Author Archives: kimberlywirtz

Senate Republican Caucus announces 2018 committee appointments

By kimberlywirtz | Published on November 28, 2017

 The Senate Republican Caucus today announced its appointments to the 2018 Senate committees.

 

“Our members are anxious to get the session started and will continue to serve everyone in Washington with dedication and integrity,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

 

“I’m always proud and impressed by their level of commitment when tackling important issues. The 2018 legislative session will be no different.”

 

Senators are listed with the ranking member first and then in alphabetical order. Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, continues to caucus with the Senate Republicans and is included below.

 

  • Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks: Judy Warnick and Sen. Jim Honeyford
  • Economic Development & Trade: Sharon Brown and the successor in 39th Legislative District
  • Early Learning & K-12 Education: Hans Zeiger, Sen. Brad Hawkins, Sen. Mike Padden and Sen. Ann Rivers
  • Energy, Environment, Technology: Doug Ericksen, Sen. Sharon Brown, Sen. Brad Hawkins and Sen. Tim Sheldon
  • Financial Institutions & Insurance: Jan Angel, Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Sen. Phil Fortunato
  • Health & Long Term Care: Ann Rivers, Sen. Barbara Bailey, Sen. Randi Becker and Sen. Joe Fain
  • Higher Education & Workforce Development: Brad Hawkins, Sen. Doug Ericksen, Sen. Mark Miloscia and Sen. Shelly Short
  • Human Services & Corrections: Steve O’Ban, Sen. Mark Miloscia and Sen. Maureen Walsh
  • Labor & Commerce: Michael Baumgartner, Sen. John Braun, Sen. Curtis King and Sen. Lynda Wilson
  • Law & Justice: Mike Padden, Sen. Jan Angel and Sen. Lynda Wilson
  • Local Government: Shelly Short and Sen. Jan Angel
  • State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections: Mark Miloscia and Sen. Hans Zeiger
  • Transportation: Curtis King, Sen. Phil Fortunato, Sen. Steve O’Ban, Sen. Tim Sheldon, Sen. Maureen Walsh and Sen. Hans Zeiger
  • Ways & Means: John Braun, Sen. Jim Honeyford, Sen. Barbara Bailey, Sen. Randi Becker, Sen. Sharon Brown, Sen. Joe Fain, Sen. Ann Rivers, Sen. Mark Schoesler, Sen. Judy Warnick and the successor in the 39th Legislative District
  • Rules: Mark Schoesler, Sen. Barbara Bailey, Sen. Randi Becker, Sen. Joe Fain, Sen. Curtis King and Sen. Tim Sheldon

 

 

The 2018 leadership team for the Senate Republican Caucus is:

 

  • Leader: Sen. Mark Schoesler
  • Deputy Leader: Sen. Sharon Brown
  • Caucus Chair: Sen. Randi Becker
  • Vice Caucus Chair: Sen. Judy Warnick
  • Floor Leader: Sen. Joe Fain
  • Assistant Floor Leader: Sen. Brad Hawkins
  • Whip: Sen. Barbara Bailey
  • Assistant Whip: Sen. Maureen Walsh

 

 

 

Bipartisan coalition returns to roots as ‘Senate Republican Caucus’

By kimberlywirtz | Published on November 15, 2017

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus today returned to being the Senate Republican Caucus, although it remains bipartisan.

 

Five years ago the 23-member Senate Republican Caucus and two Democrat senators joined to take the majority in the Senate. They took the Majority Coalition Caucus name to reflect the new bipartisan collaboration.

 

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, is still a member of the caucus and supports its return to the previous caucus name.

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Sheldon. “I am still a strong Democrat, but I also remain committed to the work we are doing in our caucus like protecting taxpayers and promoting jobs, education and a responsible budget.

 

“People around Washington, especially out on the coast and east of the mountains, need to feel that someone in Olympia is looking out for them – someone who realizes that policies that are a priority in Seattle aren’t necessarily good for all of Washington.

 

“The other members of the SRC respect my opinion and my feedback and I think Olympia needs more of that bipartisanship.”

 

The change in control of the Senate resulting from the Nov. 8 election of a Democrat senator in the 45th Legislative District prompted the name change, but the shift in the balance of power is not dampening the mood in the SRC.

 

“I’ve been bucked off a horse before,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “You just get back on and ride it out.

 

“Majorities change hands and, in the meantime, families in Washington should guard their wallets.” Schoesler will continue as the caucus leader.

