Finn hard at work in state government Freshman legislator balancing environment with budget woes.

As a freshman legislator from the 35th District, Rep. Fred Finn (D-Shelton) has shown a strong commitment to the issues facing the residents of his district as Washington Legislature attempts to resolve the state’s financial crisis.

With Christmas tree farms representing one of the major industries in parts of Mason and Kitsap counties, Finn sponsored HB 1137, which protects landowners’ investments in Christmas trees by increasing the maximum fine from $1 per tree to up to triple the value of the tree.

“This is a very important bill for a very important industry in the overall economy of our 35th District,” Finn said. “Christmas tree farmers in our region work just as hard as anyone else in keeping their businesses afloat.”

Because the bill passed out of the House early in the legislative process, Finn expressed optimism for its passage in the Senate and signing by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

“For those who make all or part of their livelihood by raising Christmas trees, it’s very important to have a meaningful penalty against criminals who damage or steal their property,” he said. “Under current law, however, a miscreant can be absolved from further liability by simply paying a $1 fine per tree. In fact, the maximum fine amount hasn’t actually been changed in more than 60 years. That simply makes no sense.”

Finn also has sponsored bills regarding salmonoid hatcheries and Puget Sound scientific research during this legislative session, which has been punctuated by debates on which programs to cut and how much to cut them.

“The health and safety of our environment is certainly very important to me, just as it is to any other citizen or businessperson anywhere else,” he said. “Having said that, though, I certainly also know we need to strike a balance in our search for environmental protections and jobs.”

During these tough economic times, the Legislature must find fair strategies for protecting our air, land and water — and for respecting the interests of our businesses and industries, he said.

“Furthermore, as a three-term school-board member, I know that education is the primary duty of our state,” he said. “Transportation issues are equally critical for our 35th District. And that’s exactly why I’ve been working on ferry issues — and why I sought and won a seat on the Transportation Committee. No, we cannot stand idly by on environmental issues — and I haven’t done so.”

When it comes to funding priorities in the face of making what could be termed drastic cuts, Finn said he is clear about what those priorities should be.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve got to place our greatest emphasis on education, on helping folks who are most in need of assistance and on enacting fair and reasonable environmental protections that maintain our commitment to job creation and economic development,” Finn said.

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