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Kitsap legislators inform locals about current session
All three legislators from Washington’s 23rd Legislative District returned home from Olympia Saturday to discuss the status of the legislative session with constituents.
Sen. Christine Rolfes, Rep. Sherri Appleton and Rep. Drew Hansen hosted town hall meetings at the Kitsap Fairgrounds and Poulsbo City Hall on Saturday.
The legislators took questions from residents and discussed issues under consideration in both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Topics ranged from background checks for gun purchases to K-12 education funding.
Sen. Rolfes’ staff said there were about 80 to 85 people in attendance for the Silverdale town hall and even more later in the day in Poulsbo. Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer attended, as did Bremerton City Councilwoman Leslie Dougs.
“This was the most we’ve ever had on a Saturday morning in Silverdale,” Rolfes said.
Rolfes said the issue of school funding was especially strong among those who attended the Silverdale event. The state legislature has not yet discussed school funding to the extent that Rolfes’ said she would like.
The legislature was ordered last January by the state supreme court to increase funding to schools. The decision, in McCleary v. Washington, stated the legislature was not meeting its constitutional requirement to “amply fund” schools as its “paramount” duty.
“Schools will come out no worse, and hopefully better because of McCleary,” Rolfes said.
Janet Kragen, a teacher in North Kitsap School District, attended the morning town hall at the fairgrounds. She said she was primarily interested to hear the legislators’ comments on education.
“The big elephant in the room is we don’t have any money,” Kragen said.
Because schools aren’t being amply funded, Kragen said, they’ve had to make sacrifices like increasing class sizes.
“It seems … that they’ve (the state legislature) been avoiding the money issue and trying to figure out other things to do,” Kragen said.
She got some of the answers she was looking for on Saturday. Sen. Rolfes, the assistant ranking democrat on the Senate’s education committee shared a similar sentiment to that of Kragen.
Rolfes said some members of the legislature want to reform schools or mandate new programs but are unwilling to increase the inadequate funding. She introduced a bill on McCleary to provoke discussion, Rolfes said. However, it never received a hearing in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“I was pleased that (Rolfes, Hansen and Appleton) are very clear about McCleary,” Kragen said. “They don’t need to re-evaluate schools or change schools or reform schools — they just need to get more money to schools.”
Rep. Hansen talked to the crowd about his feelings toward background checks for guns, comparing the problem of gun violence to that of car accidents. Hansen said that, just as the state doesn’t use one solution to solve all car crashes, it shouldn’t try to find one solution to every kind of gun violence.
Kragen praised Hansen for the clarity of his remarks and his multi-faceted attitude toward gun-control.
Washington’s 23rd district covers all the area on the Kitsap Peninsula from Hansville to Silverdale and East Bremerton. Bainbridge Island also lies within the 23rd district’s boundaries. West Bremerton, however, is split between the 26th and 35th districts.
Also on Saturday, Sen. Nathan Schilcher and Rep. Larry Seaquist hosted meetings in west Bremerton, Port Orchard and Gig Harbor.
The 26th district covers the southeastern majority of west Bremerton and Port Orchard down highway 16 to Gig Harbor and Longbranch.