Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There are just about three weeks remaining in the 60-day legislative session. The short session is intended to address emergencies and unforeseen circumstances such as the wildfires that ravaged more than a million acres of land last year. The short session is also an opportunity to assess the implementation of the biennial budget we passed last summer.
In the 2nd Legislative District, we have a new representative that I believe can help bring practical, real-world experience to the legislative process. This week, Rep. Andrew Barkis was appointed to fill the open seat in our district. He was sworn in immediately, and then hurried to Olympia to join us on the floor for what has been the longest day of voting all session, which wrapped up around midnight.
Andrew is a small business owner from Olympia who has shown a willingness to serve and strengthen his community. His experiences in business and working with local government will serve the 2nd District well as we work to finish the supplemental operating budget this year.
Andrew's appointment is also good for Thurston County. Nine Republicans represent Thurston County in the Legislature, but Andrew is the only one who resides in the county. Last week, we could have used his strong voice on a bill that will go down as one of the most outrageous attempted power grabs I have ever seen in Olympia.
Last Friday evening, the House took the surprising step of voting to change the form of government for the citizens of Thurston County, without any public involvement. The bill, which was designed to apply only to Spokane County would expand the county Commission to five members from the current three. There is a well-established public process, which several counties have followed, to make changes in the commission form of county government. Imposing this legislatively seems an abuse of power on the part of the Legislature and doing it to Thurston County residents by a late-breaking amendment on a Friday afternoon seemed outrageous.
I objected strenuously, in one of the most passionate speeches I've ever given. Although some Republicans agreed with the original bill that had public input and involved Spokane County, all followed me in opposing the amended bill. In the moment of highest drama this year, the Speaker was forced to hold open the vote while Democratic caucus leaders “whipped” their members to get to 50 votes. It finally passed on a party-line vote, 50-43. These tactics to ram legislation through the House without proper public input should not be tolerated.
I am amazed at the unthinking attitude of this ruling party. Imagine the outrage if the amendment had altered Seattle or King County government, or added members to the Senate or House of Representatives? Under the current majority, this could happen to any county, city or other public entity, late on any Friday night. It reveals deep scorn for voters who deserve a voice. I am rarely this fervent but this is beyond anything I have ever witnessed in Olympia. Although expanding the commission might be a good idea, in the end, there is a constitutional and well-known PUBLIC process to do it and this was not it.
One of the things I enjoy most during session is when I have folks from the 2nd District visit me at the Capitol. Earlier this month, I was honored to welcome members of the Nisqually Tribe, including Chairman Farron McCloud and his wife Linda who also serves as the Tribe's education director. They invited all of us to the Paddle to Nisqually, an important event for Native Americans across the Pacific Northwest. They expect up to 20,000 visitors between July 30 and August 6 to take part in this celebration of their rich culture.
For more information, please visit www.paddletonisqually.com.
These next few weeks of session are very important and I hope you will take the time to write, call or email me with your comments and questions. It's an honor to serve you in our state Legislature.