The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s Report From Olympia, Nov. 9, 2017. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
We have plenty of news to report this week. A Veteran’s Day celebration has been set for Felt’s Field, a key member of the Senate has announced his resignation and the state auditor’s office has disclosed some troubling information. But the biggest news on the political horizon is the disappointing result of Tuesday’s election. The Senate Democratic Caucus picked up a seat in suburban King County, giving our colleagues a narrow one-vote majority in the Senate. This means Democrats will control all three bases of power in the Legislature during the 2018 session — the Senate, the House and the governor’s mansion.
Election results will be finalized in three weeks, but we can expect to see much upheaval in coming days as new chairmanships are awarded and new committee assignments are made. The most important question is how the Legislature will deal with the important issues that will be before it next year – taxes, environmental regulation, water policy and the many public safety issues we have considered during the five years I have chaired the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
At this point, it is hard to predict how things will shake out. During this summer and fall, some liberal urban Democrats promised to pursue an agenda of extreme environmental regulation and tax hikes – among them a punishing carbon tax that would drive up the price of fuel and electricity, and a capital gains income tax that would lead almost inevitably to a general income tax all of us would pay. But we know there are others who object to ideas that would harm our state’s economic progress. We stand ready to work with them, to protect the state from the recklessness that has now become a possibility in the months ahead.
Sen. Mike Padden
Veterans’ Day celebration set for Felts Field
One of the best-attended community events in our area on Veterans’ Day is the Tribute to Veterans at Felt’s Field. This free event is organized by the Honor Point Military and Aerospace Museum and drew 600 people last year. It offered a terrific chance to see some of the vintage aircraft in the museum’s collection. The new museum opened last summer, and it is doing an outstanding job of revitalizing Spokane’s historic civil aviation terminal and the surrounding neighborhood. This year’s ceremonies begin Saturday at 1 p.m., at 6095 E. Rutter Ave.
Spokane Valley Council lends support to Sam Strahan memorial
An effort to rename a segment of state Highway 27 after the student slain in September’s Freeman High School shooting appears to be gaining support. The Spokesman-Review reports that more than 7,000 people have signed an online petition urging that this stretch of road be named the “Sam Strahan Memorial Highway.” The designation would apply to the section that runs north from Elder Road, south of Freeman, to Pines Road and East 16th Avenue in Spokane Valley.
This designation offers a fitting expression of our community’s sorrow and grief. Strahan interceded when a classmate pulled loaded weapons from his backpack in a crowded school hallway. His sacrifice almost certainly prevented harm to other students.
Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins has written Gov. Inslee on behalf of the council, endorsing the idea. “Sam Strahan was a heroic victim,” he wrote, “We hope this change will be a constant reminder to all those who travel this stretch of road to remember this young man who loved his family and loved life, and in attempting to aid others, was taken from us.” Should this proposal come before the Legislature, it should garner support.
Auditor’s office under scrutiny
We knew the state auditor’s office had problems between 2013 and January of this year, as former Auditor Troy Kelley spent his single term battling allegations of personal financial misconduct and allowed the basic functions of his office to slip. But it’s safe to say no one had the full picture. Last week his successor, Pat McCarthy, submitted a budget request that contained a stunning revelation. The office has not performed an “accountability” audit on 55 state agencies for more than four years. These routine financial audits are a core responsibility of the auditor’s office. If the Legislature did not provide enough money for audits, as McCarthy suggests, Kelley should have sounded the alarm years ago.
We already knew performance audits fell by the wayside during Kelley’s term. And last year, as the Senate Law and Justice Committee investigated the scandalous early releases of dangerous felons by the Department of Corrections, we learned that the whistleblower program overseen by the auditor’s office did not adequately serve front-line workers who wished to call attention to their managers’ questionable decisions. Our legislation, which did not pass this year, would have required the Office of Financial Management to review the adequacy of the whistleblower program for DOC employees.
The disclosure that routine financial audits have not been done has sent shock waves through the Legislature, and raises the point that the problems during the Kelley years ran far deeper than anyone suspected.
Pearson moves on to U.S. Department of Agriculture
Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, has announced he will resign his seat to take a position as rural development director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Washington state. During his 17 years in the Legislature, Pearson was known as a strong advocate for rural communities and for wise management of natural resources. His departure is a loss for the Senate, but we can be sure he will do an excellent job of serving the people of the state in this new capacity.
Pearson is the second Washington senator to leave office for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Former Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, stepped down from his Senate seat earlier this year to take a job as special assistant to the secretary. Last week Dansel was named director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency for the state of Washington. This appointment comes close to home for those of us in the 4th Legislative District. Soon Dansel will be working out of new offices in the former Spokane Valley City Hall.
An important recognition in the fight against impaired driving
We have received an important recognition from the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility for our efforts this year to strengthen Washington’s felony DUI law. As a result of legislation I sponsored this year, the 4th DUI offense in Washington state is now a felony. Until this bill was signed into law, Washington had one of the weakest felony DUI laws in the country. Four prior misdemeanor convictions were required within 10 years before the fifth offense could be charged as a felony. Even this new law isn’t as strong as it should be – most states allow felony charges on the third offense. When impaired drivers fail to get the message and continue to reoffend, longer sentences and prison terms are not just appropriate – they also keep dangerous drivers off the road.
The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsiblilty (Responsibility.org) this year presented its Leadership Award to 24 legislators from across the country for their efforts to reduce impaired driving and underage drinking. It is an honor to be one of them.
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