By Polly Keary, Editor
There’s more to lawmaking than just making laws, Elizabeth Scott has learned.
Now following the end of her second-ever legislative session as a state representative, she is learning that governing sometimes involves things like stress management.
“This session was my second regular legislative session but as you know we also had three special sessions last year, so it’s been a crash course,” she said. “This year, as in other even-numbered years, the session was only 60 days and the pace was even more intense, but with the help of my Legislative Aide, Ashley Stokesbary, I did a better job taking care of my health and stamina while also pushing my bills forward.”
Scott, a Republican who moved to Monroe in order to run for the seat Kirk Pearson vacated to take a senate seat, introduced two bills that got hearings this year, one of which passed, and several others that she will pursue again next year.
The bill that passed was to reduce the regulatory burden on daycares.
“As I doorbelled all around the district in 2012, the number one complaint I heard was about the excessive and ever-changing regulations of home daycares,” she said. “We all want our children to be safe; when the rules for a home daycare are different than the regulations for larger centers or schools, it makes me wonder, why the double standard?”
Scott, who sits on the Early Learning and Human Services Committee, said she’d received complaints about licensers who threatened to revoke licenses for such arbitrary things as not moving a door or window, even in parts of the home not used for daycare purposes.
“Inconsistent or changing regulations make for a confusing environment for these small businesses as well as for the licensers,” she said.
She introduced House Bill 2191, requiring that licensers, before imposing conditions that exceed local codes, get a letter from local code enforcement officers explaining why additional alterations beyond local code are necessary.
The law passed, and Scott says she has heard that it is already making a difference.
Female genital mutilation
Scott introduced one bill that did not get a hearing, but for which Scott still has hope.
That is a bill making female genital mutilation a crime in Washington (it already is at the federal level) and requiring mandatory reporters of abuse, such as teachers, doctors and daycare operators, to report instances of the practice.
There are varying degrees of mutilation practiced around the world, primarily in the Middle East and Africa, ranging from partial removal of female genitalia, to total removal of all sensitive tissue and the sewing shut of the remainder until the girl is married, a practice called infibulation.
Although the practice has been banned in the United States since 1996, there has only ever been one successful prosecution for it, largely because families from countries in which FGM is practiced often take their daughters out of the country for the procedure, which is frequently done to girls between the ages of 2 and 8, and often without anesthesia, in unsanitary environments, with primitive tools.
Scott worked as an English teacher in the Middle East for three years, and what she learned there convinced her to help, when approached about introducing a bill against the practice.
“Many of my students told me they planned to have FGM performed on their daughters, although it was not required by their religion,” Scott said.
In other countries, there have been successful reductions of the practice due to education and prosecution, Scott said. In 2013, the United States passed a supplementary law making it illegal to take girls out of the country for such mutilation.
Scott plans to reintroduce the bill next year.
Another effort Scott made, although unsuccessfully, was to institute term limits in the Washington legislature. Currently only the governor is limited to two terms.
She was one of a number of legislators that introduced a house joint resolution to limit the number of terms a congress member could consecutively hold.
“Washington citizens expressed their wishes for term limits by passing an Initiative several years ago; the Supreme Court threw it out because a Constitutional change would be required, which means two-thirds of the House and Senate would have to support it and then it would go to the people for a vote again,” Scott said.
She said the measure is necessary to keep politicians from becoming entrenched.
“Elections are a built-in ‘term limit’ but it is widely understood that incumbents have an advantage,” she said. “With seniority comes increased political power and sometimes–although thankfully not a problem with our current 39th district legislators–a distancing from the reality ‘on the ground.’”
Highs and lows
Scott said that getting the daycare bill was the highlight of the year for her. She also was happy to fight increased gas taxes, small business taxes, and increased gun control, none of which succeeded in 2014, she added.
Working with other members of the “Freedom Agenda Team,” she said that many of the bills she co-sponsored did well.
“Together we had the most successful slate of Republican bills in two decades, with over 50 Democrat sponsors on our bills,” she said. “Out of our 65 bills filed in the 2013-2014 biennium, 42 of them were given hearings or work sessions; 32 passed either the House or the Senate; 12 were signed into law without veto.”
But she was disappointed that, although there was more money coming into state coffers than the year before, the government spent it rather than returned it.
“While some states in similar situations have sent rebate checks back to their taxpayers, our state added a supplemental budget with additional spending,” she said. “Also it was disappointing to see continued funding for abortions, when the waiting list for newborn adoptions is so long that prospective parents go outside the country to adopt.”
Next year, Scott plans to reintroduce a number of bills, but right now, she’s focused on helping the residents of Oso and Darrington who were affected by the landslide there.
“Please continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and donate nail-proof boots, wool socks, and Shell gas cards or Visa prepaid cards to the Darrington Fire Department (1115 Seeman St., Darrington WA 98241) for their courageous and grueling work out on the debris field,” she said.