Sen. Ann Rivers was joined by newly elected Reps. Greg Cheney and Stephanie McClintock to answer questions from area citizens
For Clark County Today
Newly elected 18th Legislative District Representatives Stephanie McClintock and Greg Cheney joined Senator Ann Rivers for two in-person town hall meetings on Saturday (Jan. 7). Although McClintock and Cheney will not be sworn in until Monday in Olympia, the freshman lawmakers announced which committees they were set to serve on once the legislative session starts, also on Monday.
McClintock and Cheney will both serve on the House Consumer Protection & Business and the House Capital Budget Committees. They each have an additional committee commitment, and Cheney has a potential fourth to be added once the session starts. Rivers will continue serving on the Senate Committee for Housing and as the Republican Lead on the Healthcare Committee, and she will also be the assistant Republican lead on the Senate Capital Budget Committee.
As for McClintock, she will use her background as a school board member to serve on the House K-12 Committee. Much of the town hall conversation involving McClintock circulated around the public education system and parents’ rights. Multiple citizens told the lawmakers, specifically McClintock, that they were concerned with where the culture involving children and schooling is heading.
One such citizen was Vancouver resident Sally Snyder, who brought examples of books deemed so inappropriate that the pictures can’t be shown in news outlets and yet are available in public school libraries in Vancouver. The book she referred to specifically was Gender Queer, on which Clark County Today has reported in the past. The book was successfully removed from the Columbia River High School library after pushback from Snyder and other parents but is still currently available in the Fort Vancouver High School library. Snyder said the effort to remove such content from schools is inhibited by the fact that state law says animated drawings are not technically pornography, despite their clear pornographic images and statements. She told all three lawmakers that she would like to see them take action against such content.
Parents’ Rights in Education leader Jennifer Heini-Withee also spoke, asking the lawmakers to consider authoring a bill to require schools to be in honest communication with parents or guardians in the instances where a child is showing a tendency to self-identify as a gender other than the one assigned at birth. As it stands, Heini-Withee said, some schools intentionally omit this information from parents, and in some cases even affirm the child’s tendencies without parental permission or involvement.
Senator Rivers said that these issues reflect a bigger problem in that parental rights in general are being significantly diminished. Rivers brought up the fact that a minor can not purchase a pack of cigarettes until they’re 21 years old, but at young ages, sometimes even starting at seven years old, politicians are advocating for children to be allowed to fully “transition” to a different gender, and without parent consent in some cases.
Cheney, whose third committee will be the House Judiciary Committee, said that the diminishing of parental rights does not stop in education and so-called “gender affirming care,” but is manifesting in other areas as well, such as criminal justice. Cheney offered the example of parental notification when it comes to law enforcement contacting minors with narcotics. When a police officer pulls over a minor and can see drugs in the vehicle, the driver is the only person who has the potential to be held accountable. If there are other minors in the vehicle, the officer doesn’t have the obligation to inform the passengers’ parents of the encounter, and in fact it could be grounds for a lawsuit against the officer.
“If you’re a juvenile with alcohol,” Cheney said, “it’s a crime. If you’re a juvenile with methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin it’s not. We’ve got to fix that, number one.” Cheney is trying to come up with “a mechanism for parental notification” for this type of situation.
Cheney also mentioned the fact that some of the issues we are facing with public safety are directly related to previously enacted legislation that needs to be “fixed,” such as the obscure language concerning police pursuits when it comes to drivers who are potentially under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. He indicated that he believes pursuit language needs to be clarified so they can be restored and effective. Additionally, Cheney plans to assist with fixing the “Blake decision,” in which the Supreme Court ruled that felony drug possession was unconstitutional, ultimately leading to the decriminalization of drugs in Washington state.
“Drugs are due to become fully decriminalized here in a few months if we don’t get this fixed,” Cheney said. “How that fix looks- a treatment-first approach or incarceration-first approach- there’s a lot of work to be done there.’’
Regarding mental health, Cheney said he would like to pursue bills that cut down on the “bureaucracy side of mental health services and get more into the treatment.” Currently, Cheney said, at Western State Hospital, there’s an 18-24 month wait to receive a mental health evaluation in Washington state. This means that, for the mentally ill who are committing misdemeanor crimes, they have that much time to continue committing those crimes without receiving help. Then, when the hospital is ready for the eval on that person, they’re often unable to be located due to the potential for them being homeless, moving often, and/or not having a reliable contact device such as a cell phone. If the person isn’t located and brought to treatment, they’re then put back at the bottom of the list to wait for the next window for an evaluation, which may be another 18-24 months away. There is also currently no list that’s maintained that the court system – defense attorneys or prosecutors – has access to that tells them where the person is in line to receive and evaluation.
“This is not government efficiency,” Cheney said.
Rivers mentioned that this session she would like to find innovative ways to combat the housing crisis in Washington state. She also said that the tax situation will be getting worse before it gets better, with Capital Gains, long-term care and Family and Medical Leave. The need for accountability in government spending was discussed by Rivers, who specifically mentioned the lack of tracking for funding connected to the homeless industrial complex. Despite the “billions spent in the last few years,” Rivers said, “nothing has gotten better.”
Other topics discussed was school choice, a plea from two attendees to not add fluoride to city water, the potential I-5 bridge replacement project, and Rivers’ attempt to pass a bill making the Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, the State cryptid, or cryptozoological (in other words, nonexistent) creature.
All three elected officials encouraged citizens to keep in contact with them during and after the session and to communicate what was important to them via email while they’re in Olympia or make an appointment to come see them in person. There will be a mid-session Town Hall weekend scheduled in March for legislators to visit their home districts and check in with constituents.
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