Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank all of you who called-in and participated in my telephone town-hall this past week. We had over 3,000 people join us. It was a great opportunity to join the community in a conversation about the issues important to Washington State and the individuals in the 16th district. Your questions as well as your answers to the survey questions confirmed my belief that the jobs, budget, and economy need to be our main priority.
If you were not able to attend the telephone town hall I invite you to attend one of our district town hall meetings later this month. We plan hold one in Pasco, Walla Walla, and Dayton and will be sending out additional information on times and locations. I encourage you to bring family, friends and co-workers. Your involvement is very important to the legislative process.
Several people from our district have made the trip to visit our Olympia office this session. Last week I spoke with area members of the Washington Wine Grape Growers Association. (See picture at left) Benton County alone has eighteen thousand acres of wine grapes, more than double the vineyard acres of any other county in the state. Add the acres in Franklin and Walla Walla counties, coupled with our numerous wineries means the 16th Legislative District is truly the heart of Washington Wine Country.Grape growers are only one of the agriculture producers that would be adversely impacted by the proposed bill, HB 2413. The bill would limit pesticide use.
We are now almost one-half of the way through the 2012 session; yet, we haven't begun to address our main reason for being here – the budget. Despite knowing about the budget gap since last September, majority party budget writers have done little to find a solution that puts our state on solid financial footing in the long term.
There is some good news. The House Republicans introduced a K-12 education budget earlier this week, which not only funds education and maintains full funding for levy equalization, but also reforms our current system. I believe that change is needed to ensure our schools are operated in an effective and efficient manner. Pouring more money into an outmoded system will not make it successful.
The budget, funding education, and public safety are the focus of my time in Olympia; however, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee I hear a variety of legislation. I have been asked recently to weigh in on a couple controversial topics; I'd like to share my responses with you as well.
One of the issues I've addressed recently is legalizing marijuana. Several bills are being introduced this session that would change current regulations on marijuana. I'm unequivocally opposed to legislation that would legalize using marijuana beyond clearly regulated medicinal purposes.
Legalizing marijuana could seriously impact the youth in our state. Marijuana use by minors is already on the rise; making it easily accessible and legal will only cause a sharper increase. These are bad policies that will affect our children, our society and our future.
I was interviewed by the TV station, The Seattle Channel, this week regarding my thoughts about marijuana use. I will keep you apprised of the date it airs.
The second issue is same-sex marriage. I am voting against this legislation. Here are my reasons: I strongly believe marriage is the basis for a family unit that raises and nurtures children. I believe that every time we move further away from the one man/one woman covenant of marriage, we undermine the foundation of our society.
This has nothing to do with equal rights or deciding what group is better than another, but again, I believe marriage between one man and one woman is a societal foundation that should not be undermined.
While I have addressed both of these issues as a member of the Judiciary committee, I feel that focusing on these controversial social issues are a distraction from the real work that needs to be done.
Finally, I recently sponsored legislation that would allow certified water right examiners to obtain insurance instead of having to be bonded for at least fifty thousand dollars. This bill will allow qualified individuals outside of the Department to certify water rights instead of holding those decisions hostage with a fifty thousand dollar bond. This bill would make a difference in our district because it would expedite water applications. Unfortunately, this bill is not likely to pass this session but I will continue my work on this issue.
As always, I welcome hearing your questions or concerns regarding issues affecting you.