Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been a fast-paced and busy legislative session. We are in the 26th day of the 60-day session, which began Jan. 13 and is scheduled to end March 12.
Major deadlines approaching
Today is our first major deadline of the 2020 session. It is house-of-origin policy cutoff at 5 p.m. What that means is those bills that have not passed their respective policy committees in the same chamber where they were introduced are likely dead for the year.
Next Tuesday, Feb. 11 is the second big deadline — house-of-origin fiscal cutoff. This is similar to the cutoff I just mentioned above, except that it involves fiscal committees which decide spending money. Fiscal-related bills that have not passed out of those committees may also be dead for the year. However, bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the cutoff.
These self-imposed deadlines are to ensure the session progresses and business is conducted in a timely fashion to conclude within the allotted 60 days. You can see the entire 2020 session cutoff calendar here.
Witnessing the signing of the new U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement
Two weeks ago, I met President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on the south lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. It was just after the president signed the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). I was an invited guest to witness the historic signing of this new trade agreement. It certainly was one of the highlights of my life to be involved with this.
For the past year, I've been working to secure support for a new trade agreement because of the importance it holds for the future of agriculture in our state. Washington is one of the most trade dependent states in the nation, exporting some $86 billion in goods and agricultural products annually.
Last April, I authored a letter to President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which was signed by Washington state legislators from both parties in the House and Senate, asking for “the expeditious ratification of the USMCA by Congress to ensure continued free, fair, open and mutually beneficial trade with our northern and southern border neighbors.”
I also authored a similar letter to the president, speaker and majority leader in support of the USMCA, signed by many of our local farmers and ranchers who serve as the backbone of the Washington state agricultural economy.
After more than a year of talks, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the USMCA in December, followed by the Senate on Jan. 16. A few days after the Senate approval, I received an invitation from the White House to attend the bill signing on Jan. 29. After the ceremony, I had the opportunity to meet both the president and vice president.
I invite you to learn more about this event and the importance of the USMCA to our farmers by using the links below:
- Read my news release about being at the USMCA bill ceremony.
- Read my opinion-editorial: New trade agreement will unleash the shackles from our agricultural industry.
- Listen to my radio program, Capitol Report, in which we discuss this event.
- Listen to my interview on KONA – Tri-Cities.
House committee approves wild horse inmate training study bill
I'm thrilled the House Public Safety Committee has approved my legislation, House Bill 2579, to establish a study to look into the feasibility of establishing a Wild Horse Inmate Program here in Washington state, similar to the program in Arizona.
In my November email newsletter, I shared with you that I had recently returned from a trip to Florence, Arizona, where I toured a very exciting program the Arizona Department of Corrections operates there. It involves about 30 inmates working to train wild Mustangs that have been captured from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public rangelands in western Arizona.
This program helps to manage the horse population on BLM lands. The inmates work in the Gentling Program to calm the animals so they can be adopted. Many of the inmates have had no prior horse experience. The program gives inmates hands-on training in the equestrian field, helps them to build self-confidence as they care for the animals, and provides the opportunity for employable skills they can use upon release. The recidivism rate for those inmates who have participated in the program and served their time is low.
When I returned to Washington state, I met with officials at the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center. I also spoke with Walla Walla Community College, which until this year offered a farrier program to teach people how to trim hooves and shoe a horse. I think it would be great to connect the college with the inmates at Connell, so they not only learn how to work with horses, but can help support the college's farrier program. I believe this life-changing program would provide positive marketable skills for these inmates.
- Listen to my radio program, Capitol Report, to learn more about the proposed feasibility study.
- Read the article in The Lewiston Tribune about my work to bring this program to Washington state.
Protecting our waters against invasive species
In 1988, zebra mussels were discovered in the Great Lakes. Within one year, they colonized nearly every firm object in Lake Erie. They quickly spread into the Chicago Sanitary Shipping Canal — an artificial channel that connects the Great Lakes drainage basin with the watershed drained by the Mississippi River. They have now spread up and down the Mississippi River, clinging onto boat hulls. Even worse, another dangerous invader, the Ukrainian quagga mussel is now out-competing and replacing the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes.
Why should we care? Recently, I had a conversation with Sen. Steve Daines from Montana, who told me police boats from Chicago often travel through Montana and Idaho on their way to Seattle. Last summer, a Montana inspection site failed to inspect and clean one of these boats because they assumed it was already clean since it came from a law enforcement agency. Tribal police on the Kalispell reservation stopped the boat before it entered Idaho and discovered the propellers infested with invasive mussels. Had it not been stopped, this boat could have easily traveled into Washington state, bringing these mussels into our waters.
We are one boat, one mussel away from the destruction of our endangered salmon habitat. The Snake River Dams are not the threat. Invasive mussels are. That's why I'm seeking an $800,000 proviso in the state budget for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to work on comprehensive prevention measures to protect our waterways from these invasive species.
Simplifying the state's hunter guide
Which makes more sense for hunters on the go? A 130-page booklet of Washington state hunting rules and regulations? Or a single map like the one the state of Washington used in 1969? I found an old hunters guide map in my barn that seems so much more user friendly and has all the information needed for hunters.
Why do we make things so complicated these days? That's why I introduced House Bill 2557. The bill would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to publish hunting seasons and regulations in the form of a two-sided highway map.
Visitors and more
I am so grateful for all of our citizens who traveled from the district to meet with me and testify on legislation. We are truly a citizen Legislature and each of you participating in your government are an inspiration to me. Here is just a sampling of the names of folks who have come to see me (too many to list everyone):
Steve Simmons, Washington Hospitality Association
Ryan Baskett, Clarkston Fire Department chief
Travis Myklebust, Lewiston Fire Department chief
Dale Wagner, Adams County Sheriff
Sgt. Tomas Solano, Adams County Sheriff's office
Sgt. Juan Garcia, Adams County Sheriff's office
Jennifer Wallace, Palouse Habitat for Humanity
Deb Bowen, Mid-Columbia STEM
Gabby Nazarie, Pullman
Kirk Schultz, Washington State University
Craig Simpson, ECBID
Shawn Logan, Mayor of Othello
Sharon Adolphson, Benton Franklin Parent Coalition
Dr. Robin Henderson and husband Scott Henderson, Clarkston
Art Swannack, Whitman Co.
Rebekah Woods, Columbia Basin College
Cordelia Whitman, Pullman
Gulsima Young, Pullman
Kristin Oliver, Pullman
Chelsea Jacobs, Pullman
Grace Dinges, Pullman
Lilienne Kilgore-Brown, Albion
Questions, comments? Contact my office
Your input is vital for me to best represent you and the citizens of our district. Please call, write or email my office any time you have questions, comments, ideas or need help dealing with state agencies. If you plan to come to Olympia, let us know so that I can plan to meet with you. My contact information is below.
It is an honor to serve as your voice in Olympia!