VANCOUVER — Local state legislators gathered for an early morning breakfast panel Friday at Warehouse ‘23 hosted by the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce (GVCC).
Three of the five legislative districts in Clark County were represented on the panel. From the 17th Legislative District were: Sen. Linda Wilson (R-Vancouver), Rep. Vick Kraft (R-Vancouver), and Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver). The 18th district representation consisted of: Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), Rep. Liz Pike (R-Camas), and Rep. Brandon Vick (R-Felida). The 49th District rounded off the panel with: Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) and Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver).
The annual event is designed to help area businesses connect with their legislators, giving legislators time to review their important accomplishments of the past session and to preview what they plan to champion in the upcoming year. It also gives legislators a chance to hear from the business community that they represent.
John McDonagh, GVCC CEO emceed the event. Topics discussed ranged from education, the Hirst decision, to the opioid epidemic that has a tight grip across the country.
Harris and Stonier highlighted their bipartisan work in Olympia on education, and echoed each other in wanting to do more to make sure we were “funding basic education,” said Harris, as well as lessening the high school graduation credit requirements from 24 to 21. Stonier spoke of the need for education to teach our youth the skills necessary to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace.
A growing request from Clark County residents is the need to create a sustainable economy with family wage jobs that can support an ever-expanding population. Both Pike and Wilson spoke about the Growth Management Act (GMA) passed last session.
“I am really proud of the work Sen. Wilson and I did on the GMA rail bill,” said Pike. Senate Bill 5517 will allow for light industrial development along the Chelatchie Prairie rail line, opening new possibilities for light industrial businesses to come in and bring family wage jobs.
A hot topic for Clark County residents is the continuing debate on whether or not to replace the aging I-5 bridge or build a new bridge just to the west first. Cleveland felt, “we have made progress in replacing the antiquated Interstate 5 bridge.”
Cleveland went on to explain that the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) took an inventory of the work done on the failed Columbia River Crossing (CRC) so the legislators could begin sifting through the information to move forward with replacing the I-5 bridge. The review of inventory was sparked by the resurrection of the failed CRC earlier this year .
The capital construction budget was not passed due to legislators not being able to come to an agreement, in large part due to the Hirst decision. Vick explained the reason he and fellow Republicans stood their ground on protecting the rights of property owners. Although, “Hirst doesn’t affect Clark County” currently, Vick made the argument that it just might eventually.
Looking forward to the 2018 year, businesses from around Clark County expressed a desire to see their legislators focus on Economic Development Policy, Infrastructure Policy, Education and Workforce Policy, and Environmental Policy.
In closing, McDonagh asked the panel to share, “one Christmas gift” in the State Legislature that they would like to receive. Vick would ask to move Clark County forward by helping to create more family wage jobs and industry, Both Rivers and Wilson would like to have small portions of their bills reinstated that Gov. Inslee vetoed, Stonier would like HB 1509 to pass, Cleveland would “like a bridge,” in her stocking, Pike would like to roll back WAC’s that hurt small businesses, and Harris would like to find a good way to fund mental health care for those who can least afford it.
A refreshing theme throughout the entirety of the program was that the legislators felt they all had a good working relationship with one another.
During the upcoming 2018 Legislative session, area residents can sign up to receive newsletters from their lawmakers to stay informed on all of the work they are doing in Olympia.