Author Archives: kimberlywirtz

Becker telemedicine bills pass House, move forward for governor’s signature

By kimberlywirtz | Published on April 08, 2019

OLYMPIA…Sen. Randi Becker’s fight to improve access to health care through telemedicine got a boost when the Washington State House of Representatives passed two of her bills, which means that they now go to the governor for a signature so they can become law.

 

Senate Bill 5386 aims to develop more consistency in training standards for those providing telemedicine services.

 

Senate Bill 5387 would allow a hospital where a telemedicine visit is occurring to rely on the telemedicine credentials of a physician from a distant hospital.

 

“I’m so pleased that the House recognizes the importance of telemedicine and passed this legislation unanimously, as did the Senate,” said Becker, R-Olympia. “These bills are two pieces of the bigger effort to make health-care as accessible as possible.”

 

“It’s a challenge for people who live in areas to get adequate health and mental health care where there isn’t easy access to care providers, particularly specialists. This includes many of my constituents because there isn’t a hospital in my district. The last thing you want to do when you are sick or suffering from mental illness is travel hours to see someone qualified to treat you. Telemedicine closes that distance and allows the health care system to do a better job making patients well.

 

“Demand is very high for telemedicine and has the potential to save $6 billion a year in health care costs for insurance companies. In fact, 93 percent of patients who have used telemedicine say it lowered their health care costs,” said Becker. “We should be doing everything we can to expand services and improve access.”

Statement: Sen. Mark Schoesler on today’s World Trade Organization ruling regarding Washington State subsidies for Boeing

By kimberlywirtz | Published on March 28, 2019

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, offered the following statement in response to the ruling issued by the World Trade Organization that the tax breaks Washington State provided to Boeing unfairly benefited the company against its competitors.

“The WTO previously ruled that Airbus benefited from $22 billion in illegal subsidies. Today, the WTO ruled that Boeing benefited from $100 million in subsidies, meaning that the WTO has ruled that Airbus benefited from subsidies at a 220-1 rate. 

“We should not overreact to this ruling. We should not do anything to harm the competitiveness of the aerospace industry in Washington State. Aerospace is a vitally important employer to an enormous number of hard-working Washingtonians. It’s essential to our local economy.

“If we just drop the manufacturing business and occupation rate for all manufacturers to the aerospace rate, we could address the WTO’s concern and create a terrific jobs environment for all manufacturers in the state. We proposed this very solution previously, which the Legislature passed with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Inslee.”

Senate Republicans warn bill to move up state primary would undo 25 years of campaign finance reform

By kimberlywirtz | Published on February 28, 2019

Senate Bill 5270 a step backward to the dark days of campaigns sullying Legislative ethics

 

OLYMPIA…A bill sponsored by Senate Democrats to move the state primary election to earlier in the year reminds many at the Capitol of the dark days when campaigns and Legislative ethics were blatantly ignored, leading to scandal and sweeping changes to ethics rules.

Senate Bill 5270 would move the state primary election to the third Tuesday in May, which moves the candidate-filing period to the fourth Monday in February. In doing so, it extends the length of the campaign season, prolonging the time campaign signs are posted and campaign mailers are clogging up mailboxes.

It also opens up members of the Legislature to solicit and accept money from some stakeholders while still voting on bills affecting those stakeholders.

“This bill creates the potential for a conflict of interest. A Legislator could accept a contribution from a member of an organization in a house across the street from the Capitol and then walk back to Senate chambers and vote to pass a bill that directly affects that organization,” said Senate Republican Caucus Chair Randi Becker, R-Olympia.

“We’ve come a long way in separating campaign work from Legislative work. Let’s not move backward,” said Becker.

“Does no one remember 1992 when some were setting up phone banks in their offices and money was changing hands for votes? The Legislative ethics rules that resulted from scandal were a leap forward in enforcing the strict line between campaigns and legislative work. This bill would destroy that in one stroke,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

“We’re already seeing some Senate Democrats facilitating the illegal use of state resources by Emerge Washington — an orgnization whose purpose is to recruit and train political candidates. Emerge was even honored on the Senate floor, which is entirely inappropriate and resulted in two ethics complaints against their members,” said Schoesler. “The Democrats already think they can do whatever they want. This bill would embolden them even further.”

SB 5270 would also end what is referred to as the “campaign freeze,” which is the time during the legislative session when those members who will be up for re-election are prohibited from sending out e-newsletters and mailers so legislative communications won’t be confused with campaign messaging.

SB 5270 passed out of the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee and is likely to be voted on by the Senate.

