The new kid on the block, Rep. Dave Paul, spent time preparing for his new job by meeting with veteran members of the Whidbey Island legislative delegation.
Paul, a Democrat from Oak Harbor, is one of about two dozen new members of the state Legislature. In the election, Paul defeated incumbent Dave Hayes, R-Camano, by a margin of less than 1 percent.
State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, returned to the Legislature in Olympia.
“I’ve known Sen. Bailey and Rep. Smith for many years,” Paul said. “I like and respect both of them. We’ve already been talking about how we can share policy expertise. I think we can work well together to represent Whidbey.”
The 90-day budget session of the Legislature opened Monday. All three lawmakers acknowledged that dealing with state financing matters will occupy much of their time.
“The only fiscal challenges are impulses to raise taxes and spending on pet projects,” Bailey said. “We have record tax collections and budget growth without tax increases. We can and should be able to make needed investments in core functions without new and unconstitutional taxes. I’m particularly concerned about efforts to impose a state income tax.”
Smith will once again be the assistant ranking member of the House Capital Budget Committee. This group plays a paramount role in funding for elementary through higher education buildings, behavioral health facilities, state parks and other long-term investments.
“I look forward to working closely with my colleagues to develop a budget that strengthens our mental and behavioral health safety net and provides critical funding for our K-12 and higher education institutions,” said Smith in a statement. “We have made good progress in recent years, but there is much more to do.”
Paul, a former administrator at Skagit Valley College, is also concerned about mental health care and funding for Western State Hospital.
“In many cases, those who need help are better served in their community,” he said, “but there is still a need for institutional care, especially in criminal matters.”
Bailey also wants to focus on mental health care.
“I’m reintroducing legislation to address mental health in schools,” Bailey said. “I have also been focusing on our state’s aging population, particularly long-term care. As the population gets older, there could be significant costs if we don’t plan appropriately.”
As a member of the College and Workforce Development Committee, Paul said he is interested in finding opportunities for students entering the job market. With technical skills in high demand, he said, there is a lack of understanding about what’s available, and a four-year college education may not be right for everyone. Paul also has assignments on the education and transportation committees.
Smith has an appointment to the new House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee. The committee will consider an array of state operations and the relationship of the state and Native American tribes.
Smith continues as the ranking member of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee. This committee deals with a myriad of matters in information technology, digital communications and expanded business opportunities.
“We must promote policies that keep Washington state competitive, foster economic growth and innovation, while also protecting data and privacy,” said Smith.
The lawmakers hope to work together. Paul said he and Smith are already talking about holding town hall meetings on Whidbey and arranging for joint meetings with constituents who travel to Olympia.
“I’ve been in Olympia for a while, working with the majority and minority,” Bailey said. “I’m going to stand up for my principles and find opportunities where we can and should work together. Of course, there are some issues on which we just won’t agree.”
Bailey, Smith and Paul encouraged people to be engaged in the legislative process. While expressing appreciation for phone calls and emails, Paul summed up by saying concise communication with a stated objective is most effective to cut through the barrage of information.