By Polly Keary, Editor
More jobs, lower taxes, regulatory reform and stronger sex offender laws.
Those are among the top priorities of the Sky Valley’s three legislators who headed to Olympia last week for the beginning of the legislative session, which runs this year through April 28.
After each was sworn in, Elizabeth Scott and Dan Kristiansen to the House of Representatives and Kirk Pearson to the Senate, they received committee appointments, where each will have a chance to work in depth on issues of importance to the state.
Here are the committee appointments and legislative priorities of each of the state legislators from the 39th District.
Elizabeth Scott, (R-Monroe) won her first term in office this fall, and her first week in Olympia has been spent learning the ropes. That’s given her an opportunity to build some relationships with people in both parties, she said.
“During the orientation, the freshmen spent four full days together learning about the processes, and we were able to build friendships,” she said. “That also helped us know some people, not just people from our campaigns, but people across the aisle so we have an amicable relationship.”
Scott has been appointed to three committees, including Higher Education, Early Learning and Human Services and the Capital Budget Committee.
Being on the Capital Budget Committee, which oversees spending on the state’s buildings and parks, will give her an opportunity to work on responsible budgeting, she said.
She also hopes to work on tax reductions, she said.
“I want to repeal the death tax,” she said. “There’s no reason for government to ask for more after you’re dead. And also to slightly lower the state sales tax. I’d like for citizens to keep more money in their pockets.”
Her top priority is jobs, she said. Incoming Governor Jay Inslee also gave that as a top priority in his first speech of the session, and Scott said she was encouraged by that.
“Our district has been hard-hit,” she said. “We are the eighth highest district out of 49 districts in number of people who have maxed out their unemployment benefits. That’s one reason why we are seeing some shops go out of business in downtown Monroe and Sedro Woolley. It happens when people don’t have money for goods and services.”
Scott said she hopes for visits from constituents.
“I’d love to encourage everyone to come visit the office,” she said. “It’s easy to find. It’s in the legislative building with the big dome, room 122E on the first floor.”
Her number in Olympia is (360) 786-7816.
Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) is beginning his 11th year in the House of Representatives. This year he has been appointed to the Government Operations and Elections Committee, as well as the powerful Transportation Committee.
The Government Operations and Elections Committee is new this year. It is tasked with considering rule making, procurement and public employment, among other things. One of the other issues the committee addresses is public disclosure, and already that issue has occupied a lot of the committee’s time, said Kristiansen. Cities like Gold Bar have faced crippling financial strains due to huge public records requests, leading officials to ask for reform. But journalists and citizen advocates fear weakening access to public records.
“In the committee that’s going to be a big issue,” he said. “Gold Bar has a third of a million dollars into costs around public records, but every municipality, even King County, is worried.”
On the Transportation Committee, Kristiansen hopes to help the state sort out finance issues.
“Our bond rating has dropped,” he said. “Washington for a couple cycles has bonded more than 100 percent. Our cars are getting more mileage, so our gas tax revenue is down. We’re not having the money come in at a rate high enough to pay off the bonds. It’s creating a future funding problem for us.”
He plans to work to protect funding for the projects on SR 522 until they are complete, as well as to seek funding for additional safety projects on U.S. 2.
And he is trying to help the city of Skykomish secure a reduction in the speed limit on the stretch of U.S. 2 that runs past the town, in order to facilitate development there.
His number one issue this year, though, is jobs, and he, too, said he was encouraged at Inslee’s declaration of the same priority.
“I was thrilled that his number one issue was jobs,” he said. “The other issue he brought up that is key is regulatory reform. Those are the two issues I’ve been working on for years.”
And he continues to work toward creating a stand-alone budget for education, which currently shares the General Fund with many other services.
Kristiansen said he’s already started seeking ways to work with Democrats, including reaching out to the new governor.
“I hope we can sit down and find common ground in our interests,” he said.
Kristiansen can be reached in Olympia at (360) 786-7967.
Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe) was sworn in last week to his first term as a state senator after six terms as a representative.
Last Monday he got his committee assignments, including a chairmanship of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee.
He is also Vice Chair of the Corrections and Human Services Committee and sits on the Law and Justice Committee, both committees that play well to his strengths in public safety legislation.
“In my history I have been doing a lot of work in all those committees, and now as a senator I’ve been put into a leadership position, which I am excited about,” he said.
Already he is planning to seek legislation to notify parents when a level 2 or 3 juvenile sex offender is placed in a school with their children.
And in his role on the parks committee, he plans to try to fund the underfunded state parks.
Pearson pronounced himself disappointed that Inslee’s first speech didn’t include more ideas on how to help small business.
“He didn’t directly talk about small business, which I think is really important,” said Pearson. “Mom and pop stores contribute to the economy.”
Pearson said he has a lot of experience working with the other party in the House of Representatives and that he expects nothing different in the Senate.
“I have always worked well with those on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “I don’t see that as a problem.”
Kirk Pearson can be reached in Olympia at (360) 786-7676.