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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I wanted to take this week's e-newsletter to talk about a few important issues I am working on in Olympia on your behalf. Some of the topics I will discuss are a result of direct correspondence with you, asking my opinion on certain legislation or issues. I really appreciate hearing from you, so keep calling, emailing and writing me!
The Columbia River Crossing
All of us in Southwest Washington are very affected by the outcome of the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project. There have been many valid concerns raised in the rigorous community debate over the project. My position on the CRC has been very consistent; I cannot support the CRC project in its current design.
Clark County residents have expressed with their vote they do not want to fund a light rail project in conjunction with the CRC. Any new bridge over the Columbia River must accommodate freight and passenger traffic on I-5 and the Columbia River for the next 100 years. Any new bridge design must provide adequate clearance height to accommodate river users and must increase the capacity and flow of traffic and commerce over this vital interstate highway.
I do not support tolling on this project because it will place a huge financial burden on more than 70,000 of our neighbors in Southwest Washington who must cross the bridge each day in order to get to work. The Federal government has a responsibility to pay for a major portion of improvements on a highway that connects the United States to Canada and Mexico.
I support the elimination of costly and inflexible light rail. I will work to ensure fiscally prudent transit options are available on the bridge and that there are sufficient numbers of traffic lanes on any new bridge project. Please take a moment to watch the YouTube video called Common Sense Alternatives attached with this e-newsletter. I support the multi-phase concepts presented in this video. If you would like more specific details about my positions on the CRC, please feel free to contact my office.
Rainy Day Jobs Bills
In drafting three storm water relief bills, I worked closely with Clark County officials and business leaders as a way to bring new jobs to our struggling economy. I have detailed the bills previously, but to summarize, the bills would address storm water permitting and create equal environmental protection at a reduced regulatory cost.
- House Bill 1237 would create a storm water compliance pilot project which would allow counties to issue alternative compliance plans as long as the alternative satisfies the water quality requirements of the state and federal clean water act.
- House Bill 1235 would prioritize state funding in storm water control to projects required by the municipal storm water permits. Currently state funding is allocated to projects not mandated by the permits, leaving the entire regulatory cost burden on the municipalities.
- House Bill 1234 would delay the new storm water requirements in order to give multiple jurisdictions time to complete the judicial review of existing permits.
As we near cutoff, I am happy to report all three pieces of legislation are moving forward in the process. Even though HB 1234 did not get a hearing in my house environment committee, the newly formed Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate may provide the legs for this bill to advance.
I am working behind the scenes with our industry stakeholders along with several representatives from the environmental community to advance HB 1237 and HB 1235. Next Monday, I will meet with Governor Inslee's staff to ask for help with both bills. I am also very grateful to Senator Ann Rivers and Senator Annette Cleveland for their leadership in moving the companion bills in the Senate. If you have time, please consider driving to Olympia next Tuesday, February 19th to testify at the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee hearing at 1:30 pm where SB 5441 and SB 5435 will be heard.
Even though I have introduced a total of nine bills this session, my storm water relief bills have consumed most of my attention because regulatory relief is the most critical issue I can address to improve our Clark County economy. It really is “all about jobs.” I will not rest until the 20,000 unemployed people in our community are back to work.
Safer Schools Act
Last week, I introduced House Bill 1788– the Safer Schools Act of 2013. The bipartisan legislation would allow school boards the option to utilize a new safety tool to protect students and teachers.
HB 1788, which has eight Republican and two Democratic sponsors, seeks to prevent school violence. Some communities may embrace this added safety measure while other communities may not. My first choice would be to fund school resource officers in every school, but not all school districts can afford the high cost of this option. All schools should be safe. We need safety alternatives. The Safer Schools Act is an alternative.
I have heard from hundreds of parents, teachers and School Board members from around the state who support my idea. Unfortunately, Rep. Pederson, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is not willing to move this legislation out of his committee. There is only a limited amount of time for legislation to pass through the process, but this is a good idea I plan to introduce again next year.
Fire department fuel exemption
I am also a big supporter of House Bill 1602 which would exempt our fire departments from having to convert all their vehicles to 100% alternate fuels by the June 1, 2018 deadline as outlined in I-937. This week, Battle Ground City Manager John Williams testified in favor of this bill, noting that his City's fleet is valued at more than $3 million. Battle Ground, like many other cities simply cannot afford to replace perfectly good first responder vehicles when there is still many years of useful life left in them. This is just another example of over-reaching environmental rules where the cost far outweighs the benefit.
Bad Bills of the Week
I decided to add this section to my e-newsletter to report to you on bills that are particularly offensive that should not be passed. If you agree, click on the links of these bills and send emails to the prime sponsors to let them know how you feel.
HB 1287 would allow Indian Tribes to purchase fee simple land anywhere outside their reservations and take the property off the tax rolls. This could potentially hurt our local school districts and cities. This bill passed through the Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee this past week on a mostly party line vote.
HB 1178 would lower the standards for teacher certification in Washington State. I do not approve of this bill. At a time when we should be raising the bar to attract the best and brightest innovators to the teaching profession, this bill goes in the absolute wrong direction.
In closing, it can seem frustrating at times to know that good ideas are out there, but cannot move through the legislative process because of party politics. I want to let you know I am honored to be here fighting for you, and will continue to bring your ideas to Olympia to make sure they get the attention they deserve.
God bless you and your family.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"
469 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7812 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000