Trio reviews 2022 legislative session

Legislators discuss positives, disappointments


March 24, 2022

Matt Baide

Retiring state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, speaks March 17 at the Mason County Public Works building.

The 35th Legislative District trio of Rep. Drew MacEwen, Rep. Dan Griffey and Sen. Tim Sheldon spoke at a legislative wrap-up event hosted by the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council of Mason County and the North Mason Chamber of Commerce on March 17 at the Mason County Public Works building just outside Shelton on U.S. Highway 101.

Shelton Mayor Eric Onisko started the proceedings by thanking all three legislators for their support of the city and county.

"We've been told for the last three sessions, don't expect much with these small sessions and you guys still come through year after year and we appreciate that very much," Onisko said. "Also, Sen. Sheldon, we'd also like to wish you a fun, fulfilled retirement unless you pull a Tom Brady on us and we see you on a national ticket somewhere, hint, hint."

Onisko thanked Sheldon for state money for the $206,000 for the Shelton Civic Center parking facility and the $3.25 million for the sewer treatment plant.

The event started with the projects the legislators were most proud of accomplishing this session. MacEwen, R-Union, said he was proud of the money secured in the budget for sewer projects.

"Sewer isn't sexy, right? But it's vital to economic development," MacEwen said. "That is why for the last few years, just really been pushing that, whether it's North Mason or at the city level because it's one way that we can help to keep rates down and allow for economic development and I'm glad we were able to get more of that done."

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Griffey, R-Allyn, said he prioritized victims of sexual assault and corrosive control. He said he was proud to work on House Bill 2077, which would have put up informational human trafficking posters in bathroom stalls at safety rest areas, although the bill never made it out of committee.

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He said he was proud of getting House Bill 1655 passed, which would open previously closed safety rest areas.

"All of you business owners understand that is really troublesome and problematic and all of our truck drivers have a log book that they have to keep and at our kickoff, I said I was running a bill on that," Griffey said. "... Hopefully, it will be signed into law. If he doesn't sign it, we put a budget proviso in the transportation budget so we're going to get it all the way."

Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said it was great to work with Griffey and MacEwen. He said he was proud to secure $250,000 for Turning Pointe to improve its HVAC system. He was also happy to get $12 million for the Belfair Bypass, known now as the state Route 3 Freight Corridor. The state Department of Transportation's website says construction will start in 2024.

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Sheldon said he was able to secure $35 million for completing state Route 3 through Belfair.

"I was criticized one time for saying that Belfair will be the Silverdale of Mason County. It's not going to get that big," Sheldon said. "But if you go out there in the winter, there's no way you could take a shovel full of dirt and not get a shovel full of water and that sewer project, while it was spendy, you can't build it cheap and you can't build it small but we're going to see in the 2020s how that is going to improve the economy of Mason County and accommodate more businesses and growth."

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The three legislators shared some of their goals and disappointments. Griffey said he is working on the community project of the Oyster House in Allyn to celebrate the timber and seafood heritage in the area.

Some of his disappointments, he said, is that Democrats think that law enforcement is the problem and society is not the problem.

"We together have to understand we are in a time of choosing right now. We've had many times of choosing in my research of history," Griffey said. "We chose to do some things significantly different coming out of the Great Depression. We chose to do significant things in World War II. Coming out of the '70s, we elected somebody that really wanted to do something different in Ronald Reagan and we saw a real difference in how our society worked. We have time for choosing right now. We have to choose are we going to have proactive law enforcement that can actually solve crimes before they happen, prevent murders and rapes before they happen or are they going to be bystanders that have to sift through evidence and then go do notification on people's loved one's doors that sadly, a tragedy just happened? We also have to acknowledge there is a war on law enforcement right now. Way too many law enforcement officers have died just this year and we cannot allow that to happen."

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Griffey said one of his long-term goals is to fix rules about police pursuit. He said the transportation package that passed has a lot of good things in it, but it also has rules to end internal combustion engine use by 2030.

