Washington’s 1st Legislative District held its inaugural legislative kick-off event last week for constituents to hear the priorities for the 2018 session that started Monday.
University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College hosted 1st District Sen. Guy Palumbo and Reps. Shelley Kloba and Derek Stanford. They discussed their top priorities for the short 60-day session and answered crowd questions on the capital budget, the carbon tax and tolls.
Democrats have a majority in the senate for the first time in five years, which will give them the votes to quickly pass bills that were previously “bottled-up” by Republicans, Palumbo said. But he expects more moderate Democrats to prevent a strictly liberal agenda from suddenly rolling out in the state.
“We have rural democrats,” he said. “To get anything across the finish line, you have to have Republican sponsors as well. So I think that there’s a lot of things the far left wants to happen this year that simply can’t because of the vote counts and then on top of that, a short session.”
Legislators and university officials hope to make the kick-off an annual event. The 1st District covers Bothell, parts of Kirkland and several other cities. To find the district borders, visit app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder.
Stanford said he expects the capital budget to pass early in the session as legislators find a compromise on the Hirst Decision.
Republicans refused to pass last year’s capital budget unless Democrats agreed to undermine the court’s Hirst Decision, which forces counties to issue well permits. The state formerly oversaw the permits and many rural counties say they lack the resources to take on the responsibilities.
Palumbo said he is less optimistic to find a compromise on the Hirst Decision. While Democrats now have the votes to pass the capital budget, there are several bonds attached to the budget that need a 60 percent approval to pass. The bonds are needed to fund projects in the budget.
“Democrats made, I think, three different Hirst offers about three weeks ago and they were all rejected,” Palumbo said. “I just don’t believe they’re at the stage where there’s a compromise.”
Kloba said the University of Minnesota did an independent study to assess the I-405 toll lane performance and found that a single quadrant of the lanes didn’t meet the speed requirements.
The toll lanes will stay and Kloba said the failing area will require improvements. The UM study recommended numerous improvements, including to cut the 17-mile corridor into segments that each have dynamic tolls or open more access areas for toll lanes.
Palumbo, who previously tried to repeal the tolls, added that the tolls aren’t going away because of the current political climate. He argued that the surrounding districts should at least get project funding from the tolls.
Currently, the money made on the I-405 corridor can only be spent on I-405 projects, according to Kloba.
OTHER TOP PRIORITIES
Kloba said she wants to revamp a bill that didn’t pass last year and would expand where funds from the drug court treatment account could be spent. She said the bill now has a senate co-sponsor, which makes her hopeful for progress. Additionally, she plans to help meet impoverished kids’ educational needs through extended after-school learning opportunities and support the basic law enforcement academy, which has a backlog of trainees.
Kloba serves on the state’s transportation committee, as the vice chair of the technology and economic development committee and vice chair of commerce and gaming committee which deals with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and gambling.
Palumbo said a majority of his time is currently spent on the Carbon Tax, which is “still a long shot,” but he’s also working on numerous bills to transition to electric vehicles, help solar technology and protect consumers in higher education. He serves on the Ways and Means committee and as the vice chair on the Energy, Environment and Technology; Higher Education and Workforce Development; and Local Government committees.
Stanford said he wants to prioritize funding for higher education, the Voting Rights Act and improving the state’s natural disaster resilience. He serves on the Agriculture and Natural Resources, Appropriations, Business and Financial Services and Rules committees.