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2004 Legislative Committee Report  

April 8, 2004

The 2004 Regular Session of the 58th Legislature adjourned Sine Die on Thursday, March 11, 2004.  We thank you for the opportunity to be a witness to Friends' testimonies among our elected officials in Olympia .  

Eve Rickert as our intern joined our Lobbyist, Alan Mountjoy-Venning to represent Friends Committee for Washington Public Policy during the session.  Their efforts were supplemented with help from the other legislative committee members and those of you who acted on an alert or provided a word of encouragement.  We also continued to develop our relationships with our allies.

At the beginning of this year’s legislative session the Legislative Committee set two short-term priorities and one long-term priority.  The short-term priorities were:

1.         Passage of a bill requiring accountability for corporate tax exemptions.

2.         Passage of the Food for Hungry Families Act.

Early in the session, we added stopping the “eco-terrorism” bill to our list of short-term priorities.

The Food for Hungry Families Act (SSB 6411) was passed in the final days of the session by both the Senate and the House and signed by the Governor on March 22, 2004.  This legislation will help reduce barriers to food stamp access, add school lunch programs and provide temporary benefits for those coming off Temporary Aid for Needy Families.

We did not succeed in passing legislation requiring accountability from large corporations receiving tax breaks.  HB 2654 would have required a report of all tax expenditures (otherwise known as tax breaks) in every biennial budget and HB 1869 required a review of all the existing tax exemptions.  These bills would bring accountability and transparency to how businesses and others are benefiting from tax expenditures and what the benefits from these tax expenditures are (i.e. Jobs produced and wage levels of those jobs).  Both bills passed the House, but died in the Senate.

The “eco-terrorism” bill died (and the portion of it that was resurrected in the supplemental budget was defeated). FCWPP’S leadership role in opposing the “eco-terrorism” bill was noted by animal rights groups and prompted a letter from Jeffrey Kerr, general counsel to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Norfolk , VA , offering assistance defeating the budget proviso “if you feel our assistance will be beneficial.”

FCWPP’S long-term priority was to develop legislation and support to address post-release issues for people who have served jail and prison sentences.  Dan Clark has made substantial progress toward forming a coalition to address post-release issues.

We also monitored and occasionally testified on a variety of issues, including anti-death penalty, restoration of voting rights to ex-convicts, sentencing issues, opposing repeal of the estate tax, pre-natal care for immigrant women, restoration of Medicaid coverage to children, poverty and homelessness, ecological stewardship, civil rights and participatory democracy (especially with regard to the primary elections legislation).

Some Medicaid coverage was restored to children, although not as much as we hoped.  A bill that would have severely weakened control of storm water runoff from industrial and construction sites was substantially improved before passage, although another harmful bill, one delaying enforcement regulations for the control of off-shore ballast water discharge by international vessels, was passed largely as originally written.

In the course of the session, Eve Rickert, FCWPP’S lobbyist intern, read testimony prepared by Dennis Mills, an Olympia Friend, before the House against a memorial requesting that Congress continue to maintain military bases in Washington at their current strength for economic reasons, and asked the legislature to seek ways for the state to begin building an economy that does not depend on war.

Although the memorial was passed unanimously, both Rep. Armstrong (R) and Rep. Miloscia (D) sought Eve out to discuss the Quaker religion, its prevalence in Washington , pacifism, and the role of the military in a world where war has become unnecessary.

On the whole, FCWPP did very well this session and has made additional strides toward distinguishing its voice in the legislature. 

At Steering Committee Meeting on Friday, April 23 at Quarterly Meeting we will be looking for your input on how we can build on the successes we have had, and in particular, how we can increase participation among Friends with their elected legislators.  We look forward to hearing your ideas.  Thank you again for your support.

Marilou Rickert and Deric Young

FCWPP Legislative Committee