Merry belated holidays and happy New Year. I hope you were all able to slow down a bit and enjoy time with family, friends and community.
2014 Brings Short Legislative Session
With the turn of the new year, I’m preparing for the 2014 Legislative Session, scheduled to begin on January 13th. The members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) are committed to bipartisan collaboration and efficiency with the goal of ending the short session on time on March 13th.
As the Majority Coalition Caucus heads into its second year of bipartisan legislating, I am very excited about what we will continue to accomplish. Last year we worked together to prioritize jobs and education while also creating a sustainable, balanced budget. This year has its own challenges.
My colleague and the head of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Senator Andy Hill, wrote a great, brief piece about common sense ways to make sure the Legislature ends session in a timely fashion. You can read his 3 proposals here…it’s well worth your time!
State Transportation is a Hot Issue
For the first time since 2008, our state is not facing a deficit. I am hopeful this triumph will allow us to concentrate on other critical issues facing Washington, such as transportation. We must work together to implement sound transportation solutions to Washington’s statewide mobility needs.
I’ve hammered this issue home before, but I want it be clear that the MCC and I are dedicated to the “fix it before we fund it” approach. There are a number of opportunities to reform funding and streamline the permitting process so transportation dollars are allocated properly and time and money is not wasted. It is important to steward time and resources wisely before asking for more constituents’ tax dollars.
DOE Water Quality Standards Vague
Another important local issue that has statewide ramifications for the agricultural industry is water quality standards and stream protection for our state’s farmers and ranchers. The Department of Ecology’s standards for stream pollution is vague and subjective, setting up scenarios wherein hardworking constituents are unfairly cited where standards are not clear.
Last year’s Supreme Court decision against Dayton rancher Joe Lemire set a powerful precedent for the DOE to interfere with citizens’ private property with little proof or clarity. The Supreme Court sided 8-1 with the DOE, which fined Lemire for pollution in Pataha Creek and mandated that he build a fence to keep his cows away from the stream, which is dry part of the year.
I believe the Legislature needs to work better with our state’s farmers and ranchers to set up fair and appropriate standards that support these valuable industries while also protecting our natural resources. I believe we should also view the agricultural industry as a precious natural resource.
I will be meeting with members of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association and interested ranchers and landowners on January 6th at the Washington Wheat Foundation Annex Building in Ritzville to discuss possible legislative solutions to this issue.
As always, please be in touch. I am interested in constituent feedback and in understanding how to best represent the 9th District. I will continue to update you on our Legislative progress.
All my best,