November 20, 2018
Although next year’s legislative session doesn’t start until January 14, members of the state Senate got together at the Capitol last week. This traditional gathering is called “Assembly Days” because the various committees assemble for some pre-session planning. Sometimes the agenda includes looking at whether new laws are having the intended effect, but mostly we discuss issues that either will or could be the subject of legislation in the coming year.
In the Law & Justice Committee, for example, we received an update about a work group commissioned by the Legislature to identify and intervene against possible mass-shooting perpetrators (one of its meetings was in Clark County, in July). There is interest in revisiting a piece of legislation I proposed during the 2018 session, which would help our community and technical colleges discourage mass shootings by allowing them to maintain a law-enforcement presence on their campuses – since they aren’t allowed to do so currently. In the Labor & Commerce Committee, our work session included an update on the state’s new paid family leave law.
Now accepting applications for Senate Pages: I also learned this past week that I’ll be able to sponsor up to eight Senate Pages during the 2019 session. That’s the largest number of Page slots my office has been granted, and I’d like to see young people from our 17th District fill all of them. The Page Program is open to students who are 14-16 years old, and those who participate get a week-long civics lesson they won’t find anywhere else (plus a week’s pay and time away from their regular school).
With the 2019 session starting in less than two months, now is the time to apply — and the process is now simpler than ever. Just visit https://app.leg.wa.gov/PageApplication/ to apply online!
A bump in the road (and other places): A little over a month ago I did a breast self-exam and was surprised to find a small lump. After several tests, it was determined to be early-stage breast cancer. I am very, very fortunate that I found and acted upon it so early. I decided to go public with the diagnosis last month, mostly to implore all women to do monthly self-exams and get annual mammograms. When caught early, breast cancer is virtually curable. I also want all of you to know that although I have started chemotherapy, to be followed by surgery, I don’t intend for this treatment to affect my ability to represent you. However, there will be days where my immune system will be low – and that’s when I’ll appreciate the “fist bumps” rather than (much to my dismay) the shaking of hands, or a hug.
Sadly, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with this disease sometime in their lifetime. Early detection is so very important. I am grateful for the support, prayers and encouragement I’ve received already. To raise awareness, please join me in offering colorful reminders about breast exams by wearing something pink every Wednesday and posting your photo on social media with the hashtag #OnWednesdaysWeWearPink
Interstate Bridge update: In 2017 the Legislature created a joint Oregon-Washington legislative action committee to address a variety of transportation concerns, including the process for developing a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River. Each state was to appoint eight legislators to the committee, and as one of the co-sponsors of the legislation I was pleased to learn recently that Oregon has made most of its appointments. We are now looking to set up the joint committee’s first meeting before the end of the year.
Look for an online survey from me, probably in a month or so, about the transportation needs facing the 17th District, Clark County and the SW Washington-Portland area. And I want you to know that I am keeping a close eye on what Oregon may be contemplating in regards to tolling, and how it could affect Clark County commuters.
The traffic situation between Washington and Oregon and the status of the Interstate Bridge in particular was the main focus of a recent work session held in our 17th District by the Senate Transportation Committee. I couldn’t attend the meeting, but what the committee members were told is right in line with what our I-5 bridge bill intended: the dialogue is continuing at several levels without any commitment being made to a particular project (Click here to view the TVW recording of the work session).
Appropriately, the final discussion during the committee’s Vancouver work session involved the fraud that occurs when Washington residents use an Oregon driver’s license to avoid sales tax on Washington purchases or register vehicles in Oregon to avoid Washington’s licensing costs. I had addressed this ongoing issue this year with Senate Bill 6293, and in Vancouver, the transportation-committee chair remarked how my proposal would have really helped had it become law. Two members of the Washington State Patrol’s License Investigation Unit detailed the issue for the committee members present and repeated some of the same points that helped my bill win approval from the transportation committee. With at least 20,000 vehicles (that we know of) not being properly registered, this is a very big issue – one that I plan to continue working, toward an answer that gets more people/vehicles into compliance.
Learning from others: It’s helpful when legislative committees are able to meet in parts of the state with specific issues, and the same goes for the issue-oriented tours we sometimes are able to take. Those of us who visited Bonneville Dam during the summer to see the salmon predation firsthand will be able to draw from that experience when policies related to salmon (or orca) are brought up. The tour of agricultural operations I took east of the Cascades was a great help in understanding pesticide applications, which were the subject of a controversial bill this year. And the learning isn’t limited to in-state tours, as shown by the short trip I took in September to Denmark and Sweden, after being invited to join with a delegation from Spokane.
The challenges facing local and state governments are similar around the world – infrastructure, public safety, education, social services and so on. For example, Spokane has a city-operated waste-to-energy plant, so the waste-to-energy plant in Denmark’s largest city, Copenhagen (it’s reportedly the cleanest such plant in the world, emissions-wise) was of special interest to the Spokane officials in the group. There was also much for me to appreciate, such as our tour of a Danish industrial park that clusters employers in a way that could work in Clark County. I’ve considered introducing legislation to encourage this approach. Our visit to a Danish community that is “carbon-negative” showed the real-world application of an idea I’ve supported in Olympia: biomass energy, which could have a place in southwest Washington.
Copenhagen’s work on downtown waterfront redevelopment caught my attention because the city’s size and location reminded me of the Clark County-Portland metro area. And as someone whose family business involves making things from wood, I was very interested in the visit to Växjö, Sweden, which is described as a “‘modern wooden city” – complete with high-rise buildings made of wood! One of my main reasons for participating in this tour was to see the use of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) which is an up-and-coming building technology.
Standing up for credit unions: My early business experience included working for Vancouver-based Columbia Credit Union, and my appreciation for all that credit unions do for people and communities has followed me to my work at the Capitol. So I felt particularly honored to receive the first-ever “Credit Union Champion” award in mid-October from the Northwest Credit Union Association, at its annual convention in Tacoma (see photo). The association cited my work this year to help pass legislation regarding where public funds may be deposited.
I hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day, and are able to celebrate and enjoy the company of friends, families and loved ones. As the daughter of a veteran (Air Force), I also encourage you to give thanks for our women and men in the Armed Forces, many of whom will be unable to spend this holiday season in the comfort of home while they protect the freedoms we cherish as Americans. And if you read earlier about my recently discovered “bump in the road” you’ll understand why I feel particularly blessed this year.
Yours in service,