State resources illegally used for Democrat campaign training, says Schoesler

By kimberlywirtz | Published on February 25, 2019

Demands in letter to Democrat leader campaign group’s reservations be canceled

OLYMPIA…It is illegal for state resources to be used for campaign purposes, including training, but that is what Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville says is happening at the Legislative Building in Olympia this session. Schoesler sent a letter to Sen. Democrat Leader Billig calling attention to the issue and demanding that the reservations be canceled.

Emerge Washington, which bills itself as an organization dedicated to recruiting and training women to run for Democrat political offices, has twice used state meeting space on the Legislative campus from Feb. 23 – 24. The group is scheduled to use state facilities a third time today, Feb. 25.

“This is not only highly inappropriate and unethical, it is illegal,” said Schoesler. “Campaign activity of any kind, including training future political candidates, is strictly prohibited under state law. It does not matter that they are not running for office yet. It is campaign activity.

“Those training to run for public office should not start their careers learning how to use facilities paid for with taxpayer dollars in order to advance their political careers.”

The reservation bookings were made by staff from the offices of Sen. Claire Wilson and Sen. Sam Hunt. The reservations also violate Washington state legislative ethics rules.

Wilson also discussed the activities of Emerge Washington during a point of personal privilege when she introduced the group on the Senate Floor on Feb. 25, which is a violation of Senate Rule 33.

 

RCW 42.52.180

Use of public resources for political campaigns.

(1) No state officer or state employee may use or authorize the use of facilities of an agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of or opposition to a ballot proposition. Knowing acquiescence by a person with authority to direct, control, or influence the actions of the state officer or state employee using public resources in violation of this section constitutes a violation of this section. Facilities of an agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment, use of state employees of the agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the agency, and clientele lists of persons served by the agency.

(2) This section shall not apply to the following activities:

(a) Action taken at an open public meeting by members of an elected legislative body to express a collective decision, or to actually vote upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance, or to support or oppose a ballot proposition as long as (i) required notice of the meeting includes the title and number of the ballot proposition, and (ii) members of the legislative body or members of the public are afforded an approximately equal opportunity for the expression of an opposing view;

(b) A statement by an elected official in support of or in opposition to any ballot proposition at an open press conference or in response to a specific inquiry. For the purposes of this subsection, it is not a violation of this section for an elected official to respond to an inquiry regarding a ballot proposition, to make incidental remarks concerning a ballot proposition in an official communication, or otherwise comment on a ballot proposition without an actual, measurable expenditure of public funds. The ethics boards shall adopt by rule a definition of measurable expenditure;

(c) The maintenance of official legislative web sites throughout the year, regardless of pending elections. The web sites may contain any discretionary material which was also specifically prepared for the legislator in the course of his or her duties as a legislator, including newsletters and press releases. The official legislative web sites of legislators seeking reelection or election to any office shall not be altered, other than during a special legislative session, beginning on the first day of the declaration of candidacy filing period specified in RCW 29A.24.050 through the date of certification of the general election of the election year. The web site shall not be used for campaign purposes;

(d) Activities that are part of the normal and regular conduct of the office or agency; and

(e) De minimis use of public facilities by statewide elected officials and legislators incidental to the preparation or delivery of permissible communications, including written and verbal communications initiated by them of their views on ballot propositions that foreseeably may affect a matter that falls within their constitutional or statutory responsibilities.

(3) As to state officers and employees, this section operates to the exclusion of RCW 42.17A.555.

[ 2017 c 7 § 2; 2011 c 60 § 30; 2010 c 185 § 1; 1995 c 397 § 30; 1994 c 154 § 118.]

 

 

Senate Rule 33.

Any senator may rise to a question of privilege and explain a personal matter by leave of the president, but shall not discuss any pending question in such explanations, nor shall any question of personal privilege permit any senator to introduce any person or persons in the galleries. The president upon notice received may acknowledge the presence of any distinguished person or persons.

A question of privilege shall involve only subject matter which affects the particular senator personally and in a manner unique and peculiar to that senator.

 

Inslee nominee to Housing Finance Commission convicted of domestic violence

By kimberlywirtz | Published on February 14, 2019

Senate Democrats unanimously pass nomination out of committee despite knowing nominee lied about his record

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican leadership issued the following statement in response to a unanimous vote by Senate Democrats in the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability Committee to pass Noe Castillo’s gubernatorial nomination out of committee, despite a conviction for domestic violence and a second conviction for assault.

Castillo, nominated by Gov. Inslee for a spot on the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, only disclosed one of his assault convictions to the Public Disclosure Commission. Upon discovering the additional conviction and the inaccuracy on his application to the governor’s office, the chair of the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability Committee was notified. The only action taken was the unanimous Democrat vote for Mr. Castillo’s nomination to proceed.

