Most of the Senate has returned to Olympia for the 30-day Special Session that began Monday, May 13. Currently the schedule is fairly atypical since we are focused on budget negotiations.
While I was home during the Legislature’s two-week break, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of local business leaders from the Lewis Economic Development Council about the regular session and my priorities in my first term as the 20th District State Senator.
Those priorities are best described by what the Senate Majority Caucus calls JEB—Jobs, Education and the Budget. These three issues are what constituents repeatedly tell me are most important to them:
1. We must ensure that the regulatory environment promotes rather than inhibits job creation in the private sector.
2. Education builds a brighter future and better economy and thus deserves stable funding.
3. Key to both job creation and education is a balanced and fair operating budget.
I believe all these goals can be met without raising taxes. And I know the majority of people in our great state want the same. In fact, I recently posted an unofficial Facebook poll on this subject and respondents overwhelmingly opposed new taxes in Washington’s new budget.
It’s important to note that the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget passed during the regular session would have met all three goals above without either disregarding the vulnerable or increasing the tax burden.
Unfortunately, all parties in Olympia are not at agreement with our budget, which is why the Legislature is in Special Session. I certainly am open to considering reasonable ideas put forth with those who disagree, but jobs, education and the budget will remain my goals in any solution.
I’ll continue to keep you updated as events progress.
As you may know, the 2013 regular session ended on April 28th. However, the budget and some policy decisions were not completed by that night. The Governor has called a special session for May 13th, and my hope is that all parties can come to a quick agreement on a budget not long after it starts.
I am hopeful that we can come out of special session with a budget that is similar to the one we passed in the Senate already. I believe the Senate budget demonstrates how we as a state can balance the budget without raising taxes and by letting existing taxes expire according to previously determined timetables. I believe we can create a budget that does not squeeze those who need government support, yet also does not take advantage of taxpayers who are being squeezed by high tax burdens.
Whatever the final outcome, I am working hard to make the best decisions I can to serve your best interests.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you,
Senator Hatfield and I were able to restore full funding for Chehalis River Basin flood mitigation projects in the Senate’s proposed budget. These projects are essential for protecting our communities and working to make sure we don’t ever repeat the flood of 2007.
Read More in this article from The Chronicle:
By Lisa Broadt
Local legislators Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, and Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, earlier this week interceded on the behalf of the Chehalis River Basin.
Made aware that the Senate’s proposed capital budget included about $24 million for flood mitigation projects — rather than the requested $28 million — Braun and Hatfield took steps to restore full funding.
And on Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved the senators’ budget amendment, which now allocates $28 million to basin flood relief.
Full funding was included in the budgets proposed by the House of Representatives, Gov. Jay Inslee, and former-Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Vickie Raines, the Flood Authority chairwoman and a member of the Chehalis Work Group, said the discrepancy stemmed from miscommunication.
When the Flood Authority had preliminary studies done, about eight months ago, a range of costs were provided. The Chehalis Work Group used the high end of the range in its proposed portfolio of projects.
“What the Senate staff did was take the low range, probably in an effort to reduce the budget,” Raines said. “Senators Braun and Hatfield made the request to have that increased.”
Basin leaders were heartened by the senators’ swift reaction, according to Raines.
“They are in the basin, and it’s important to them as well,” she said. “They understand where we are coming from, and they are doing their part to make sure the needed work gets done.”
Though the Senate’s support, particularly its unanimous vote to restore funding, is “a really good sign,” the Chehalis Work Group must remain diligent: “They haven’t banged the gavel yet,” Raines said.
In November, the Work Group requested that funding for a multi-pronged flood mitigation plan, including $9.2 million for the study and design of a dam and other long-term projects to improve Interstate 5; $10.7 million for local flood protection projects; $4.4 million for projects that reduce flooding while benefitting fish; $1.75 million for reducing damage to residences and other structures in the floodplain; $1.2 million for operation of the basin program and for project management; and $950,000 for state agency technical assistance and project permitting.
