, to promoting the arts and heritage, to conserving our environment. One of the reasons people donate money to nonprofits through auctions and other fundraising activities is that they generally don’t have to pay use taxes, but that exemption is due to sunset soon. Making this exemption permanent is an excellent way to help these organizations that depend on donations to raise money for the important work they do in our communities.

Data breaches (Senate Bill 6187)

State and local government agencies hold a large amount of our personal information, and we place a certain amount of trust in them when we turn over our personal data. We have a good law that requires agencies to notify individuals if certain personal information is breached. The existing notification requirements cover breaches involving Social Security numbers, but they don’t cover the last four digits of a Social Security number. SB 6187 adds the last four of an SSN to the requirement for when individuals must be notified of this security risk. We can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting our personal information online, and this bill takes the next step in safeguarding our personal data.

monee

Legislative pages

This week, I sponsored Moneé DuBose, a 14-year-old student from Annie Wright School as a Senate page. Moneé is in the ninth grade and enjoys basketball, singing and dancing. She did an excellent job serving as a page, and it was a joy to have her in Olympia.  

The Senate Page Program provides an opportunity for Washington students to spend a week working at the Legislature. Students transport documents between offices, as well as deliver messages and mail. Pages spend time in the Senate chamber and attend page school to learn about parliamentary procedure and the legislative process. Students also draft their own bills and engage in a mock session.

Contact Me

As always, I value hearing directly from you. If you would like to contact me, please call, email and again, stop by if you’re in Olympia.

Email: Hans.Zeiger@leg.wa.gov

Phone: (360) 786-7648

Thanks for the privilege of serving as your state senator.

All the best,

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