With the start of the 2016 Legislative Session fast approaching on Jan. 11, I am focused on preparing legislation on a variety of topics including improvements to our public health and safety, further protecting our environment, and supporting our growing need for affordable housing. These are issues I know are important to our state and to the 21st District.
Of course, one of the top issues will be the continued debate over how we fully fund our state’s public education. The State Supreme Court has consistently said we are not meeting adequate funding levels and I agree, and this summer we were sanctioned for not fixing the local funding problem where school districts are relying too much on local property taxes. The Washington State Budget & Policy Center recently published a blog post that goes over the challenges facing our state budget. We continue to be held back by fundamental problems with our regressive tax structure and crises like our education funding woes are a direct result. We cannot have another year where do not address these problems. I believe we need to continue to put pressure on those who want to maintain the status quo and see our state’s poorest 20 percent of residents paying up to seven times more of their income in taxes than the richest 5 percent. I encourage you to read the blog post please email me at Strom.Peterson@leg.wa.gov with your thoughts on the topic.
A particularly severe problem facing Snohomish County is the tragic rise in deaths due to heroin overdoses and opioid addiction. This is an epidemic throughout our state and needs to be addressed. We need to take a comprehensive approach that embraces both immediate fixes, such as making sure that our first responders have the adequate medical supplies and training to help those in need, and a focus on long-term goals of treatment and prevention of opioid addiction. I have been meeting with a group of fellow legislators, public health officials and first responders to work on legislation for next session. I have been very impressed by the ideas and commitment of the group members and the stories I hear from people when I talk about this subject. I believe we can make significant strides in countering this epidemic.
I will also be reintroducing two bills from last session that will help protect the environmental health of our communities. Paint manufacturers and I have been working together on a Paint Stewardship bill, which would coordinate the collection of unwanted partially-used paint cans throughout the state and prevent them from being improperly disposed. Last month, I had the opportunity to tour the MetroPaint plant in Portland where old paint is processed into affordable and high-quality recycled paint for consumers in the region. I was very impressed by the process and I hope to see one eventually open in Washington. This is something that helps the environment, and saves us money that would be spent cleaning up after improperly-disposed paint.
I have also been working on an On-Site Site Septic bill with the Department of Health. When septic tanks go uninspected, these systems can fall into disrepair creating both a pollution and public safety issue. The bill would promote effective septic management programs in the 12 counties along the Puget Sound and provide low-interest loans for homeowners who need help upgrading their septic system. I look forward to updating you on the progress of these bills during the session.
While I am in Olympia during the session, one of my favorite parts of the job is when constituents come for visits. Many local groups like ARC of Snohomish County, The Audubon Society, or teachers from our high schools come and talk to me about their legislative priorities. If you will be coming to Olympia during the 2016 session, you can schedule a meeting by responding to this email. I hope to see you there!
Also, one final thing I want to call attention to is the great leadership from our Gov. Jay Inslee. He recently published an editorial in the New York Times entitled, “Why My State Won’t Close Its Doors to Syrian Refugees.” His commitment to providing a welcoming place for refugees fleeing violence and standing up for our values of humanitarianism and security should be applauded.
— By Rep. Strom Peterson