Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank those of you who have contacted my office to express your thoughts and opinions on current issues and legislation in Olympia. Your input and the interaction we have has always been one of my favorite parts of this job. Representing you is an honor that I cherish as we continue to do the best we can to solve problems and make Washington the best state in the nation to live, work and raise a family.
Hirst solution passes, and so does capital budget
After many months of long negotiations, the Legislature finally agreed on a Hirst solution (SSB 6091). If you currently own land with a well and have been waiting to build, you can! Existing wells are grandfathered in. You can get a building permit right now. For upcoming wells, certain Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) have different usage limits, from 950 – 3,000 gallons per day. Stock watering is allowed and so is watering for wildfire buffers. There are some WRIAs that are under different regulations (like the Yakima basin) because of other litigation or agreements. But most people who understand water law and the needs of Central and Eastern Washington agree that this Hirst fix is a big win for rural areas depending on water for economic survival.
Once a Hirst agreement was reached, the state capital budget was passed as well. It's important to note that without tying the two together last year (it takes a 60 percent vote to pass capital bonds to finance the capital budget), we would most likely NOT have had a Hirst fix. There was no urgency from the other side to help rural Washington with our water needs.
My legislation to help Hanford workers (SHB 1723) gain access to medical care for illnesses and diseases contracted while working at the nuclear cleanup site passed the Senate this week. The bill passed the House last year 69-29, but then stalled in the Senate, mostly due to politics. It's so important that we take care of workers who have suffered due to being exposed to harmful chemicals at Hanford. Despite all the safety precautions taken, families and individuals have been devastated by illness and disease. They need help. My bill will help make that easier.
You can read an article on this bill from the Tri-City Herald here.
Another bill, E2SHB 2143, would create the Medical Student Loan Program to provide low-interest loans to students who declare an interest to be doctors in rural underserved areas in Washington. It also expands the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship to include advanced degrees for students in medical fields who commit to employment in underserved areas. This is another way to encourage the next generation of medical professionals to help bring reliable, affordable and accessible medical care to our rural areas. This bill passed the House 95-3 the first week of session. It is currently in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Upcoming Town Halls
Join me and my seatmate, Rep. Brad Klippert, for a Town Hall on Saturday, Feb. 17 from 9:00 a.m. to noon at the ARC of Tri Cities, 1455 Fowler St. in Richland.
You can also take part in our 8th District telephone town hall on Tuesday, Feb. 20 from 6-7 p.m. Call (509) 941-2750 to participate. You can listen in from the comfort of home as we discuss legislation and issues important to you and your neighbors. At any time during the call you can press STAR (*) on your telephone keypad if you have a question. Our operators will then take your question and get you on live with us. I hope you can make it!
Recent criticism from the media
There have been a few articles recently, criticizing legislation I've sponsored. My philosophy has always been that this is a citizen Legislature. I try to make myself available to those I represent and have over the years sponsored legislation that has come directly from constituents. The legislative process is designed to weed out the bad ideas and perfect the ok ideas to result (hopefully) in great ideas. There is no such thing as a perfect bill on the front end. It gets perfected through the process: people testify, stakeholders weigh in, the bill gets amended in committee and on the floor, and so on. I will always favor the average citizen that I represent over the media's perception, the desires of local government officials, or the wants of special interests. I've taken some shots over the years for this. And that's ok. I'm fine with that. I understand it; it's part of the job. But I want you to know that your voice is the one I listen to. Your voice is the one I represent in Olympia. It's why I originally wanted to serve you in the state House and why you've sent me back for the last 14 years.