Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am back in Olympia today and tomorrow to vote on several bills, including the 2015-17 transportation operating budget. The transportation operating budget funds highway maintenance, the Washington State Patrol and the Department of Licensing. Read below about how I voted on this measure and why.
I am disappointed negotiations have not progressed during the special session to a point that we could be voting on a state 2015-17 operating budget before tomorrow, the final day of the first special session. That means the governor most likely will call the Legislature into a second 30-day special session. It is my hope we can get this wrapped up soon. In the meantime, my calendar is filling up with various constituent meeting requests.
Below is a briefing on some of my recent activities. If you have any questions about activities mentioned in this e-newsletter or other issues regarding state government, please call my office in Camas. You'll find my contact information at the end of this e-newsletter.
Pike disappointed bi-state bridge group funding stripped from final transportation budget
Several weeks ago, I was proud to support a proposed 2015-17 transportation operating budget after the House unanimously agreed to a bipartisan amendment that I worked on with Rep. Sharon Wylie to fund the creation of a bi-state bridge work group. Our proposal would have provided $100,000 to create a group made up of eight Oregon and eight Washington legislators to develop a bridge plan acceptable by the public that is affordable, accountable and demonstrates action.
Last night, I learned that funding was stripped from the final transportation operating budget. I'm deeply disappointed! The final transportation budget was negotiated by only two people and we were not made aware until a final deal was approved on a handshake.
While I support the overall funding of the transportation budget for preservation and maintenance of our roads, operations of our ferries, the Washington State Patrol and Department of Licensing, I voted against the budget package as a “protest” against the funding that was stripped from the bi-state bridge work group.
Just because the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project is dead, doesn't mean the problem is going away. New capacity in the I-5 corridor is still needed. In fact, traffic will continue to get worse as our economy improves. I remain determined toward the creation of a bi-state work group to find a solution that solves the traffic problems over the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland.
While the appropriation would have been helpful, it is not critical in the effort to move forward. I will continue in my efforts to bring people together to bridge the divides with a new bridge solution that really does work for everyone.
Local 9-1-1 system becoming more effective and responsive
Rep. Brandon Vick and I recently toured the Clark County Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA). Scott Johnson, Dave Fuller and Katy Myers presented an overview and highlighted future plans. I was excited to learn later this fall, CRESA will roll out a new 3-1-1 phone line for non-urgent police matters. This will reduce the volume of non-emergency calls going into the 9-1-1 system for greater efficiencies.
CRESA has about 85 employees and a $10 million annual budget. Half of their budget comes from Clark County and the nine cities within the agency jurisdiction. The other half comes from the 95-cent 9-1-1 tax on cell phone bills. Of that amount, 70 percent goes to CRESA and 25 percent to the state's 9-1-1 trust fund.
The state funds are expected to help pay for technology upgrades necessary throughout the state's emergency system. However, there is concern on the part of CRESA staff that legislators often sweep some of those funds to backfill general fund shortfalls. I understand and share those concerns. I would rather see most of the 95-cent cell phone tax stay within the local jurisdiction's emergency 9-1-1 system. Overall, I came away from the CRESA tour impressed with this agency's performance!
Speaker reminds us of the value of our senior citizens
Last Thursday, I joined Sen. Annette Cleveland along with a host of senior living center professionals in Clark County to participate in a roundtable discussion with Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative and Green House Project. An international expert on “elderhood” and geriatric medicine, Dr. Thomas is touring the country to change the culture of how Americans address care for our aging population. He believes we don't credit older people, and instead, calculate the expense and burden of aging as liabilities down to the minute detail.
I agree that older people are a tremendous and undervalued asset in America today. Other cultures do a much better job of respecting their seniors. Dr. Thomas advocates that if we change our perspective on how we “incarcerate” our senior citizens, there will be an extraordinary return.
I asked him about the benefits of changing land use zones to allow senior living facilities to be located next to public schools. This is an idea I've heard before that would allow an opportunity for senior citizens to volunteer to read to young students and offer mentoring to middle and high school students. If executed properly, there could be a huge benefit to both students and seniors. He agreed.
One of my Legislative interim projects this summer is to bring senior living center professionals together in my district to discuss ways we can re-engage our seniors back into our communities. I will keep you posted on our progress.
Remembering our fallen heroes
On Saturday, I attended a Memorial Day service at Fern Prairie Cemetery where the names of 150 service members laid to rest there were recited. As I walked along the graves marked with American flags, I noted that many Fern Prairie neighbors lived and died serving their country in WW1, WW2, the Korean War, and Viet Nam. It was a very moving ceremony.
I was honored to give the Memorial Day address to the Salmon Creek American Legion Post on Monday and attended another ceremony at the Washougal Cemetery later that day. I salute our military men and women in uniform today and honor their brothers and sisters who died in the line of duty to protect our freedoms. Freedom is not free.
Call to students to become involved in the Legislative Youth Advisory Council
Enrollment for the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) is now open and I encourage all passionate youth in the 18th District to participate.
LYAC is the formal voice for Washington youth in the state Legislature. Students between the ages of 14 to 18 and in grades 9 through 12 may apply for membership on the council. Every member serves a two-year term; 11 positions are open for new appointments each year.
Students on the council have the opportunity to get involved with Washington state government, learn and experience the legislative process, voice their opinions regarding issues of importance to youth, and become more politically aware and engaged in the civic process.
The deadline to apply is June 21, 2015. The application can be found here: http://www.k12.wa.us/socialStudies/LYAC/
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"