By Cara Coon, Public Affairs Director
There is an energy about advocacy, meeting with lawmakers who are elected to make sound decisions on behalf of their constituents. GSI held its annual 2019 Olympia Fly-In on January 23-24, traveling with nearly 100 local businesswomen and men to advocate on behalf of our State Agenda and our region. We met with 19 legislators from throughout the state during five issue sessions and heard from three agency/department leaders: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal and State Budget Director David Schumacher.
Our sessions centered around transportation, economic development, the operating and capital budget, health care and our ever-popular Four Corners session, which features Democrat and Republican leaders from House and Senate caucuses. As always, our speakers were impressed with size of our delegation making the trek from Spokane.
Sen. Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens, 44th), Chair of the Transportation committee unveiled his plans for a package aimed at curbing carbon emissions while using those taxes to fund transportation-related projects – including bike and trail access – across the state. GSI will continue to watch the progress of this bill.
Education funding was discussed at length during our operating/capital budget session. While the court case around McCleary has concluded, funding the ongoing, elevated K-12 expenses continues to drive costs and are of concern to many legislators. Other budget-related items include paying to replace culverts, addressing salmon and Orca health and aligning a four-year budget (two biennium) knowing that we will likely see an overall slowing of our state’s economy.
Other issues that many of our legislators discussed and GSI is tracking include:
- Funding solutions for mental health patient care. Western State Hospital, one of two state hospitals treating mentally ill patients lost its accreditation last year (and the $53 million in federal funds that accompany accreditation).
- The tenuous state of Washington State’s current and proposed (by the Governor) tax structure is alarming for all types of businesses. The proposed capital gains tax, and increases to both the B&O tax and Real Estate Excise Tax would be detrimental if passed.
- Career connected learning and the importance of opening and maintaining pathways for pre-K through grade 12, ensuring a variety of options for continued learning, accreditation, certificates and degrees.
- A bill to add Washington to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is sponsored by Sen. Cleveland and supported by many of the Spokane region’s delegation. GSI strongly supports Washington’s inclusion in the Compact, and Fairchild Air Force Base’s own Col. Michaelle Guerrero is testifying before the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on 2/1. If passed, nurses could apply for a Compact license, which would enable them to practice in any of the 31 states currently within the Compact.
- GSI is writing a letter of support to the local sponsors of the House Finance committee (Volz, Riccelli, Graham, Ormsby) and the Senate Ways & Means committee (Holy, Billig) in support of reauthorizing the Health Sciences and Service Act (HSSA) of Spokane County. The HSSA is a crucial element in our region’s ability to recruit faculty, fund facilities, optimize research, fuel investment to our region and much more.
During session, we receive weekly activity reports from our lobbyist 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 email@example.com 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 in April! Members are welcome to register.