Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After a 60-day regular session and three special sessions beginning last December, it is great to be home! From the move to Olympia Thanksgiving weekend to the move home the week after Easter, it helps me appreciate – to an even greater extent – my family, friendships and relationships, and the businesses and organizations that makes the 9th District such a wonderful place to live.
Every day since returning to the district, I have had the privilege of meeting with constituents and local employers, taking tours, and providing session updates to trade associations and a chamber of commerce. Details of this week’s activities follow. I am always available to speak to groups and meet with constituents to answer questions and share information. The biggest benefit for me is the opportunity to get your feedback, which guides me in my legislative work.
I hope you find this brief update informative. Please feel free to contact me with questions and feedback.
In service to you,
Lewis-Clark Valley Chamber hosts Idaho, Washington legislators
More than 120 business people and community leaders gathered in the Lewis-Clark Valley Tuesday for the Chamber’s “Welcome Back Luncheon” sponsored by Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Sen. Dan Johnson and Reps. John Rusche and Jeff Nessett, who represent the 7th District on the Idaho side, and Sen. Mark Schoesler, Rep. Schmick and I, who represent the 9th District on the Washington side, gave our respective updates on our recently-completed legislative sessions.
Jobs and the economy remain the major concern. Education funding is always brought up because preparing our students for the careers of today and tomorrow is vital to the economic health of our states. Prior to the presentations, I had an opportunity to visit with attendees, quizzing them on their views of the economy and the needs of the communities. “Pockets” of the economy are doing well, while others struggle, according to the attendees I spoke with. There are still great needs in our communities, including help at our food banks. I encourage us to make contributions whether it’s actual food, other products, volunteering or monetary.
A big thanks to our chambers for their hospitality, to Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories for their generosity, and to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to attend and provide feedback.
Whitman County Realtors express optimism
Thanks to Chud Wendle, Chris Clark, Pam Harbour, Colleen MacDonald and Mark Blehm for sharing their views on the local real estate market. It is exciting to know there is a strong market for certain properties, that home building continues, and homes in a certain price ranges sell before they’re finished. They also said that there’s a demand for investment properties that are a result of Washington State University’s (WSU) large freshman enrollment last fall. There will be a bigger demand for off-campus living by many returning students. Local businesses reported “out-of-the-park” sales for WSU’s Mom’s Weekend last week. News like this is especially good as our economy grows at a slower pace than anticipated.
Human Resource Professionals meet in the Valley
Tedi Roach, owner of Express Employment Professionals, and an expert on human resource issues, invited three local legislators to join the Valley Human Resources Professionals’ meeting this week. Tedi asked Sen. Dan Johnson and Rep. John Rusche, of Idaho’s 7th District, and me to focus on labor and employment legislation that came before our respective legislative bodies this session. My update included information on E-verify, Paid Family Leave, pension reform and the constantly-changing health care/insurance issues, all of which received plenty of attention during the session. Rep. Rusche is also a physician (he was my children’s pediatrician!). He addressed the activities around the health insurance exchange in Idaho. It is valuable for me to know what other states are doing and simply confirms that solutions to our health care and health insurance challenges are best solved as close to the local level as possible – and definitely not at the federal level.
Tri-State leaders grateful for Critical Access Hospital funding
One of the most significant concerns of the 2012 legislative sessions was continued funding of our Critical Access Hospitals (CAH). The governor proposed eliminating the funding for CAHs in her budget. She also proposed to raise the state sales tax to “buy back” the funding. Fear that the voters wouldn’t pass a sales tax increase, our hospitals, small and large, worked together to bring a unified voice opposing funding cuts to the Legislature. This issue also united Democrat and Republican lawmakers who formed the Rural Caucus to protect CAH funding. As a group, we wrote a letter to the governor expressing the need to continue funding for these critical health care facilities. You can read it here.
I met with leaders of one of our CAHs this week in Clarkston. Joining me were Joleen Carper, Mark Brigham, Tara Leer, Jack Seeh, Rhonda Mason and Shelley Williams of Tri-State Memorial Hospital. I want to thank these leaders and the many others who effectively commun
icated the importance of our CAHs to our quality of life in rural Washington, including our Garfield County Public Hospital in Pomeroy, East Adams Rural Hospital in Ritzville, Whitman County Public Hospital in Colfax, Pullman Regional Hospital and Othello Community Hospital.
Another benefit of being home is getting to see my neighbors again! The Pullman Chamber has a very active Governmental Affairs Committee led by chair Francis Benjamin and supported by the chamber’s Executive Director Marie Dymkoski. The chamber asked for an update on its legislative priorities and how they fared when the Legislature finally adjourned. The chamber asked for stormwater relief this year. Thanks to Sen. Mark Schoesler’s never-say-die efforts, a delay in new stormwater monitoring regulations passed the Legislature. The chamber was also pleased that we maintained funding for K-12 and higher education funding as well as funding for Critical Access Hospitals. The Public Works Trust Fund, Water Reuse Project Funding and border community issues remain areas of concern for the chamber. Members of the committee will join me this year for a tour of Washington State University’s Extension site in Puyallup to see the latest in stormwater research.
SEL’s new manufacturing plant continues to expand employment
I appreciate the tour I received of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) new plant in the Lewis-Clark Valley this week. I want to thank plant manager Brenda Ross and SEL’s public affairs specialist Tammy Lewis for accommodating me between their busy schedules. The Lewiston Tribune reported, accurately, the plant employs 120 people. But, by the time I took the tour, SEL had already hired more people. As of last Tuesday, 131 people now work there, so be sure to check those numbers regularly. The company continues to hire and has a number of open positions. The plant has two shifts. Brenda said that SEL’s plastics division, which relocated from SEL’s Pullman site, is already growing and expects to take delivery of a new 220-ton plastic injection molding press.
And how do we top a week like this?
I am very excited for next week. House Education Committee Senior Research Analyst Barbara McLain and House Counsel Cece Clynch will join me to tour school districts in the southern part of the 9th District next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We will visit Pasco, Pomeroy and Clarkston. This will give Barbara and Cece, who are non-partisan staff that deal with education issues and legislation, an up-close look at our schools. I believe this will benefit all of us concerned with K-12 education.
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