Submitted by Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, 28th District
Creating, proposing and drafting laws is one of the most important aspects of our work at the state Legislature. All laws begin as bills. And, all bills begin as ideas. Ideas for bills come from a variety of sources. But, the best ideas come from citizens like you.
Government agencies, special interest groups, citizens, the governor, or members of the Legislature can all propose ideas to change, amend, or create a new law. After an idea is identified, it is researched to determine the proper draft for the legislation and written into a bill proposal.
When a bill is introduced by a member of the House or Senate, it is placed in the hopper – a special box near the chief clerk’s desk. All new legislation starts here. It’s then given a bill number and assigned to one of several committees. Committee members, groups of representatives, review, research and sometimes revise the bill before voting on whether or not to send it to the full chamber for a vote. If the bill is approved, it’s then sent to the other chamber (House or Senate), where it goes through the same process.
I’d to share the story of three ideas for bills’ I’ve sponsored this session. The first is an example of my favorite kind of proposal for change. The idea came from a member of our community. The proposal would benefit disabled veterans in our state.
House Bill 1177 would extend access to state recreation land for disabled veterans. Veterans with a service connected disability are currently eligible to receive the State Parks Disabled Veterans pass. This proposal would extend access to Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Department of Natural Resource’s lands. It’s a simple bill. If fully approved, it will have a big impact on our disabled veterans.
The next bill was an agency request. The idea sprang from conversations I had with the Puget Sound Partnership. Their ongoing mission is to oversee the environmental restoration of the Puget Sound. Because of my degree in environmental health, I am concerned with all aspects of their efforts. With 40 miles of coast line, our District is significantly affected by the work they do. This led to our collaboration on House Bill 1121. Every two years, they produce a science work plan. This plan identifies recommendations for improvements to the ongoing work in the Puget Sound. Because of the short interval for updates, they are in a continuous planning mode. This limits their ability to implement restoration projects. By reducing the frequency of updates, we free up their resources and allow them to focus on meeting performance targets. House Bill 1121 would extend the timeline for the plan from two, to every four years.
The final example grew from my meetings with veterans, trooper compensation working groups, and other stakeholders regarding problems with the Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) trooper recruitment and retention. In recent years, the shortage of troopers has increased. They often leave for higher-paying jobs with other law enforcement agencies. A few years ago, the WSP gave up to five years’ credit towards retirement for prior military service. I proposed reinstating this policy during a previous legislative session, and again this year, in order to start some dialogue on whether it will help with trooper recruitment. House Bill 1173 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on Jan. 26.
Helping our communities is a team effort. As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and concerns. If you have an idea for how state government can work better, please contact me. My door is always open. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call my office at (360) 786-7890.