Members of the Work Group include: Vickie Raines, the Flood Authority chairwoman; Karen Valenzuela, the vice chair of the Flood Authority; J. Vander Stoep, an alternate to the Flood Authority; David Burnett, the chair of the Chehalis Tribe; Jay Gordon, the head of the Washington Dairy Farmers Association; and Keith Phillips, an adviser to the governor.
I was very excited to be a part of a coalition of 30 Senators (21 Republicans and 9 Democrats) who voted to pass a budget off the Senate Floor on Friday that does not include any tax increases but still puts more money into education.
Through this vote I was fulfilling, in part, three of my top campaign priorities: reforming government and improving education without raising taxes. This budget is a great first step towards all of these goals.
Although the Senate has done its job of creating a budget, all branches of government need to come to an agreement. The coming weeks will be filled with critical budget negotiations, so check back later to stay up-to-speed. Until then, click here to read more about the Senate’s budget.
Twentieth District legislators on Wednesday evening spoke via conference call to approximately 5,000 constituents about the state budget, business and education reform and their efforts to get out of Olympia on time.
The hour-long “telephone town hall,” hosted by Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, and Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, offered local citizens the opportunity to ask questions of their representatives.
A man who identified himself as Chris from Centralia wanted to know the status of the state’s capital budget.
DeBolt, the House Minority Leader, responded that the capital budget has been negotiated in both the House and the Senate and that a project list is being compiled. Work has been completed in a bipartisan manner, according to DeBolt.
“That’s not going to be a problem budget this year,” he said.
Orcutt added that local legislators are working hard to ensure flood control money is included in the capital budget.
In his proposed 2013-15 budget, released last week, Gov. Jay Inslee allocated $28.2 million to Chehalis Basin flood mitigation efforts.
The money awarded equals the sum requested by local leaders.
Former Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her outgoing 2013-15 Capital Budget, also suggested that money be awarded to the Chehalis Basin.
Bob, of Centralia, asked why dredging has not been used to mitigate flooding in the Chehalis Basin.
“Millions and millions have gone down the drain trying to solve flooding in Southwest Washington, and there’s such a simple answer,” Bob said. “I don’t understand: why no dredging?”
“If you and I were king, there might be a simple answer, but we’re not,” said Braun, about the need to address many concerns and viewpoints in Chehalis Basin flood mitigation efforts.
Modeling of a wide variety of flood solutions, released in a Ruckelshaus report over the summer, indicated that “dredging came out OK,” according to Braun.
To join us on the evening of the event you can call in to 877-229-8493 and enter the code 15588.
I look forward to taking your questions and talking about what is happening in the 2013 legislative session.
We first came to know John Braun when he ran for state Senate for the 20th District in 2012 against longtime incumbent Sen. Dan Swecker.
We’ve been impressed from the get-go. So were the citizens that voted out a powerful incumbent and voted in Braun with 55 percent.
First we learned he is a successful businessman as president of the family-run Braun Northwest. He’s a commanding officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Now he’s a freshman legislator, and he’s making his mark despite only being in session for three months.
At the start of the session, he landed several key committee assignments that more often than not are reserved for more senior members of the Senate.
Braun was named chair of Trade and Economic Development, vice chair of Commerce and Labor, and serves on Government Operations and Ways and Means.
Braun’s main campaign promise was to tirelessly work to gain jobs in Washington state.
Braun is proving effective, which is not a surprise.
Four of his bills aimed at creating and preserving private-sector jobs passed out of the Senate and will now head to the state House.
House Bill 5158 would protect employers from penalties if they inadvertently fail to pay minimum wages or overtime compensation.
House Bill 5656 would allow a more streamlined process for obtaining business licenses and paying occupation taxes.
House Bill 5697 would lower the frequency the Department of Revenue can change sales and use tax rates.
House Bill 5726 would prohibit the ability of a city, town or county from requiring paid sick leave if the employee does not reside within the jurisdiction.