 

During its tenure the MCC made historic achievements. These include:

 

  • Funding education first in the budget
  • Levy reform
  • Maintaining a 4-year balanced budget, as required by law
  • Making a fourth DUI a felony
  • Expanding access to higher education through the Real HOPE Act
  • Reducing in-state resident tuition at the state’s higher education institutions
  • Prioritizing the needs of disabled Washingtonians with the VIP Act
  • Writing the two most bipartisan operating budgets in the past 60-70 years
  • Passing a $16 billion transportation budget
  • Building up and protecting the “Rainy Day Fund” to protect Washington in the event of an economic downturn

 

 

Addressing ‘unconscionable’ agency actions that threaten public safety

By kimberlywirtz | Published on February 16, 2017

My bill advocates stricter oversight for ‘unconscionable’ agency actions

The effectiveness of court-ordered drug and alcohol counseling for those convicted of driving under the influence has been compromised by the mismanagement of complaints and the settlement process for license violations by those trusted to hold counseling providers accountable.

I have responded with Senate Bill 5705, which would require stricter oversight of the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery within the state Department of Social and Health Services. DBHR is responsible for licensing, inspecting and certifying behavioral-health providers who manage outpatient drug and alcohol services.

SB 5705 was heard yesterday and was passed out of committee. I expect to see it moved to the Senate floor soon.

Evidence uncovered about this issue, referred to by an ongoing King-TV investigation as ‘Sobriety for Sale,’ shows that counseling providers solicited bribes from patients in the court-ordered drug and alcohol program. In exchange, providers reportedly falsified such documents as attendance records and urinalysis results. When DBHR received complaints about the activity, it conducted inspections that found, in many cases, many similar violations. On several occasions the agency, with the help of an assistant attorney general, entered into settlements that reduced the number of violations and the amount of the penalties, creating the appearance that the providers’ actions were not as serious or as widespread as they actually were.

I am dumbfounded that DBHR would look the other way and settle cases where there was clear evidence of license violations and illegal conduct. DBHR’s willingness to ignore criminal behavior is unconscionable.

Some patients who failed to comply with the recovery program’s requirements were reported to be in compliance, meaning people with serious substance abuse issues who were not adequately treated are driving despite DUI convictions.

I am most concerned about the patients in the drug and alcohol programs and the safety of the public. Are people getting the help they really need so they don’t continue to drive under the influence or are they being manipulated and turned back out on the street as a threat to the safety of everyone else?

SB 5705 would implement oversight of settlement agreements between DBHR and counseling providers by prohibiting settlements intended to reduce the number of violations in order to avoid litigation. Any proposed reductions would need to be substantiated by evidence showing compliance with a DBHR corrective-action plan and would need to sufficiently justify the request to reduce the violations.

The bill would also require DBHR to submit an annual report to the Legislature with a detailed overview of each settlement agreement and a copy of the actual agreement, including background information detailing the provider’s violations so that lawmakers have the context in which to evaluate the settlements.

The integrity of our behavioral-health system and our criminal justice system is at stake. Failure to oversee the settlements of these cases creates an environment that tolerates egregious behavior that is, at best, unethical and, at worst, criminal. We need to rein it in and follow the trail as high as it goes.

SB 5705 would go one step further by prohibiting “sham transfers,” which is when the owner of a counseling agency sells the agency to a family member to avoid liability. Family transfers will no longer reset the violation count and help “bad actor” providers avoid liability.

In its current form, this bill is just the beginning. We are adding more teeth to it because there is too much at stake and the citizens of Washington deserve better from their executive branch, including the Office of the Attorney General.

Leadership role provides new opportunities

In my first e-newsletter this session I talked about how I had been elected as Majority Caucus Chair and I explained how this new role would expand my knowledge of the legislative process and give me opportunities to serve my district and the state of Washington even better.

Recently, I attended a meeting between our caucus leadership and the governor. He asked about our ongoing work on mental health issues, which is a policy area of particular interest to me. I was able to share the intent behind several Senate bills on mental health introduced by my caucus. It was a productive meeting where I felt the governor gained a deeper understanding of bills he will likely need to sign soon.

It’s opportunities such as this that give me not only a stronger voice in the legislative process, but also more insight into how my colleagues and I can build stronger relationships with the governor and the senators across the aisle so that we can enact laws that protect Washington’s future.

Ruth Dowies third grade class at Fort Stevens Elementary School in Yelm, Washington.

Education Equality Act Update

The governor’s budget office recently stated that the Education Equality Act, which is our plan to fully fund education, ensures that every district receives more money. While the plan adjusts for inequities statewide, all of Washington’s children would benefit. Stay tuned for further updates!

www.FullyFundEducation.org

Watch my video on the Education Equality Act.