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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Budget negotiations continue in Olympia as lawmakers seek agreement on K-12 education funding. Those who are not on the budget negotiation teams, myself included, have been sent home until receiving word that an agreement has been reached.
In the meantime, I recently completed a second successful town hall meeting on transportation options and solutions for the Southwest Washington I-5 corridor. I also have a new legislative assistant helping me in Olympia. Plus, I am responding to constituent requests and concerns, including news from Olympia regarding The Evergreen State College.
Holding The Evergreen State College accountable
I have received several emails from constituents concerned about the recent events at The Evergreen State College (TESC) in Olympia.
For those unaware, white students and white faculty were asked to voluntarily leave campus April 12 in a variation of an annual “Day of Absence” event. In past years, students and faculty of color have left the campus for a day of diversity training. This year, the decision was made to reverse the staging of the activity with people of color staying on campus and white people leaving.
Bret Weinstein, a white professor, objected to the new plan and shared his views. A group of students then protested, calling Weinstein a racist and seeking his suspension. Many of these were the same students who wanted white people to leave the campus for a day. This was just a segment of students on the Evergreen campus. Not all students participated in the protest. Videos of the protests spread across social media and it turned into a national story. You can read more from these links:
- College professor Bret Weinstein holds class off campus, citing students threatening violence (The Washington Times)
- Lawmakers propose defunding Evergreen State amid protests (campusreform.org)
- George Bridges statement in response to student demands (The Cooper Point Journal)
As you can read from the last link, Evergreen President George Bridges has said he will meet many of the students' demands.
Many of my House Republican colleagues and I are very concerned about this chain of events which fostered this out-of-control environment at TESC. We believe the Legislature must demand a wholesale leadership change at the college or face complete withdrawal of taxpayer funding.
Last week my colleague, Rep. Matt Manweller, himself a professor at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, introduced House Bill 2221, which would transition TESC from a public institution to a private use institution over a five-year period. The measure would allow TESC to keep all of its physical property, but make it a private college, just like Gonzaga or Whitman. I co-sponsored the bill and support this effort. Read Rep. Manweller's news release here.
Rep. Manweller has also written a letter to the Washington State Human Rights Commission asking for an investigation. He is requesting that the commission enforce the state's constitutional and statutory protections against race-based discrimination.
You can listen to an interview here with Rep. Manweller on Seattle's KIRO Radio.
Options discussed during the Transportation Solutions Town Hall Meeting
I appreciate all of you who attended my second Transportation Solutions Town Hall Meeting, which was held Saturday, May 20 at WSU Vancouver. Although attendance was somewhat lighter than the first town hall meeting I held on this issue in February, there is large-scale support from our citizens that we need to address more than a fix to the I-5 bridges over the Columbia River.
I also want to thank our speakers who again presented an informative program with five new cross river options to reduce traffic congestion and improve freight mobility between Southwest Washington and Portland, Oregon. They included: 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.
Doing nothing is not an option. We need new corridors and more than the two existing crossings. I'll continue to talk with residents in Clark County, letting them know about affordable options, and to gain support for an action plan to address this important issue.
You can read more about the new cross-river options and the stark political realities facing both Oregon and Washington by downloading my four-page Transportation Solutions brochure here.
Progress made toward final compromise state operating budget
I am encouraged that negotiators on the Education Funding Task Force are making progress on the task of reaching a consensus to fund education. The House Democrat and Senate Republican plans you hear about are no longer the framework for the overall plan. Negotiators are now using a plan House Republicans began working on almost a year ago. Details remain confidential at this point due to the sensitive nature of negotiations.
I remain steadfast in my conviction that we do not need to raise taxes in order to pass a new budget. I am pleased to hear the governor has taken the capital gains income tax proposal off the table. We don't need to raise taxes by $8 billion as the majority party in the House was seeking to pay for education. The state is already bringing in an additional $3 billion in new revenue due to an improving economy. Olympia does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem! I'll be in special session as long as it takes to pass a budget that does not include taxes or fee increases on our working families.
Meet my new legislative assistant, Richelle MacKersie!
I'm excited to welcome to our team Richelle MacKersie who is now working as my new legislative assistant in Olympia.
Richelle grew up in Michigan and attended The Ohio State University where she graduated with a BA in International Studies. She briefly lived in Europe where she gained full appreciation of our form of government in the United States.
Richelle moved to Washington in 2007. Most recently, she worked for the Washington Senate as a committee assistant. She's married and has three daughters and one son. She and her family live in Steilacoom, which is just south of Tacoma.
When you call my office, Richelle most likely will be the friendly voice who answers.
As always, I invite you to contact me with any questions, comments or suggestions about state government. My contact information is below. It is my greatest honor 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