"You don't have to burn gasoline in an internal combustion engine, you don't have to. Ford just patented a hydrogen internal combustion engine that has zero emissions," Griffey said. "I tried to make that statement on the floor and I think the majority just got tired of me making statements they didn't want to hear so I got gaveled through the whole speech. What I was trying to tell them is government stands in the way of the progress that they're advocating for."

MacEwen and Griffey were also disappointed the Legislature spent $15 billion in the supplemental budget.

MacEwen, the ranking member on the Commerce and Gaming Committee, said he was disappointed in the liquor and cannabis board's agency request legislation to regulate a new chemical substance that was created by a cannabis company.

"I resent that. I'm tired of agencies just taking and doing what we're supposed to do," MacEwen said. "Yeah, it's hard, it's complicated but we can fix it and manage it. This was a horrible bill that they proposed. It would have stripped the Legislature of all of its authority and oversight on this particular issue. It goes to the House floor and when you've been there long enough, you figure out how to make things not happen and subsequently, how to make them happen. Working behind the scenes, we were actually able to not let that bill come to a floor vote. We still have to solve the issue and then I dropped a bill that would resolve the issue in a way that would allow for the Legislature to still have its voice. They ended up not moving it, which is unfortunate."

MacEwen said with the state budget, there is no room for error.

"I'm very disappointed in what happened in the budget process," MacEwen said. "In a time of global geopolitical uncertainty that we have no control over, it was the wrong direction to go."

He said through a procedure, the Democrats created a new and separate rainy-day account and put $1.2 billion into it. MacEwen said that is the wrong way to govern and there's no room to adapt. He also said if you think gas prices are high right now, it will be even more due to the cap-and-trade carbon fuel tax.

"Projections are you're going to be looking at north of $6 per gallon come July here in Washington state,"

MacEwen said. "What's the impact there? ... I'm worried about where we're sitting right now and it's unfortunate that those decisions were made."

Sheldon said he voted for a couple of bills he didn't really like, but they were going to pass anyway.

"I got a little bit back from the other side to do some of the things that we wanted to do so that's important," Sheldon said.

Sheldon said the pandemic has been hurting sessions the last couple of years with virtual sessions and not being able to meet with new members face to face.

After speaking for about an hour, the floor was opened up to questions from the audience. One of the members asked about the governor's emergency powers and Griffey responded by saying the founders did not design the state to work in a dictatorship.

"It does not work well, it should have gone away and the governor should actually give it away now," Griffey said. "The fact that it didn't get passed is a blight on the majority and the Legislature as a whole. We should take back that normal legislative procedure."

MacEwen said no one ever envisioned a pandemic scenario and said that the people have lost their voice through the governor's emergency powers.

"Had the Legislature been involved, I can see that maybe nothing would have been different ultimately because of the makeup of the Legislature and where the governor was at with things, it might not have been drastically different then what did happen, but at least your voice would have been heard," MacEwen said. "It's not and that's unfortunate. We have no ability to stop a state of emergency. For those that feel differently, if there was someone else that was in office, and declared a state of emergency on something and took drastic measures that you disagreed with, would you still hold the same thought process today?"

An audience member asked about the legislation that passed that limits gun magazines to 10 bullets. Griffey spoke about the issue and said he voted no on both gun-related bills in the session. He said he voted that way because the most popular firearm in the country is the Glock 17 and it will now be unavailable to state residents.

"As a professional firefighter, I've made it my mission in life to save lives and if I thought that banning guns would mean there would never be another murder, well, I'll tell you what, I would have to think about it but that is absolutely not the truth," Griffey said. "While I know there are many out there that believe this is going to stop tragedies, what it's going to do is take law abiding citizens that have never broke the law and make them not have an ability to possess that again. I would like everyone to think, in the guise of emergency powers, think about the thing that you do the most that you love that then society decides is not something they want you to have any longer. Think about them just unilaterally banning that. I don't know that it will accomplish what the makers of the bill wanted to accomplish. (I) didn't support it and I do understand the passion behind those that do."

Author Bio

Matt Baide, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald
Email: [email protected]

Email: [email protected]


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