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Legislators dive into session

Will focus on the state's supplemental budget

The state Legislature launched its 2024 short session Monday, with the 35th District that includes all of Mason County represented by Reps. Travis Couture and Dan Griffey, both Republicans from Allyn, and state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Shelton.

The state's 98 representatives and 49 senators are scheduled to be in session through March 7.

Couture is the assistant ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee, the assistant ranking member of the Human Services, Youth and Early Learning Committee, and a member of the Education Committee.

Griffey is the assistant ranking minority member of the Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee, the Local Government and Transportation Committee.

In the Senate, MacEwen is the ranking member of the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, and a member of the committees for Transportation, Labor and Commerce and Business, Financial Services, and Gaming and Trade.

The Journal asked the three legislators to answer four questions about the session. The Journal did not receive responses from Griffey.

The Journal asked the legislators to name their top priorities for the session.

MacEwen wrote that his top priorities for the session are "protecting taxpayers and property owners from further tax and regulatory overreach and reviving our K-12 educational system. We also need to have better transparency and accountability within the Climate Commitment Act. We also need to restore accountability in our criminal justice system."

Couture wrote that "my priorities for this short session remain the same as the 2023 session.

Creating safer communities across Washington state by bolstering public safety, promoting

affordability in tough economic times, and making state government work better for the people it serves.

"Our state continues to be plagued by drugs, homelessness, the lowest per capita police in the nation, high taxes and costs of living including a costly carbon tax on gasoline, and a public education system which is suffering a crisis of low achievement outcomes such as less then 50% of students reading or doing math at grade level."

Couture added, "There are many challenges facing the Legislature, many issues are a mile wide and a mile deep from previous sessions missteps and problems that have been allowed to fester for decades."

The legislators were asked what projects in the district they are seeking funds for.

"My office is still receiving requests and going through those," MacEwen wrote. "There will be limited capital budget funds this year. We will do our best to advocate for as much as we can."

Couture noted that the short session focuses on the supplemental budget, meant to make maintenance level adjustments to last year's budget.

"Bond capacity and available cash for new projects will be slim," he wrote. "However, I remain committed to standing up for our rural communities and fighting for capital projects and funding we need to grow and prosper. I will be prioritizing funding that promotes economic development and infrastructure, especially given the housing crisis we have in our state."

As for bills, MacEwen is introducing Senate Bill 5826, which he wrote would require utility companies to itemize out increased charges due to the implementation of the Climate Commitment Act.

"This is needed transparency," he wrote.

MacEwen is also introducing Senate Bill 5855, which he wrote would "require electronic disclosure to have a concise, easy-to-understand paragraph ahead of the full disclosure so consumers have a better understanding of what privacy rights they are forfeiting when agreeing to installed programs, updates, etc."

Couture said he has about a dozen bills, most of them prefiled ahead of the session.

He is sponsoring legislation that includes protecting at-risk children from parents who are abusing fentanyl, protecting communities from sexually violent predators, requiring Holocaust education in schools, and ensuring schools have updated sensors to curb student vaping and drug use.

"Additionally, I will be bringing important legislation that adequately funds the police to ensure every community has the protection it deserves, and tackling gun violence by establishing a program that gives cash rewards for tips to law enforcement that lead to the identification of a firearm used in a crime, or leads to a criminal conviction, all to ensure that people who commit crimes with firearms are caught and punished, instead of punishing law-abiding gun owners with fruitless and unconstitutional gun laws."

The legislators were asked to offer overall predictions on the session's outcomes.

"I do not see the Legislature acting on any of the initiatives that have garnered enough signatures, therefore these will be on the November ballot," MacEwen predicted.

"Former Sen. Tim Sheldon used to say every session has a theme, and he was right," Couture wrote. "I do not feel that the themes will have changed too much from last session, however, there are a few areas I believe the majority party has to begin conceding on. I'm predicting there will be some movement on curbing the fentanyl crisis, and it's too bad we had to suffer record overdoses and deaths for that to occur. People should expect more housing legislation, for which we hope it to help increase the housing supply by reducing the state's onerous regulations and fees. In correlation with housing is homelessness, where the state government has been spending boat loads of cash with little results. You might expect more funding to nowhere in that area if it is not coupled with meaningful reforms. People should also expect to see more movement on fully funding special education, which has been underfunded and violating special needs students' constitutional rights."

Author Bio

Gordon Weeks, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald


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