A better way to fund public education. Helping the homeless. Supporting mental health. Passing a construction budget. Dealing with carbon emissions. Taking on gun control and disclosure laws.
Controlled by Democrats, the Legislature has much to resolve as it continues the busy, bill-packed, 60-day session in Olympia that began Jan. 8.
As guests last week at King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer’s Good Eggs breakfast at Valley Cities Phoenix Rising Café in Auburn, Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, touched upon some of the challenges the Legislature faces.
Fain and Sullivan – state District 47 lawmakers – shared their insights and expectations for the new session and how legislative actions may affect South King County communities.
Last year’s contentious gathering at the capital took three special sessions to complete, with a chunk of the impasse spent trying to solve the riddle over court-ordered education reforms. Fain and Sullivan hope that isn’t the case this year.
Although representing different parties, Fain and Sullivan have a history of effectively working together to move the peoples’ business forward. And as both sides grapple with the state’s complex problems and over Gov. Jay Inslee’s agenda, the two are urging that bipartisan approach again.
“It’s the only way to get things done,” Sullivan said without hesitation.
Fain added: “We need to get out of the courtroom and back into the hearing room in all of these issues.”
Regarding how to more equitably distribute money to school districts throughout the state, Fain and Sullivan don’t expect any significant adjustments to the funding formula the Legislature adopted in 2017. Both did say they are willing to entertain Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal’s proposal that would revise the current legislation and provide school districts more funding flexibility.
One area that concerns some districts is the loss of flexible funds to support students.
“The changes benefit most, but some districts are struggling to adequately provide programs that are not considered basic education,” Reykdal said last week.
In the past, school districts could make up deficits in state funding through local levies. But, in addition to increasing education funding, the Legislature reduced the amount of money school districts can raise through local levies, leaving some districts in a bind.
“To solve this problem, districts need more funding, and they need more flexibility in their local levies,” Reykdal said.
Elsewhere, Fain and Sullivan hope to find more help for mental health services and boost programs and resources for the homeless.
They also acknowledge that passing a reasonable, responsible construction budget – better known in Olympia as a capital budget – is a priority after lawmakers failed to approve one last year.