31st District Sen. Pam Roach summarizes Olympia Legislative session

Sen. Pam Roach - Courtesy photo
Sen. Pam Roach
— image credit: Courtesy photo

My main goals are to protect our Constitutional liberties and have government be as cost-effective, fair, and efficient as possible. My goal, in-district, is to advocate for my constituents’ priorities. It is an honor to serve.

As chair of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee (which includes election law), I received the “Legislator of the Year” award from Voters Want More Choices. My defense of the initiative process and support of the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes was key in their decision.

No tax increases: We reopened the two-year operating budget approved in 2013 to make necessary adjustments. Our Senate majority approved changes that would still have us live within our means. In contrast, the Democrat-controlled House supported spending increases that would have meant raising taxes by $100 million. In the end, the no-new-taxes approach advocated by our Majority Coalition Caucus of 24 Republicans and two Democrats prevailed.

Protecting taxpayers: In 2012, Washington voters passed Initiative 1185, to reaffirm that tax increases should require approval from two-thirds of the Legislature, not just a simple majority. I-1185 won 63 percent of votes statewide and 72 percent in the 31st District! Unbelievably, the state Supreme Court overturned the law.

This year the Senate voted on my measure, SJR 8213, to put the two-thirds tax-vote rule in our state Constitution. If legislators had voted as their constituents did on I-1185, the measure would have passed easily and appeared on the November 2014 ballot. Unfortunately, needed Democrats would not support the will of their own constituencies so you will not get to vote on this. I will continue working to put this taxpayer protection on the ballot for the people’s approval.

Providing for K-12 schools: Of the operating-budget adjustments our Senate majority approved, about three-fourths would have benefited K-12 education. Unfortunately, the House wouldn’t support that. Still, the final budget puts about two-thirds of the additional spending into our schools.

My bill (SB 6424), to create a Washington State Seal of Biliteracy for high-school graduates who become proficient in a language besides English, passed the Legislature. I believe all students deserve an opportunity to learn another language and be recognized for their effort. They must compete and succeed in a global economy. We need to enhance language instruction.

College tuition “freeze” will continue: The Senate budget I supported continues the freeze on in-state tuition rates. This is the first time since 1980 that tuition rates have held steady for two years.

Sadly, the House and the governor were willing to let tuition increase again for 2014-15. That’s like another tax hike on our families. Fortunately, our Senate majority’s position prevailed yet again.

As co-chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans’ and Military Affairs, I’m also pleased that we ended the one-year waiting period for veterans to qualify for in-state tuition rates. I sponsored this change in 2013 and the Senate passed it unanimously. Unbelievably, the House wouldn’t vote on it. That embarrassment wasn’t repeated this year, so this bill will become law.



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