Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The pace of session is beginning to pick up as we took our first round of votes on the House floor. That being said, much work is still being done in committees to address key issues and legislation. I'm happy to provide an update on what I have been working on this past week!
Transportation issues continue to be front and center. I am committed to holding the Department of Transportation (WSDOT) accountable, and also ensuring taxpayers have a seat at the table. It reminds me of an old saying: “If you're not at the table, you're probably on the menu.” This has been the case far too often in determining how transportation money is spent, especially in our corner of the state.
With that in mind, I introduced an amendment to House Bill 1404 in the House Transportation Committee to give Clark County taxpayers a stronger voice in the proposed bi-state megaproject workgroup. It would require legislators from affected districts be appointed to the work group and would be tasked with reviewing plans for projects that cost more than $500 million and cross state lines. As the bill was written, members would be appointed by WSDOT and there would be no obligation to appoint legislators from affected counties.
I believe appointing a legislator from every District within the county the project is being proposed in would be an easy way to improve accountability and help the state avoid costly and unwanted projects like the failed Columbia River Crossing so I presented an amendment to do so. I believe it is important that we have local legislators actively participating in the review process. I was disappointed that my amendment was rejected by members of the majority party on the committee, but I will continue to fight for improved representation on this workgroup.
I am also working on legislation to address an issue with voting members of the Regional Transportation Council (RTC). Currently, Washington state legislators on the RTC are not able to vote on proposals that come before the Council. Yet, Oregon DOT and Metro representatives have a vote. While they will remain part of the RTC group and have a voice in the discussions, my bill would remove their ability to vote. This would also apply to any out of state government or organization with membership on a regional transportation planning organization or board in Washington state. This will help protect our tax dollars by ensuring RTC votes reflect Clark County's needs first, not simply finding ways to offset Metro's massive debt load. I look forward to sharing more information on this bill as session moves forward.
You may have been following the news over the past several months concerning the West Coast port slowdowns. The slowdowns and work stoppages are having a major impact on Washington's economy. This is of particular concern to me due to the important role the Port of Vancouver plays in our local, state and national economies. The slowdowns are also impacting the ability of Eastern Washington farmers to move their products. Agriculture is a $10 billion industry in Washington, and our economy depends on farmers, and other producers, being able to export products nationally and internationally in a timely and predictable manner.
In response to the ongoing dispute, I have co-sponsored House Joint Memorial 4005. This is a bipartisan petition to President Obama and Congress to do all they can to help resolve the ongoing labor dispute. While a federal mediator has been appointed, the situation continues to deteriorate. It is important we get our ports running efficiently and productively now, to ensure predictability for our families, businesses and overall state economy.
Another issue of great concern to me is the continued fallout from the passage of I-594 regarding universal background checks on firearm transfers. Since it passed in November, we are continuing to hear of major issues created by this initiative, including a concern shared with me by the Clark County Sheriff's Department. State law requires law enforcement officers to receive extensive training and certification in firearms use. This often requires an outside armorer to conduct trainings that involve multiple firearms being used throughout the certification training by instructors and participants. Under the provisions of I-594, it is unclear if these transfers would require background checks. In fact, some armorers have cancelled their training courses in Washington state and law enforcement agencies are being advised by their legal departments to seek training out of state.
I believe this is unacceptable and I will be working with the Attorney General's office to obtain an opinion some guidance on this critical public safety issue. I-594 is a clear and blatant violation of both our second amendment rights and those enumerated in Article 1, Section 24 of the Washington state constitution and I will continue working to repeal this flawed law.
Also this week, I was honored to spend time with two groups who have a great impact on our communities – Washington Federation of Republican Women and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Members of NFIB were on the Hill to celebrate Small Business Legislative Day. This was a great opportunity to hear their concerns and ideas to move our economy forward. I appreciate all they do to support job growth in our state! It is always great to spend time with those who visit the Capitol and hear directly from those who are most affected by the decisions we make here.
Finally, I am still accepting applications to participate in the House Page Program. If you know someone between the ages of 14-16 who is interested in serving as a page, please contact me. For more information on the program, click here. Paging is a fun and educational experience, and I'm excited to share this opportunity with local teens. But time is running out! Get your application in as soon as possible!
Please take a few minutes to view my latest video. You can do so by clicking here.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this update, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on these and other issues facing our great state!
Yours in service,
418 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7994 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000