Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank all of you who were able to participate in our telephone town hall recently. Despite the near end-of-the-world “Snowpocalype” that hit Olympia (or is it Snowmageddon?), we were able to hold our annual event and have a great time with many of you.
We had 1,491 live participants, 74 of you had questions taken by our operators, and we were able to take 18 questions. You took part in our survey questions as well. Overall, it was once again a productive way to touch base with you all back home and hear your thoughts and concerns about the issues you're dealing with in your day-to-day lives.
If you're interested, you can visit this link to see the results of our poll questions about taxes, mandatory vaccinations and the proposal for home visits by state workers when new babies are born.
I introduced bipartisan legislation that will direct the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to reanalyze wolf populations throughout the state. This could lead to a de-listing of wolves as an endangered species in northeast Washington. The bill would also increase resources for response to wolf-livestock conflicts. You can read a Capital Press article on that bill here. In the “intent” section of my legislation, I specifically added this language:
“It is the legislature's intent…to support the livestock industry and rural lifestyles and ensure that state agencies and residents have the tools necessary to support coexistence with wolves.”House Bill 2097
I continue to work with anyone willing to sit down and find solutions to the problems we're facing.
Forest health and wildfires
I've introduced legislation dealing with wildfire prevention and response, as well as improving forest health. HB 1273 is a bill that's moving quickly with broad support. It requires an intensive analysis of the state regulatory impacts on small forest landowners (SFLOs). The information gleaned from such analysis is crucial in making future policy decisions and to ensure the survival of SFLOs, who are some of the best stewards of our forests. I'm going to talk more about this legislation in the future, so stay tuned.
Another bill, HB 1784, would require the state to establish fuel breaks across public lands. You can read more about that bill and why it's necessary in an article by The Lens here and a Capital Press article, here.
HB 1940 seeks to put wildfires out quickly, while they're small. It requires DNR to determine in the first hour whether it has the resources available to deploy. And, if during the first 48 hours there are local resources more readily available, they must be allowed to go in and fight those fires. This legislation gets at the heart of a quick, first response to wildfires to keep them from growing into catastrophic ones. You can read an article on this bill in the Omak paper here.
Finally, there is a concentrated effort in Olympia to do away with the death penalty in state law. Democrats have introduced legislation (Senate Bill 5339) which passed the Senate and is now in the House. In addition to this effort, they have introduced legislation that would eliminate the next highest penalty in state law: life without the possibility of parole.
I have concerns that without the death penalty on the table, we're taking a powerful tool away from prosecutors. I think of someone like the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, who agreed to an extensive plea deal to avoid the death penalty which resulted in over 40 more victims being found. Also, without the death penalty, criminals already serving life in prison have no further incentive to behave, thus putting our prison guards and employees at unnecessary risk. We're also seeing more and more violent sexual offenders released back into the community, which will only increase if we continue to reduce sentences for those committing the most heinous acts.
What do you think? Should the state eliminate the death penalty or keep it in place? Send me an email and let me know what you think.
Thank you for reading my update and for allowing me to serve you in the state House. And if you're interested in a behind-the-scenes look at what one of my days looks like while in Olympia, check out this short video here.