Padden adds two area residents to legislative team for 2014 session

padden_pqTwo Spokane-area residents are working at the Capitol during the 2014 legislative session as members of Sen. Mike Padden’s legislative team.

Daniel Zapotocky is Padden’s aide for this year’s session; as a Gonzaga University student he had served an internship with another Eastern Washington senator in 2012. Daniel Condon, an Eastern Washington University student majoring in history, is serving an internship in the Spokane Valley Republican’s office.

“For someone with an interest in public service, nothing compares to the experience of working at the Legislature, so there is plenty of demand for these positions. For the people I represent, it helps when they can phone or e-mail my office and connect with someone who knows the difference between Newman Lake and Liberty Lake,” Padden said. “These two young men are not only hard-working but are familiar with the 4th Legislative District, and that’s a plus.”

Zapotocky and Condon join Padden’s full-time legislative assistant, Mike McCliment, who is also a Spokane Valley resident.

The 2014 session began Jan. 13 and will conclude March 13, making it nearly six weeks shorter than the Legislature’s initial 2013 session. Padden said that’s because the state constitution allows more time in odd-numbered years for lawmakers to negotiate and adopt state government’s trio of two-year budgets – one to cover operations, another to pay for public construction projects and a third to fund transportation projects.

“Although the budgets were handled this past year, we typically look at them again to see if any adjustments need to be made,” said Padden, who serves on the Senate budget committee. “On top of that, the state Supreme Court recently handed down an order that basically demands more education funding; while I see that as crossing the line between the judicial and legislative branches of our government, we’ll have to talk about how to respond.

“Also, the Legislature may be asked to consider an additional transportation package that would rely on a gas-tax increase. So while the focus in these shorter sessions tends to be on policy rather than spending, the governor and others already are wanting more spending and tax increases – and for Washington’s minimum wage, which by law has to be the nation’s highest, to go even higher. None of that is going to encourage the people who create jobs in our state to create more of them, so I’m working to keep the brakes on taxes and spending and instead support bills that would give the economy a chance to continue its slow recovery.”

The former longtime Spokane County District Court judge continues to head the Senate Law and Justice Committee; he had the committee meet on the first day of the new session, making it the only Senate panel to do so.

“Some say the law and justice committee is the most interesting and hardest-working committee in Olympia, and if you look at the bills sent our way, it’s easy to see why we couldn’t wait even one day. Laws having to do with public safety need to stay up to date so we can continue giving our law-enforcement officers and justice system the tools they need,” said Padden.

Padden has contributed to the sizable list of legislation for the committee to consider, introducing measures that include Senate Bill 6009, aimed at longer prison sentences for those judged to be “habitual” burglars and thieves; SB 6010, which would outlaw the possession of shaved or altered keys, typically associated with auto theft; and SB 6011, which would update Washington’s criminal code to specifically address the sort of senseless, random assault that occurred just before Thanksgiving less than two miles from Spokane Valley City Hall.

At the same time, Padden is continuing to lead the Legislature’s efforts to protect children from sex traffickers and protect motorists and others from impaired drivers. His work on stronger anti-trafficking laws in 2013 helped earn Washington an “A” grade from a Washington-based global leader in that fight; two national organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also honored Padden this past year after lawmakers unanimously approved his bill to make sweeping improvements to Washington’s DUI laws.

“The sex-trafficking industry continues to evolve, and so must our laws. As for DUI, Washington needs to start putting four-time offenders in prison, not jail, and in light of the changes in state law concerning marijuana use, there’s growing concern about drivers being impaired by that drug,” Padden said.