Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thanks to everyone who joined myself, Sen. Brian Dansel and Rep. Shelly Short for our telephone town hall last week. As always, we had great participation from folks back home. At one point, more than 1,200 people were on the call! There were 110 people with questions, and we were able to answer 18 of those questions during the hour-long call. We're working on returning voicemails that many people left. In the meantime, I want to share the results of the poll questions we asked:
- What issue is most important to you?
- 32.4% – state spending
- 29.6% – jobs/the economy
- 12% – health care
- 9.3% – forest management/wildfire fighting
- 9% – K-12 education
- 5.9% – other
- 1.9% – transportation
- The governor is proposing a carbon tax on large employers like Vaagen Brothers, and also on many large energy companies to pay for transportation and education. Knowing this will most likely raise the price of food, fuel and electricity, would you support the governor's plan?
- 84.8% – no
- 11.8% – not sure, need more information
- 3.4% – yes
If you have additional thoughts on these questions or other issues, please contact me.
This Friday is policy cutoff for bills to pass out of policy committees or they're likely considered “dead” for the year. Read more about what cutoff means and the various deadlines we have during session here.
I'm pleased a couple of bills important to our area are still moving through the process:
- House Bill 1003, sponsored by Rep. Brad Hawkins, would develop a model policy to help school districts restore their facilities following natural disasters. This would have helped the Pateros School District after the Carlton Complex Fire. The bill passed the House unanimously and is now being considered in the Senate.
- House Bill 2093, which I've sponsored with my seatmate Rep. Shelly Short, pulls together various ideas on improving the state's response to wildfires. It passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and will hopefully be considered by the full House in the next few weeks. The bill would:
- allow locals to access state land to help put out a fire,
- require the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to coordinate and share a list of locals who are qualified to fight fires and enter into agreements with them to use locals first during a fire, and
- require the Commissioner of Public Lands to appoint both a fire liaison who will represent landowners and the public during a fire, and a Fire Advisory Committee to advise the commissioner on fire activities.
The House recently passed some changes to the supplemental 2013-15 budget adopted in last year's session. I voted for the changes because it included $1.2 million for Carlton Complex Fire recovery efforts. These state dollars will help us get some federal matching funds as well. After FEMA rejected individual assistance after the fire, folks really need some support to get back on their feet.
Last week, the Senate rolled out a transportation revenue package that would increase the gas tax by 11.7 cents over three years, as well as increase various transportation fees. I think the state Department of Transportation has a credibility issue with voters, and with me, before we can give them more of your hard-earned money. I'm supporting the reforms being proposed in the Senate, so we can “fix it before you fund it.” In addition, I can't support a gas tax when our economy is still rebounding, most of the people in our district commute long distances or use their vehicles for work, and when we see very little return for our investment. I'm a “no” on increasing the gas tax and your cost of living.
I was pleased to meet a group of 4-H students from Stevens, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties during their visit to Olympia (click on the photo to see it larger). If you make plans to travel to the capital, please contact my office so I can say “hi!” Otherwise, please feel free to call or e-mail my office anytime with your questions, concerns or suggestions.
It's an honor to serve you.