Op-Ed: Many changes in the Legislature, but the same challenges are ahead in the 2013 session
The elections are over. The voters have spoken and made their choices. And on Jan. 14, the Legislature will convene in Olympia for a scheduled 105-day session to begin the process of writing and adopting a new budget that will fund the operations of state government for the next two years.
Significant differences exist in the Legislature as we begin this new session. There are 21 new legislators out of 98 lawmakers in the state House of Representatives, including Elizabeth Scott, a Republican from Monroe, who was elected to the 39th District seat previously held by Kirk Pearson. Pearson was elected to the Senate, taking the seat of Sen. Val Stevens, who retired. He joins nine other newly-elected senators. There are still two senators to be appointed to fill seats in the 7th and 26th districts. One of those lawmakers has retired and the other was elected to Congress. All legislators are now representing districts whose boundaries changed during redistricting last year.
We also have a new governor: Democrat Jay Inslee replaces outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Although the House remains in control by majority Democrats, there's debate in the Senate over who will lead the agenda. Democrats have 26 seats. Republicans have 23. However, two Democrats have joined with Republicans to create a system of shared power under a new bipartisan group known as the “Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.”
While the make-up of the Legislature and the governor's office have changed, the issues have not. Washington continues to struggle with a difficult economy. Many people remain jobless. Although incoming revenues are expected to be up in the 2013-15 budget cycle by nearly $1.5 billion, lawmakers will need to close a projected $1 billion budget shortfall. The Legislature will also have to demonstrate clear progress toward meeting the educational funding and reform mandates of the state Supreme Court (McCleary decision).
My goals for the coming session are to offer and pass solutions that will get Washington working again, fund education first, and adopt a fiscally-responsible budget that prioritizes spending and ensures needs are met for public safety and the state's most vulnerable citizens. We can do all of this without increasing taxes.
I urge you to follow the actions of the Legislature, get involved and hold us accountable. Committee and floor actions are broadcast live on TVW. You can also watch them on www.tvw.org. You can follow bills and committee meetings online at www.leg.wa.gov. Go to my Web site and sign up for my e-mail updates at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/dan-kristiansen. From there, you can also read my news releases, subscribe to my audio reports, and learn about the latest issues in the Legislature at houserepublicans.wa.gov.
Finally, be sure to contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions. I can be reached at (360) 786-7967 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is my honor to serve you in the coming legislative session.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus and represents the 39th Legislative District. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.