The Washington Legislature’s 105-day session begins Jan. 14, and 14th District State Rep. Gina Mosbrucker will be in the thick of it from day one.
Mosbrucker, of Golden-dale, was re-elected to a third term in the State House of Representatives in Novem-ber. She also has been elevated by fellow House Republicans to a caucus leadership role in the upcoming legislative session.
Mosbrucker said in a recent interview with The Enterprise that she plans to introduce legislation, just as she did in 2017 and 2018. But she said she may have to pass some bills to freshmen members to shepherd through the legislative process because she won’t have time to stay on top of all of her priorities.
As vice-chair of the House Republican caucus, Mosbrucker will assist the caucus chairman, Rep. Paul Harris of Vancouver, in presiding over daily caucus meetings where bills, amendments, and voting strategy are discussed.
“It’s an honor for me to be chosen by my peers to serve as vice-chair of the caucus and be involved in the Republican leadership meetings as we go through the 105-day session,” Mosbrucker said in a prepared statement. “This allows me more input on issues affecting our state, and a stronger voice on the issues people care about in the 14th District.”
Fixing funding mechanisms for K-12 public education will be the No. 1 issue in Olympia when the Legislature convenes next month. The Legislature meets for 105 days every two years primarily to establish a new biennial budget for state government.
“We will be looking at the unintended consequences of the law,” Mosbrucker said of the Legislature's recent attempts to address a State Supreme Court order that found the Legislature was not fully funding K-12 education, per the State Constitution.
“We’ll keep tweaking it until we get it right,” Mosbrucker said. “A lot of legislation is like that. Part of the problem school districts are facing is that they are relying on property taxes that haven’t been collected yet.”
Mental health expenditures will comprise half the state budget in 2020, according to Mosbrucker, as the Legislature tries to come to grips with an array of people issues tied to social and economic conditions: homelessness, access to treatments for disorders and addictions, and so on.
Paying for mental health programming will be among the political fights in 2019 between Democrats, who control both the House and Senate, and Republicans.
The state treasury currently enjoys a revenue surplus, which Mosbrucker said is a good thing because it provides a safety net for state government against the effects of economic recessions.
Mosbrucker said Republicans “want to make sure that windfall is spent wisely,” if at all. Moreover, she said Republicans will stand against any new taxes proposed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and majority Democrats in the Legislature.
She pointed to the General Election defeats last month of carbon emissions fees and grocery/beverage taxes as evidence Washingtonians do not want to pay more taxes.
Mosbrucker’s legislative priorities in 2019 can be summarized in the five bills she plans to drop in the hopper.
- Domestic violence protections. Mosbrucker introduced this measure in 2018. It passed the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee but died before it reached the House floor.
Mosbrucker said the bill is intended to give businesses tools to help their employees access resources to prevent and protect them from domestic violence. The new legislation she plans to introduce will be more narrowly focused than its predecessor.
Related to this, Mosbrucker is hoping to secure funding in the Capital Budget to build a domestic violence shelter in Klickitat County, “which technically doesn’t have one.”
“One in three people are affected by domestic violence,” Mosbrucker said of an issue that plagues society.
- Seatbelts on school buses. This legislation authored by Mosbrucker in 2016 is on its third go-round. It passed the House Education Committee in 2017 but died before reaching the floor.
Mosbrucker said the new bill would require every school bus manufactured or assembled after Sept. 1, 2020, be equipped with shoulder harness-type safety belts.
“We’re sending mixed messages to our kids,” Mosbrucker said. “We require them by law to buckle up when riding in private vehicles. Why should we treat school buses differently? Some school districts are already buying buses with seatbelts because they know it’s best for their students’ safety. They’re not waiting for the state to tell them they have to do it.”
She said the proposal would not be funded by the state budget or local school districts. Rather, per a plan put together by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, cost of implementing the seatbelt requirement would be paid for by fines collected for “STOP” paddle violations (motorists cited for failing to stop for or passing legally stopped school buses on public roadways).
- Suicide prevention. Known as “Madi’s Law” and named after a teenage girl who has attempted suicide three times, this is a new bill that would seek to establish a youth suicide review team with the purpose of bringing experts together to develop a teen suicide prevention plan for Washington.
“We have to do something to get our [teen suicide] numbers down,” Mosbrucker said. “What’s happening right now is just unacceptable. We’re letting our kids down when they need us most.”
- Sales tax exemptions for VFWs. In response to the closing of Veterans of Foreign Wars posts around the state, Mosbrucker is introducing new legislation that would exempt VFW organizations from state sales tax on the sales of items and goods sold at VFW posts.
“VFWs are places of refuge for veterans,” Mosbrucker said. “This bill should be able to help VFWs stay open and save money.”
- Sexual assault nurse examiners. This bill would provide additional training opportunities for sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) in eastern Washington. Mosbrucker pointed out the proposal derives from the work of the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Best Practices Task Force, which she co-chairs.
“The task force worked to find best practices for managing sexual assault examinations and reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits in Washington,” Mosbrucker noted.
“With these issues,” she added, “it’s shaping up to be a very busy legislative session.”