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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Next Tuesday is the final day of the first 30-day special session and the expectation is that we will be moving into a second special session beginning May 24. Negotiators are still working to seek a compromise operating budget solution that addresses K-12 education funding as a top priority. While the budget negotiators remain in Olympia, the rest of the Legislature has been sent home as we wait for a breakthrough on an operating budget agreement.
I have two important stories to share with you today in this email update.
Transportation Solutions Town Hall meeting
Join me tomorrow, Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the second in a series of “Transportation Solutions” Town Hall meetings as we discuss local transportation issues and concerns. The meeting will be held at WSU Vancouver's Dengerink Administration Building 110, 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave., in Vancouver.
This is an opportunity to talk with you about new long-term cross river options that would effectively reduce traffic congestion along the I-5 corridor between Portland and Clark County. In February, more than 150 people attended my first Transportation Solutions town hall. Tomorrow, I will be joined by several transportation and bridge experts, including transportation architect Kevin Peterson; retired transportation engineer David Nelson; Linda Figg of Figg Bridge; Clark County business owners Bill Wagner and Bill Huyette; and Brad Perkins with Cascadia High Speed Rail.
The main objective of this town hall is to hear directly from citizens and gain public support for a common-sense process that puts us on a path toward real solutions that would address our current and future transportation infrastructure needs. If you drive and live in Clark County, I highly encourage you to attend!
- Read my news release
- Watch my Clark County Today video interview
- Read the Clark County Today article
- Read the front page article of The Reflector
Governor's veto of short-line railroad jobs bill extremely disappointing – BUT I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP!
A couple of years ago, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Clark County Railroad Advisory Board. At this meeting, I learned how restrictions within Washington's Growth Management Act (GMA) were preventing several new companies from locating in Southwest Washington. These companies had two things in common; they needed a minimum of 100 acres and access to a short-line railroad. Yet under current GMA rules, those parcels were not available.
The solution was simple; make a few modest changes to the GMA to allow for a limited number of acres located along the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad to be converted from underutilized farmland to jobs-producing industrial lands. With willing sellers and buyers, and the ability for approval by the county legislative authority, this proposed change seemed reasonable.
Working with local county staff and railroad stakeholders, I offered legislation in 2015 to address the changes that would potentially bring thousands of new jobs to Clark County. At that time, all House bills related to GMA were referred to the House Local Government Committee. As a member of this committee since 2014, I saw firsthand the lack of serious attention given to meaningful GMA legislation. It was clear this is where all GMA reform bills were sent to die.
While my earlier bill was stalled in committee, I didn't give up because the challenges in my community remained. This session, House leadership made the change to refer all GMA-related bills to the House Environment Committee, where they would get a fresh look. I re-introduced the measure this year with even more bipartisan support than before. House Bill 1504, with 14 Republican sponsors and nine Democratic sponsors, was referred to the House Environment Committee, where it had a chance to survive.
I worked with the committee chair, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, to address concerns about protecting the environment. Together, we kept the bill limited so that cities and counties who are most familiar with their local lands and growth challenges could make the best and final decisions of whether to allow controlled development adjacent to short-line railroads. Legislators from both sides of the aisle recognized the critical need for changes to an act that was now 27 years old.
House Bill 1504 emerged from the Democrat-controlled House with an impressive 83-14 vote on an amended version, limiting the bill to Clark, Yakima and Spokane counties. In the Senate, the bill was expanded to include all of Eastern Washington along with Clark County. In a subsequent concurrence vote in the House, the bill passed 81-16 and was sent to the governor's office on April 23.
Unfortunately, Gov. Jay Inslee chose to go against the wishes of the vast majority of bipartisan legislators. He vetoed House Bill 1504, one of the few meaningful job-creation bills to pass the Legislature during the 2017 session.
I am joined by thousands of business leaders across Washington who are shocked that Gov. Inslee has chosen to veto this bipartisan bill. It is terribly disappointing to have gone through this extensive process and then have the legs cut out from thousands of potential jobs by a governor who seems to care more for an archaic law than for the lives of citizens who need employment. For a governor who repeatedly states he is “focused like a laser beam on jobs,” his veto of my bill demonstrates the opposite.
In his veto statement, the governor cites concerns over the loss of productive farmland, yet the facts tell a different story. Language in the bill exempts more than 99 percent of Washington state lands from these changes. In Clark County, under House Bill 1504, less than one-half of one percent of all of our county's agriculture land would be redesigned as industrial land. The Washington State Farm Bureau also disagrees with Inslee and argues the legislation would actually help farm-based economies.
In Clark County alone, with the stroke of Inslee's veto pen, we have lost the potential for 7,300 new manufacturing jobs, which would generate 3,000 secondary jobs, $445 million in labor income, $1 billion in product output, and $8.1 million in business and occupation taxes to the state. Each day, 80,000 Clark County citizens are forced to drive to Oregon to work. More jobs in Clark County would benefit our citizens and reduce congestion on our bridges.
Anyone who knows me also knows I am not one to give up on issues I believe in. At first, I explored the possibility of seeking a veto override, even though the chances might be slim. However, I have decided to work with the governor's staff to create legislation that would gain his signature. Today, I asked our policy analyst to redraft the bill into a more limited version, keeping the measure to just three counties: Clark, Grant and Yakima. Rep. Fitzgibbon has expressed interest in helping to move a bill during the special session that could garner the governor's support. I will keep you posted as we move forward on this issue.
Tune in for more information!
On Monday, May 22, at 1 p.m., I will be a guest on the Lars Larson Show. You can tune in at KXL 101 FM or online here. We will discuss Gov. Jay Inslee's veto of my job creation legislation, House Bill 1504. Plus, I will provide a recap of the Transportation Solutions Town Hall meeting.
Questions? Comments? Contact my office!
If you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation or state government, please feel free to contact me. My office phone number, email address and other contact information can be found below. I work for you throughout the year and your input is important to me. Thank you for allowing me the privilege to serve and represent you!
"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