These bills are not earth shaking in and of themselves. But collectively, by taking small steps to improve the ability of a business to turn a profit, we get that much closer to job preservation and creation.
They fulfill what Braun promised back when he was campaigning. These bills will help the small business owner make a profit, hire new employees, increase pay and benefits and invest back into their endeavors.
For far too long, Olympia has taken the opposite tack. It was death by a thousand lashes of the noodle for business owners.
More regulations. Higher taxes.
It seemed like everyone had a representative in Olympia — except the job creators, the entrepreneurs, and the men and women who take the risk and put in the hard work to build up a business.
Installing Braun in Olympia was the right move for voters in the 20th District.
The state Senate voted Monday in favor of four job-related bills introduced by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia. According to the 20th District Republican, each bill passed will help bring stability, predictability and efficiency to Washington’s private sector.
“Yesterday the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus confirmed its commitment to jobs by passing four of the bills we’d highlighted as job-makers,” Braun said. “These bills should help small-businesses to succeed and encourage them to hire new employees, increasing benefits for existing workers, and investing in capital-improvement projects.”
Senate Bill 5656 would require all cities that impose a business and occupation tax to have their general business licenses issued and renewed, if renewal is applicable, through the business licensing system or the city run portal by July 1, 2016. Cities that do not impose a business and occupation tax must have their general business licenses issued and renewed, if renewal is applicable, through the business licensing system or the city run portal by Jan. 1, 2019.
Senate Bill 5697 would restrict the frequency with which the state Department of Revenue can change local sales and use taxes. Unless otherwise specified, a local sales and use tax change may take effect no sooner than 75 days after DOR receives notice of the change, and only on the first day of April or October. If the local sales and use tax is a credit against the state sales or use tax, it may take effect no sooner than 30 days after DOR receives notice of the change, and only on the first day of a month.
Senate Bill 5726 would prohibit a local jurisdiction such as a city, town, code city or county from requiring an employer to provide paid sick or safe leave to employees unless the employer is physically located within the jurisdiction and only applies to an employee who works at a physical location of the employer within the jurisdiction for at least 85 percent of the hours worked for that employer in the current calendar year.
Senate Bill 5158 states that employers are not liable, nor can they be assessed a penalty for their failure to pay minimum wages or overtime compensation under the Minimum Wage Act if the employer can establish that they relied in good faith upon an agency regulation, order, advice, or interpretation of the director of the Department of Labor and Industries. This is true regardless of whether the regulation, order, advice or interpretation of the director is later modified, rescinded or overturned in court.
“Our caucus has focused our efforts on jobs, education and a sustainable budget,” Braun said. “If we could now get these four bills through the House of Representatives they will go a long way toward helping our private sector create jobs.”
The state Senate on Thursday passed Senate Bill 5496, which gives private schools the same ability to offer online school programs as public schools. Locally, the bill, prime-sponsored by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, would help schools like Centralia Christian School and St. Joseph Catholic School.
“Right now public schools have the ability to provide online programs through the 12th grade. This bill would grant private schools in Washington state the same capability,” Braun said. “Parents should have choices regarding their children’s education, and this bill allows more options.”
Parents in rural areas with transportation issues will also benefit from the bill, according to Braun.
“There are families living in rural areas of my district who would like to send their kids to private school, but do not have enough time to travel great distances to the school every day. This bill gives them the option of placing their children in a private school through an online curriculum,” he said.
Senate Bill 5496 passed with a unanimous vote.
Today the State Supreme Court overturned an initiative that the people of Washington have passed several times. I’m disappointed because the voters have made it clear that they want to restrict the ability of their government to raise taxes, and that’s exactly what Initiative 1053 did.
But now we must pursue this common sense restriction through a constitutional amendment. There are a couple of bills that would start that process. Meanwhile, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has committed itself to honoring the will of the people in how we conduct our business.
And feel free to share your thoughts with me on my Facebook page or by email at email@example.com.