Rivers: Things Legislature did not do were for the best

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Since this year’s legislative session concluded March 13, exactly as scheduled, the published reviews I’ve seen tend to only focus on certain things that did not happen during our 60 days in Olympia.

Yes, there were some good bills that didn’t make it through and important changes that didn’t happen — as is the case every year. But I think it’s important that we celebrate the victories when we can, so here are several examples of things that luckily did not happen, which deserve far more attention than they have received.

• We did not raise taxes. As Washington’s business climate continues to slowly improve and chronic unemployment continues to make headlines, it was important that we made decisions that will promote economic growth and job creation. Holding the line against tax increases will give small businesses the chance to grow, innovate and flourish, while helping to protect their bottom line.

• We did not overspend or damage the state’s balanced budget. For the second year in a row, we passed a sustainable and responsible budget that balances across four years, which has been required by law since 2012. It received unprecedented bipartisan support in the Senate and House of Representatives.

• We did not neglect our obligation to fund education. In an effort to meet the state Supreme Court McCleary mandate, which concluded the state was not providing enough for basic education, we devoted two-thirds of the supplemental budget to K-12 education. This year’s $58 million investment builds upon last year’s $1 billion McCleary investment.

• We did not raise tuition at state colleges and universities. Despite the House Democrats’ proposal to let tuition hikes resume after a one-year freeze, the approved supplemental budget holds college tuition rates for 2014-15. We also authorized in-state tuition rates for military veterans, reaffirming that the state is serious about making post-secondary education more attainable and affordable for students and veterans.

• We did not waste taxpayer dollars with a special session. For the first time in five years the Legislature completed its work and adjourned on time. It also happens to be the first time in five years that we entered a session without a budget deficit hanging over our heads, thanks to the balanced operating budget passed last year.

• We did not ignore the opportunity to protect victims of sexual abuse. Thanks to two sisters from Clark County who inspired legislation with their personal story, the Legislature unanimously approved my measure to give victims the right to request notice about a sex offender’s status and location, as well as request that the offender refrain from contact.

Additionally, we continued our high prioritization of our state’s most vulnerable. We passed legislation to eliminate the waiting list for eligible individuals with developmental disabilities who need care and services; provide legal representation for foster children; and increase protections against domestic violence by removing firearms from those who are under restraining orders.

Looking at it that way, this “did not” session accomplished a lot for the small-business owners, taxpayers, college students, veterans, and vulnerable individuals who need state-supported services.

I’m proud to be a part of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus because we remain committed to governing in a bipartisan and responsible way, and we’re eager to continue working on all the things that we did not do when we reconvene in Olympia next January. Until then, I’m proud of the work that was accomplished for the people of our state.


Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, has represented Clark County’s 18th Legislative District since 2010. She is a leader in the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and serves on the Senate budget committee.