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Friends Committee on
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Lobbying Update

Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy
Week ending February 4, 2005

TRRC (Transition & Reentry Reform Consultation)

Just back from todayís TRRC meeting. There are many promising things happening there. Iíve volunteered to write a letter to the Gregoireís new appointee for Sec. of Department of Corrections, Harold Clarke from Nebraska ís system. We are seeking a meeting and dialog with him as soon as possible.  His appointment holds some promise as he has been active with the Vera Institute of Justice, a progressive think tank on crime and justice issues. http://vera.org 

Roger Lauen, our criminologist Friend, is working with several members to prepare a paper making the case for alternatives to new prison capacity outlining how the money can be better spent to reduce capacity and bring down crime and recidivism.

TRRC has also decided to examine and discuss the prison labor issue. I will be following the joint resolution amending the Constitution for prison industries and the Regala bill, SB 5361,on this more closely now and speaking with legislators and staff about our concerns.

Of course the main TRRC effort from Dan and my position is the two bills on legal financial obligations. Since Jan 10, we have circulated both bills in both houses and garnered sponsors for each, from both parties: 24 sponsors for the interest reduction bill in the House, 14 in the Senate; and 17 on the discharge bill in the House and 12 in the Senate.  Hearings were held in the House this week on both bills, and a hearing last week on the discharge bill in the Senate.  Reception of both bills seems very good and I have little doubt these will be reported from Committee. There is a hearing next Wed. on the interest reduction bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee. This should go well as the chair, Adam Kline favors the bill and we got considerable GOP sponsors, including a GOP prime, Sen. Esser.

Reports are the crux is going to be getting anything concerning ďfelonsĒ to the House floor because of political election concerns of  Speaker Chopp. 

We have spoken with sheriffs, prosecutors, clerks, victims groups and others on the bill. The Assoc. of County Officials is giving us some trouble because of workload and budget concerns. But so far committee members have not been sympathetic to their concerns. Dan and I are meeting with representatives from the organization next week to discuss ameliorating their major concerns 

I also met with the Corrections staffer for the Ways and Means Committee this week along with Roger Lauen, for a briefing on recent projections for prison capacity needs, and to lobby her that we believe there are more cost effective alternatives.

I have also been trying to forge a relationship with Lonnie Johns-Brown, lobbyist for sexual assault victims.  I am trying to overcome some of the hostility from that camp, and I think I have made some progress. She would like to see us come out to help support them in areas where we can. I feel this is important.

Tax Issues

News on this front:  Yesterday the Supreme Court ended Washington ís inheritance/estate tax. This adds another $431 million to the $1.6 or $1.8 billion dollar deficit the legislature is currently wrestling with.  Oddly this increasing financial pressure helps on issues like prison construction, reentry, etc.   It may hurt grand new efforts formulating for health care, mental health, addiction, education, etc.  I suspect though this is likely the end of Gregoireís book 1, no tax increase budget.

Discussion before yesterday at the Tax Fairness Coalition meetings had been if there would be a book 2 budget aimed at meeting real needs. I suspect now this is a given.

My TRRC and LFO bill work has moved at a pace that has made it difficult for me to follow the tax issues as closely as I would like. I am however, getting my feet much more solidly on the ground in the last weeks, and will be analyzing bills, efforts and status and providing more detail on these issues in the coming days.

While there is no talk of an income tax, there is much discussion about expanding the sales tax to services. The primary talking point on this is that the old tax scheme came from the manufacturing era. Today 80% of people work in service industries. Itís time to make our tax structure reflect our economy. There are alternative schemes floating about several in bills, others still in discussion. (I will investigate these more this coming week and frame them more.) Some will reduce the sales tax level while extending the reach.

I met with Jim McInitire in December. to get his take on the tax issues. He is pushing long term to remove the constitutional language on property taxes that was the basis of the old Supreme Court opinion overruling a state income tax.  He is holding weekly meetings of his committee (House Finance) that are more issue presentation sessions. Iíve listened to the first of these last week on TVW as it set the stage for the series. As a problem statement exercise it is informative and heís doing a good job of framing the problems.

Of course too there are the customary assortment of B&O new tax exemptions proposed this year. Iíll give an outline of these in the next update.

Other News

Iíve already sent around copies and notice of Senator Hargroveís 185 page Omnibus Behavioral Health Bill SB 5763.  This looks to be a very promising approach to mental health, addiction and even prisoner reentry related issues.  I will be delving into this in more detail and talking with various advocacy groups to get their take on it. Friends with expertise and interest should let me know and I will forward it to them for their review and comments.

I have made meetings of the Childcare Budget Coalition, Mental Health Advocates Coalition, Fair Share Healthcare Coalition, Health Care Advocacy Group, Welfare Advocacy Group, when I can. I do this at this stage more to get to know some of the other progressive lobbyists and introduce myself. I am getting their take on key issues and bills for them also.  As I get more settled in I will be sending about info on their primary bills to for release to our interested Friends.

I fielded several calls on the graving issue from Port Angeles concerning the construction work for the Hood Canal bridge. I hope those are dealt with adequately in my responses.

Bob Schultz with FCNL is hosting a Lobbying workshop for about 50 activists in Port Townsend tomorrow (Feb. 5) and I will be presenting (and pushing FCWPP Ė though no idea how many folks will be Friends there).   This update is a bit rushed as TRRC met this morning till almost noon, and I have to pack and leave for the ferry in a few minutes.

Iím sure there are things I am forgetting. I apologize I have been so overwhelmed with learning my way around and facing the onslaught of new info, people, bills, and meetings that I havenít done these reports before thisÖ. But this last week was a turning point for me. I am less overwhelmed, freshly re-organized, and things will be better.  Thanks for your patience. And your confidence.

--Roger.

To contact your FCWPP Lobbyist, Roger Kluck, email [email protected] or call him at 206-856-4444.

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Olympia, WA 98504-0482

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PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600

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