The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, August 31, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
It has been nice to spend the past several weeks here at home, since returning in late July from the longest legislative session in state history. While the pace has been relatively relaxed in August, with more time for family activities, the office calendar has been far from empty – a reminder that there is still legislative work to do even when we are not at the Capitol.
The two major issues left hanging when the Legislature adjourned continue to be debated, just not in the Senate or House chambers. One is the water-rights measure that responds to the state Supreme Court’s misguided ruling in the Hirst case; it had consistent Senate support but was ignored by the House. The second is the state’s public-works construction budget, which is on hold due to the House’s inaction on the Hirst water-rights question. These issues have now become topics for city officials (like the Spokane Valley City Council, as detailed below, and the Spokane City Council, as reported here) and newspaper editorials (often quoting unhappy city officials) and even “robo-calls” that ring your phone and offer to transfer you to a legislator’s office number so you can comment.
The Senate’s lead negotiator on water issues is still pursuing a common-sense solution to the dire situation resulting from the Hirst decision; one question is whether the Democrat-controlled House wants to reach an agreement as quickly as the Senate does. The Walla Walla newspaper recently brought up the idea that Democrats might stall until after the November election, to see whether Republicans will retain three Senate seats that are filled by appointed senators and are on the ballot (including the 7th District, to our north). That will determine whether we continue to lead the Senate.
In the meantime, as mentioned earlier, there is legislative work to do here in the 4th District, and in preparation for a more active September. Please keep reading for more.
Sen. Mike Padden
Law and Justice plans two September meetings
Since 2013 our Senate Law and Justice Committee has gained a reputation for meeting in communities around the state. It is part of our ongoing effort to encourage public participation in the legislative process outside of Olympia, just as we like to arrange for testimony via videoconference during legislative sessions.
Next month, on September 13, our committee will have an afternoon work session at the Port of Grays Harbor building in Aberdeen. Click here for the agenda; we’ll talk about allowing payment plans for traffic fines, to reduce the number of driving-license suspensions due to nonpayment, and advice from the attorney general’s office regarding immigration enforcement.
The discussion also will include a possible change in the state’s public-disclosure law, so law-enforcement and corrections officials can learn more about a person’s efforts to obtain a concealed-pistol license.
The Law and Justice Committee also will meet September 26 in Kent; the agenda for that meeting is still in the works.
September 19 will find me in Tacoma for the next meeting of the legislative Task Force on the Use of Body Worn Cameras. This group met twice last year, after being established earlier in 2016 by the Legislature; this will be its first meeting in 2017. The fact that Seattle’s mayor ordered (in July) that city’s police officers to begin wearing body cameras will add to the number of topics for discussion.
In and around the 4th District
Being home from Olympia has allowed more “face time” with the people who make our part of Spokane County what it is, and opportunities to catch up with changes in our communities. For example:
- It was great to join Representative McCaslin for a pair of school dedications in the Central Valley School District. The first was August 15 for the new Liberty Creek Elementary School, about 18 months after ground was broken for the K-2 project. The second was this week, for the remodeled and expanded Chester Elementary School.Class size, meaning the number of students per classroom (and teacher), is a perennial topic in the Legislature. These new schools both expect to have a student-teacher ratio of 17:1, lowest in the CVSD, thanks to the 2015 bond issue approved by district voters.
- This past week the three 4th District legislators were joined by 25-plus electrical contractors from the area for a meeting we had arranged with the director and others from the state Department of Labor and Industries. To say these employers have concerns about L&I’s customer service would be putting it mildly, but the visitors from Olympia seemed receptive and have already shared their plan to make things better.
- It’s important to maintain good, open communication between state and local government, and to answer questions about the decisions made in Olympia. Our 4th District delegation met recently with the Spokane Valley City Council, which responded by honoring us with certificates of appreciation.I also met this month with Mayor Steve Peterson and Police Chief Brian Asmus of Liberty Lake. It was a very productive discussion that included sharing with Chief Asmus about important improvements made this year to the state’s DUI laws.
- It gets my attention when people from our area are offered an alternative to traveling across the Cascades — which is the reason our Senate Law and Justice Committee has frequently used video hookups to allow remote testimony on bills. This week Spokane International Airport and Southwest Airlines announced plans for nonstop service to San Jose, California. It will be an alternative to driving to the SeaTac airport or connecting through it, and is another acknowledgement of the Spokane area’s growth and growing stature in the region.
In the News – King County delays public vote on government-sanctioned drug-injection sites
In March our Senate majority passed legislation that would effectively ban the establishment of government-protected drug-injection sites in Washington. The sponsor of Senate Bill 5223, who represents the Federal Way area in south King County, introduced the measure after King County and the city of Seattle announced their intentions to move forward with plans to build two heroin injection sites. One site would operate within the city limits of Seattle the other would be located somewhere else in King County at a location to be determined later.
The bill went nowhere in the House. Two interesting things happened after that, however. A citizen petition to impose a ban in King County received enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Also, some of the prominent cities in King County imposed a ban within their limits.
This past week, the Seattle Times reports here, the King County Council voted to delay the public vote on the initiative until February. Also, opponents (who have referred to drug injection sites as “supervised consumption spaces”) announced they had filed a lawsuit to invalidate the initiative.
The report included this from my Senate colleague who opposes the King County plan:
State Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, a leading critic of the proposed injection sites, said in a tweet “unelected Seattle bureaucrats have shown great contempt for voters and democracy!”
While it is not likely that Spokane and Spokane County would go the route of Seattle and King County, our communities have not been spared by the opioid-abuse epidemic. It has become a public-policy issue from at least two angles – public health, and public safety – that will continue to receive attention from lawmakers.
Locally represented company offering college scholarships
For many of this year’s incoming high-school seniors, the rest of 2017 and first part of 2018 will not only include classwork but extracurricular work to seek aid for going on to college.
Spokane Valley is home to a Coca-Cola bottling facility, and this past week an e-mail arrived from Coca-Cola about the “Coca-Cola Scholars” program. The foundation behind the scholarship program will award $20,000 scholarships to 150 high school seniors from across the country. Students may apply on the foundation’s website, www.coca-colascholarsfoundation.org, now through October 31 at 2 p.m. Pacific time. Applicants must be high school seniors with at least at 3.0 GPA, and full eligibility requirements are available on the website.
If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to serve you!
Phone: (509) 921-2460
Street address: 11707 East Sprague Ave., Suite 305, Spokane Valley, WA 99206
Email address: Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov