Dear Friends and Neighbors,
When I first arrived in Olympia as a newly-elected legislator, I heard time and again this job is a “Tale of Two Legislatures.” First, when the Legislature is in session, the days are full of committee work and voting on bills. Second is interim, the time between sessions during which many legislators go home and work in their community. It has been great to be back in our communities and since we are nearing the midway point of the 2015 interim, I thought it was a good time to share a few updates with you.
In the weeks since session ended, I have traveled across the 17th District and the state, meeting with constituents and learning more about the people who keep our economy running. Locally, I attended the grand opening of the new Walmart store in Vancouver and saw firsthand the much-needed jobs it has brought to our area. I also met many top business leaders in Washington state at the annual Association of Washington Business Policy Summit in Cle Elum, and participated in the “Farmer for a Day” program in Pasco to learn more about our state's agriculture industry. I was amazed at the technology that is being used in farming today!
Washington is home to the most talented and innovative workforce in the nation, but it is clear we must do more to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit in order to grow the middle class. This remains one of my top priorities heading into the 2016 legislative session.
In the Legislature, no two days are the same – in or out of session. From attending the groundbreaking of the new Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Washington facility, to encouraging youth civic engagement at the “Floats for Votes” event at WSU Vancouver, to touring the Clark County Food Bank – I have seen how strong and vibrant our community is. Spending time in our community is the best part of my job as your representative. Please let my office know if you have an event you would like me to attend.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my update. I hope you will take a moment to share your thoughts with me on the issues I covered in this update, and any other issues important to you. I look forward to seeing you out and about in the 17th!
Education remains a hot topic in the Legislature. With the new school year well under way, I thought it would be a good time to get out there and learn more about what is happening in our local schools. I have scheduled tours of each and every school district within the 17th District, which includes the Evergreen, Battle Ground, Hockinson, Ridgefield, and Vancouver school districts. We have some of the best and brightest teachers in the 17th District and I am looking forward to seeing first-hand the successes and needs that exist in our local schools. If you know a teacher who would be interested in having me visit their classroom, please let me know! I am happy to spend some time with students, giving a brief civics lesson and discussing state government and my role as a legislator.
Emergency preparedness and public safety concerns
With students heading back to school, it's probably not a coincidence that September was National Emergency Preparedness Month. It serves as an important reminder that we must be prepared to meet the challenges associated with a natural or man-made disaster. I recently attended a memorial service in Brush Prairie to commemorate the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Our country was forever changed on that day, and we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims. It also highlights that we must remain vigilant and prepared. This includes making sure we have the appropriate resources in place to meet the needs of our community in the event of an emergency.
As a member of the House Public Safety Committee, I am committed to ensuring we are always prepared. At the end of September, I received a tour and briefing at the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) in Vancouver. In addition to being Clark County's 911 dispatch center, CRESA is also our county emergency management center and home to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Region IV office. Additionally, I attended the Joint Washington and Oregon Emergency Management Association's annual conference, hosted in Vancouver. These are important opportunities to learn about current emergency operations procedures, and collaborate with experts on how to improve our response in the event of an emergency.
Hitting the road to discuss transportation issues
Key to both economic growth and emergency preparedness is a modern transportation infrastructure. In September, I had the opportunity to tour current projects at the Port of Vancouver. At the beginning of this month, I joined many of my Republican colleagues for a special tour of Boeing's Everett facility, where Boeing employs more than 40,000 people. Boeing is the largest employer in Washington state, employing more than 80,000 people statewide. Boeing jets are a top export in Washington. During the tour we received an update on the new 777x and other projects.
Later this month, I will be attending the Joint Transportation Committee meeting and the first interim meeting of the Legislative Rail Caucus. Officials from the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad and the Port of Vancouver will be presenting. I am looking forward to a broad discussion on rail issues, including safety and infrastructure improvement. Railways are vital to moving goods from eastern Washington to our ports and out to markets.
An emerging leader in the House
Finally, I was honored to be chosen by House leadership to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures' Symposium for Emerging Leaders last week.
About 35 legislators from all across the country convened at the symposium. I had the opportunity to hear from Dan Bartlett, who served as communications director and counselor to President George W. Bush on handling of crisis situations, discussing the ever changing trends in government technologies, and emerging research from the neuroscience field about how the brain works best and why these transformative ideas can help today's legislative leaders.
Most interesting was the sharing of important topics with elected leaders in other states across the country. As in Washington, education, transportation, and mental health were the most commonly discussed issues. The symposium was held in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart – the biggest corporation, by revenue, in the world – was founded. The company employs more people around the globe than any other employer except for the U.S. and Chinese military. We had a Q & A session with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. He voiced his concerns, much like many Washington business owners have, about the overreach of government regulations and how they affect their ability to do business in the private sector.
Overall, I felt the symposium was beneficial to my work on your behalf. It was a true privilege to represent my caucus and the entire state at this national gathering of legislative leaders.
Yours in service,
418 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
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