We used our outside voices in Olympia last week! More than 70 business, education, health care, nonprofit and governmental leaders from our region raised our collective voices last week on January 22-23 during the 2020 Joint Chamber Fly-In.
Our diverse group advocated for GSI’s State Legislative Agenda. We met with 16 legislators from throughout the state during five issue sessions. Our sessions included discussion on economic development, transportation, health care, operating budget and leadership.
During the economic development session, we pressed lawmakers to support Point09 – the campaign to add border counties to a program currently designated for only rural counties. The Point09 program “rebates” .09 percent of a counties sales and use tax back to the county of origin to use for economic development. Rep. Marcus Riccelli and Rep. Timm Ormsby are local legislators that have signed onto HB 2494 to support this effort. We discussed other economic development issues like broadband access and continued investments in ADO funding and fully funding the Governor’s Strategic Reserve fund account.
We knew heading over that transportation – since the passage of I-976 last Fall – would be an important topic. We shared our regional ask to continue funding the projects that were already underway in our region, including the North-South Corridor. We heard there were some creative ideas around adjusting monies from different accounts to get that done to complete this biennium, but future biennium’s will be problematic as the outlying years’ transportation budget cuts from I-976 are approximately $1 billion a biennium. We will continue to watch this closely and share progress with our membership and the community at large.
The health care session brought discussion around Washington state joining the Nurse Licensure Compact. This would dramatically help our state with our nursing shortage and specifically assist military spouses in obtaining their licenses quickly. While there are already 34 states that are part of the national ‘compact,’ there is not a lot of traction to pass this bill. We also discussed mental health and the costs and access of care.
The operating budget was high level and focused on how to use the more than $1 billion revenue coming from our state since the 2019 session ended. There was discussion about SEBB, K-12 and housing and homelessness. All of these are BIG funding issues for our state, and we need to continue talking about options and the multi-faceted nature of all these issues.
Lastly, we heard from our legislative leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler and House Minority Leader Rep. JT Wilcox. The group was also joined by Rep. Marcus Riccelli, filling in for the new Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins.
At our orientation lunch on day one, our group listened to Dr. Steve Lerch, Washington’s Chief Economist. There was good news on several fronts, but the one that had most people pleased was Dr. Lerch’s stating there is a reduced probability of a recession. While he talked about a slowdown late 2020/early 2021, the numbers continue to look strong, which bodes well for our state as it was hit hard by trade discussions and tariffs.
At our legislative reception, the group heard from Secretary of State Kim Wyman. She discussed the 2016 election, the protections put in place to ensure our 2020 general election is a safe and reliable one. She also mentioned policy issues that her office has taken on over the last four years, namely pre-registering 16- and 17-year olds to vote and automatically registering 18-year olds to vote.
Chief Justice Debra Stephens visited with our group during breakfast and talked about the history of the court, its makeup and the processes it takes to bring cases in front of the court. She is a Spokane native, and her familiarity with our region is welcome.
During session, we receive weekly activity reports from our lobbyist, Jim Hedrick, who is on the ground in Olympia. If there are questions throughout session or you have an interest in learning more about a particular issue, please contact Cara Coon, Public Affairs Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-3636.
If you weren’t able to join us in Olympia and would like to be more involved in our advocacy efforts, join us for the D.C. Fly-In April 28-30! Members are welcome to register.