The Port Orchard, Bremerton and Silverdale chambers of commerce held a legislative summit Tuesday night at the Baymont Inn in Bremerton in which area lawmakers were able to talk about the upcoming session in Olympia.
State representatives Jan Angel, a Port Orchard Republican, Kathy Haigh, a Shelton Democrat, Drew McEwan, a Shelton Republican, Drew Hansen, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, and Larry Seaquist, a Gig Harbor Democrat were all in attendance. Representative Sherry Appleton, a Poulsbo Democrat, was unable to make the event due to a scheduling conflict.
Also on hand Tuesday night were state senators Christine Rolfes, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, and Tim Sheldon, a Democrat from Potlatch.
The legislators did not field questions Tuesday, but instead spoke individually about the upcoming session. Unsurprisingly, the lawmakers, who spoke in alphabetical order, ended up running over the scheduled amount of speaking time.
Here is a quick look at some of the highlights from the event:
Angel spoke to the assembled business crowd about the importance of job creation and retention.
“You are the way we get out of the hole we’re in,” she told the crowd in reference to the struggling economy.
Angel also touched on the Affordable Care Act, noting that the state’s health care exchange cost about $100 million to create and will cost about $50 million a year to operate. Angel will serve this session as the ranking member of the Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee. In addition, she will serve on the Health Care and Wellness and Transportation committees.
Haigh, who will serve as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Appropriations, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Education committees, used her speaking time to focus on education issues. She said focusing on education is her “No. 1 purpose in doing this crazy legislative work.” She also said that in light of the supreme court’s ruling that the legislature must fund basic education to the tune of $1 billion per year, members of the house and senate will need to work together.
“We can talk, but the Senate needs to be listening,” she said.
Hansen, who will serve on the finance, higher education and judiciary committees, also spoke about funding basic education and a $900 million shortfall in the state’s operating budget.
“It’s very difficult to solve both (of those problems) without raising taxes,” he said.
In addition, Hansen talked about the state’s job crisis.
“We’re not creating jobs quickly enough and we’re not training people for jobs,” he said. “We have a lot of employers here who can’t find people locally who are trained.”
McEwan, who is new to the legislature and will serve as an assistant minority whip, said that on the eve of the upcoming session, he and other legislators are experiencing several “kumbaya” moments. His committee assignment will include Agriculture and Natural Resources, Business and Finance, Capital Budget and Early Childhood Learning.
At the end of his remarks, McEwan said he would not support a transportation budget that doesn’t include funding for local projects.
Rolfes said that she will spend her time in the upcoming session focused on veteran and military affairs, education funding and Puget Sound cleanup. She noted that she is the only legislator whose district solely includes Kitsap County and said it was a privilege to work in the legislature to help change peoples’ lives for the better.
Rolfes will serve as vice chair of both the Environment and Early Learning & K-12 Education committees. Other committee assignments include Transportation, the Joint Committee on Veterans’ and Military Affairs, the Joint Select Committee on Education Accountability and the Joint Select Committee to Address School Funding.
Seaquist used his time Tuesday night to talk about some of the differences between lawmaking in Washington state and Washington, D.C. He noted that state lawmakers convene and work seven days a week amidst “a tight constitutional timeline.”
“They use red ink, we do not. We have to balance our budget,” he said.
Seaquist said he will focus on downsizing government and improving Washington State Ferries. He will chair the Higher Education Committee. His other committee assignments include Appropriations, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Education.
Speaking last, Sheldon talked about his role in forming the Majority Coalition Caucus, an arrangement that effectively gives control of the senate to Republicans. Along with Sen. Rodney Tom, a Medina Democrat, he said he will work with 23 Republicans to better state government.
“It’s new and interesting,” he said. “Will it hold together? You’ll find out in 105 days.”
Sheldon noted that under the new setup he will likely become President Pro Tem of the senate. In addition, he is set to chair the Rules Committee, which in his 22 years in the legislature he has never even been allowed to serve on.