“I have zero tolerance for someone who abuses his wife,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “Even though the chair of the committee was told of Mr. Castillo’s omission and the nature of his crime, the committee continued with the confirmation process. Absolutely unacceptable. His rap sheet and his deception should automatically disqualify him from a gubernatorial nomination. And I’m even more disappointed in the governor for his poor judgment.”

Mr. Castillo’s record was discovered upon review of his Washington State Patrol WATCH Rapsheet, which details two convictions for assault-4. The first was in 2001. The second was in 2005. It was the second conviction where the victim was Castillo’s wife and the nature of the assault was ‘domestic violence.’ According to police records, Castillo was given a year in jail, a year of community supervision and a $500 fine. The court also ordered him to have no contact with his wife.

However, on his application to the governor, Mr. Castillo only lists one assault conviction.

“If public officials are held to a higher standard, so too are the governor’s nominees for positions like a seat on the Housing Finance Commission,” said Senate Republican Caucus Chair Randi Becker, R-Olympia. “His nomination should have been withdrawn the second the domestic violence conviction came to light. How can the governor and the Senate Democrats claim to fight for women and victims when they elevate convicted abusers to higher office?”

Senate Republicans Announce 2019 Leadership

By kimberlywirtz | Published on November 17, 2018

OLYMPIA…The Washington State Senate Republican Caucus announces its 2019 leadership, which it elected today:

 

Leader:   Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville

Caucus Chair:   Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville

Floor Leader:   Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy

Whip:   Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center

Deputy Leader:   Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick

Caucus Vice Chair:   Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake

Deputy Floor Leader:   Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee

Deputy Whip:   Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor

Episode 5 – Affordable Housing & Homelessness Package

By kimberlywirtz | Published on November 15, 2018

The views expressed by individual members are not necessarily those of the entire caucus.

Families across Washington win with deal on water-rights, capital budget

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 19, 2018

OLYMPIA…Marking the end of long and arduous negotiations, the Legislature today passed a bipartisan, bicameral solution to the Hirst water-rights decision, clearing the way for families to get permits to dig household wells and gain access to water. It also passed a capital budget worth more than $4 billion, including the bonds necessary to pay for it.

 

“This was a heavy lift. The Hirst fix and the capital budget affect thousands of Washington jobs and billions of dollars for Washington’s economy,” said Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “Families across our state deserve access to water and they deserve the projects in the capital budget. We were able to give them both.”

 

Substitute Senate Bill 6091, referred to as the “Hirst Fix,” passed the Senate 35-14 and the House 66-30, and now heads to the governor’s office to be signed into law.

 

“Everyone worked some very late nights to come to the compromise we passed tonight,” explained Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, caucus chair. “The expectations in this legislation are reasonable and I’m thankful for the legislators who stood up for the people of Washington. This is a win for Washington’s families.”

 

The new legislation:

 

  • Authorizes the use of new wells throughout the state – some new conditions may apply depending on the watershed.

 

  • Clarifies the relationship between local permitting authorities and the Department of Ecology to help provide for greater certainty for permit applicants going forward.

 

  • Establishes local planning committees to recommend stream-enhancement projects and other local standards in certain watersheds.

 

  • Creates a task force to make recommendations about finding ways to make water available for growth in municipalities and authorizes some pilot projects that will allow water rights to be granted

 

The capital budget for the 2017-19 biennium, worth $4.2 billion, passed the Senate unanimously and the House 95-1. Substitute Senate Bill 6090, includes more than $1 billion for K-12 school construction, renovation and modernization.

 

SSB 6090 also provides $300 million for the implementation of the fix for the Hirst decision and funds other Republican priorities such as mental health, clean water programs, and health care facilities. It also includes $860 million in appropriations for higher-education.

 

The bond bill, HB 1080, which is necessary to fund the capital budget, also passed both the House and the Senate, which also now awaits the governor’s signature.

 

Background:

 

Four times during the 2017 Legislative Session, the Senate passed a fix for the highly contentious Hirst court decision that gave responsibility for granting water rights on household wells to counties rather than the Department of Ecology. Since the counties were not prepared to handle the task, some stopped giving building permits that would have required a well for water access.

 

As a result, many families saw the value of their land plummet and lost everything as they waited in vain for a permit. Republicans recognized the effect the Hirst decision was having on suburban and rural families statewide and wanted a solution before voting on the capital budget, especially because hundreds of millions of dollars were earmarked in the capital budget for a Hirst fix. It had to be “Hirst first.”

 

Democrats in the House of Representatives ignored the problem at first and later refused to allow a vote on the legislation in their chamber. Only after Republicans announced they would not pass the bonds for a capital budget until a Hirst solution was signed by the governor did the House Democrats give the issue the attention it required.

 

Negotiations continued into the 2018 Legislative Session, which started Jan. 8.