The 2017 session of the state Legislature was among the most challenging in years. Under pressure from the state Supreme Court, almost everything took second place to fixing K-12 school funding. That doesn’t mean other issues weren’t high on our own legislators list of things to do, however. Currently, the Republicans control the Senate by one vote. Democrats control the House by two votes and also have Gov. Jay Inslee. To pass any legislation 50 votes are needed in the House, 25 in the Senate and one in the governor’s office via his signature on any bill.
What sounds simple frequently is not, as most major decisions remain subject to partisan philosophy and politics with the split legislature. With both houses up for grabs next year, the upcoming 2018 election impacted, in part, how legislators voted in this past session and hung over the process like a cloud.
Republican State Senator Mark Miloscia is a seasoned legislator and was joined this year by new seatmates, freshmen Democrats Mike Pellicciotti and Kristine Reeves in the House of Representatives. Despite the difference in political parties there were still opportunities for cooperation to help the 30th District, which covers most of the Federal Way area. It also allows each to work on issues of importance that may not cross party lines.
But it is power that rules Olympia. Each party has some; each party wants it all. The undercurrent that might have affected each legislator’s success is decidedly political. Federal Way is considered a swing district and the three hold seats that will be very much in play next year for control of each house. That means that on occasion the Republican Senate may not look favorably on legislation from either of the Democrats and the House may feel the same toward legislation from the Republican.
Even with those challenges, each found issues to work on that held importance to some voters in the district.
Miloscia, who has served in both the House and Senate, introduced legislation to ban safe injection sites that had been suggested by the county health department. It didn’t pass, but he is helping to lead efforts to have the measure placed before voters as a public initiative. He also supported the Republican plan to finance McCleary through a property tax adjustment, which passed.
Miloscia continues to support raising the age for tobacco purchase and to repeal the death penalty. He supported ratification of state employee wage contracts, which had become controversial, along with opening the process to the public view and providing additional legislative oversight. As chair of the Accountability Committee, he supported bills to use zero-based budgeting and oversee lean management improvements. Miloscia and the two Democrats also worked to obtain money for the day center in Federal Way.
Reeves, with a recognized background in veterans issues, worked to create a pilot program to assist veterans in rural areas by connecting them with support services, which passed the House, along with a recruitment program for veterans, which provides credit for knowledge, skills and leadership abilities. She also worked on cleaning up legislation to improve credit union standards and services, along with establishing a program that would allow the Regional Transit Authority to create a rebate program for property and motor vehicle excise taxes, although it didn’t pass. This is a controversial topic after the car tab sticker shock earlier this year.
Pellicciotti’s background in the attorney general’s office helped him lead several issues that became law, including legislation to combat sex trafficking and expanded vocational training. Inslee joined the legislative trio in signing some of that legislation here in Federal Way. Pellicciotti worked to include state funding for a study of airplane traffic over Federal Way. He also supported the RTA reform bill.
All three legislators worked together on several bills. Miloscia and Reeves worked on gold star license plates and veterans paid leave, while Pellicciotti and Miloscia worked on human trafficking and the coordinating committee concerning commercially sexually exploited children. The two Democrats supported each other’s efforts in the House. Details on any legislation can be obtained from each legislator’s office.
The biggest challenge is still unresolved, however, as the capital budget remains in limbo. The Federal Way school district, city government, Highline College and the Chamber of Commerce, along with local community groups, all have needed projects pending in the capital budget.
The 45th District’s special election in November to replace the late Andy Hill will decide which party controls the Senate in January. When the legislature adjourns next spring, however, it will start all over again. And the three legislators will all be targeted by the other side.
The 2018 session will be important, so follow the issues and get ready for a fun election year!
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn and retired public official. He can be reached at email@example.com.