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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Legislative wrap up was a listening session
I have a slightly different version of the town hall event reported on in last week’s paper.
Mostly it was a “listening” session — that is, the legislators talking and the audience doing most of the listening.
State Rep. Norma Smith rightfully claimed credit for one accomplishment important to her district — HB 2457, to help the state deal with derelict boats and avoid more oil spills. The bill represents real progress and is very much appreciated.
But then Rep Hayes cited as his proudest “accomplishment” a bill that didn’t even get out of committee: a bill to undo an irrelevant 19th century law that exempts state legislators from speeding tickets during session. Most law enforcement agencies responded by assuring lawmakers that speeding legislators don’t get any special treatment.
Then the three legislators proceeded to tell us at length what a successful session it was because the budget was bipartisan, and pretty much managed to ignore not only one elephant in the room but two — the looming confrontation with the State Supreme Court because they failed to tackle school funding and the transportation funding crisis.
I do appreciate that Sen. Barbara Bailey and Smith acknowledged that the state needs a more equitable and predictable tax system. Both repeatedly expressed strong sympathy for the impact of the business and occupation tax on small business, yet neither one once mentioned the impact of our state’s sales tax on families. Nor did any of the three offer any solutions to Washington ranking as having the most regressive tax systems in the country.
No, my version of the town hall is more about what was not said: no solutions for school or transportation funding. No mention that they opposed closing a tax loophole for oil refineries. No solutions for state parks, except not to buy any more land. No mention at all of whether the state is planning for climate change impacts that will be felt right here in the 10th District like rising sea levels, increased acidification of Puget Sound and more intense rain events, to name a few.
Hopefully, the next town hall the legislators host will provide more opportunity for input from constituents and that it will take place when it matters most: before or during the legislative session, not after.