Since the special legislative session ended, I have been meeting with constituents, preparing bills for next session, and participating in community events around the 25th District. Every day I am reminded of the extraordinary character and generosity of our community. I was reminded by the volunteers for a neighborhood rain garden project on Eighth Avenue Northwest in Puyallup, by the hopeful students and their dedicated parents and teachers at the Fife High School graduation, and by small business owners who share with me their successes and their frustrations.
These impressions of our community are to me of greater significance than anything we accomplished in Olympia over the past several months. Most of the considerable issues we face — like how to grow our economy, take care of people in need, strengthen our families, and look after our environment — cannot be solved by legislation alone. They require the resources of a free people. So I have concluded that the best legislators are mindful not only of the potentials, but of the limitations, of legislation.
We did pass several important bills this session, including workers’ compensation reform, unemployment insurance reform, and bipartisan transportation and capital budgets (see House Bill 1497 and House Bill 2020). The Legislature also passed higher education funding reform, a restructuring of state administrative services, new options for homeowners in foreclosure, and the phasing-out of coal-fired electricity in Washington. Most importantly, the Legislature resolved our state’s $5.1 billion budget shortfall. I voted against the final budget because it cut too deeply into education while avoiding needed reforms to social programs. In all, 444 bills went on to the governor for her signature.
The Legislature moves in a rhythm, directed by parliamentary rules, deadlines and peculiar traditions that differ according to the respective chambers. This is the necessary ordering of what would otherwise be chaos: the awesome interplay of the state’s 49 separate legislative districts, its two parties, and its 147 consciences. This interplay among district, party, and conscience is what generally explains your legislator’s vote on any bill.
Underlying this whole process is the constitution. I tell students who visit the Legislature to read our federal and state constitutions, because these documents are foundational to the work we do in the state Capitol. When I took my oath of office in January, I pledged to “support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution and laws of the State of Washington,” and to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office of State Representative to the best of my ability.”
Thank you for your encouragement in this work these past several months. Thank you also for helping to hold me accountable.
Now that we are finished with the session, I hope you will call on me if I can serve you in the interim. Please share ideas for bills that you may have, or contact me if you need assistance dealing with a state government agency. I would enjoy the chance to hear from you by phone, e-mail, or over a cup of coffee. You can reach my Puyallup office at 253-840-4526.
Finally, please save the date of Saturday, July 16 from 10:00 a.m. until noon for my next town hall meeting at the Puyallup Public Library. I hope to see you there.
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