Local lawmakers discuss plans for session

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OLYMPIA — Mental health, water regulation, broadband, and affordable housing are the leading issues for District 13 and 9 legislators as the Washington State Legislature convened on Monday.

District 9 Senate Republican Leader, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, serves on the Ways and Means Committee, which deals with the operating and capital budget bills and reflects his focus on budgeting this session. Schoesler is not in favor of a carbon tax or a capital gains tax, saying his goal for the session is “a fiscally responsible prioritized budget, with no new taxes.”

He is also not in favor of the task force Gov. Jay Inslee proposed to look at the impacts of potentially tearing down the four lower Snake River dams.

“Keeping our Snake River dams providing clean affordable power, barge transportation, flood control, and recreation is non-negotiable, we have to have it,” said Schoesler.

Like Schoesler, District 9 Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, is focusing on budgeting.

“We are writing a budget for the next two years, I think it’s a balance of managing all the needs,” said Schmick.

Schmick is a ranking member on the Health Care and Wellness Committee and spoke at a panel on mental health on Thursday. He hopes to get care out in communities to make communities safer. However, he acknowledges that these issues will take time to resolve and hopes to work on a solid long-term plan for mental health care in Washington. The Colfax lawmaker hopes that Gov. Inslee’s presidential aspirations do not affect his focus on state issues.

“Every time he leaves the state we have more expenses we are incurring,” said Schmick.

District 13 Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, will be joining the Housing Stability and Affordability Committee this session.

“It seems that we’re not getting ahead of it... of the housing needs for our veterans, children, elderly, and homeless,” said Warnick.

She feels the biggest issue in rural housing is housing for the mentally ill in small communities. She also said there is a need for new facilities and to reduce overcrowding in existing facilities.

Warnick also plans to work on a cattle ID program through her role on the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

District 9 Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, helped pass a bipartisan bill in 2018 that extended telecommunication authority to all ports in the state. She says she will continue her focus on expanding broadband this session with support from legislators in her region.

“I’m very interested in it (broadband); we are fortunate to live in a community that has a high-speed fiber. I can see the differences in our business and I’m very supportive of it,” Warnick said.

Dye said she’s “loaded for bear” in her fight for resources in small towns. Dye wants to use her power as a legislator to help young people “see opportunity for an exciting, meaningful life” in small-town Washington.

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