I try and visit Olympia two or three times each session. It is always interesting and entertaining to see democracy in action.
This is the short 60-day session, so things move fairly fast, or not at all. It is also an election year for all of the House of Representatives and half of the Senate.
Legislators want to pass or oppose key bills, get out of town on time and get home to campaign. Last week started with a huge march for life by people opposed to abortion. A smaller group favored choice. The week ended with a debate on guns, with the Senate voting to ban bump stocks, which were used in the Las Vegas shootings. In between, the legislative halls were filled with high school students, teachers, college presidents and trustees, business leaders and lobbyists from many interested groups.
The hottest issue of local interest going into the session was the capital budget. It contained a significant number of local projects. Highline College wanted $23 million for a new building, the Federal Way school district $2.8 million for STEM facilities, City Hall $1 million for a kitchen upgrade at the Performing Arts and Event Center, $250,000 each for replacements of Safe City cameras and preservation of a piece of land at the old Weyerhaeuser site, the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce $250,000 for an economic development project, and FUSION needed $500,000 for transitional housing.
The capital budget should have been passed in last year’s session, but with the Republicans in charge of the Senate and Democrats in control of the House, there was a standoff. The capital budget was held hostage by the Republicans who wanted a solution to the Hirst water rights case, which had held up permits in several rural areas.
The stalemate carried the budget over to this session. In the interim, the Democrats gained control of the state Senate with a victory in the special election to replace the late Andy Hill of the 45th District. That win gave the Democrats control of both houses and the governor’s office.
The Democrats wanted to pass some key pieces of legislation for policy gains and also to set up election strategy. Both sides always introduce some legislation designed to make the other side look bad when they vote for or against it. Voters will see which pieces those are when they open their mailboxes next fall.
The 30th District legislative delegation is comprised of Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia and Democrat House members Mike Pellicciotti and Kristine Reeves. All three are up for election this year. Even though they are from different parties, they work together on some projects for the community that cross political boundaries. Reeves sits on the House Capital Budget Committee and was the lead on protecting local interests. But each has an area of interest. Pellicciotti’s bill to help taxpayers on car tabs, with a new schedule, passed out of committee, while Miloscia joined a bi-partisan group of legislators in the Senate to pass a bill that requires a review of the state’s many tax breaks. Reeves also works on education and veterans issues.
Reeves and the delegation did their job. A compromise on the capital budget, and the Hirst water rights, was achieved and our delegation was able to help push through the projects needed locally.
But politics is always evident, though not always visible. This year appears to be a good year for educational interests and women candidates.
Miloscia is a veteran legislator and previously has run statewide for auditor. Democrats believe he is vulnerable and have been looking for someone to run against him. Both Pellicciotti and Reeves are gaining a reputation as rising stars in the Democrat party with political options. There was local speculation one or the other potentially would challenge Miloscia. However, neither appears interested, and House Speaker Frank Chopp likely wants to keep both in the House and do everything he can to help them to re-election as he grooms them for future leadership.
More recent speculation seems to be centered on Federal Way school board Chair Claire Wilson as a possible candidate against Miloscia.
Perennial candidate Mark Greene is planning to run against Reeves, and there was speculation that former state Rep. and Federal Way City Council member Linda Kochmar was considering an attempt to return to the legislature. However, her interest has always been in city issues, and she seems more likely to find returning to the council next year more appealing.
More names will be circulating as soon as political season heats up. And when they land on your doorstep, be sure and ask them how they voted on the equal pay, capital budget, taxes, gun control or any other issues of importance to you and your family. And try and visit the Capitol during session. It is a good education.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former Auburn mayor and retired public official. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.