Dear Friends and Neighbors,
When I am in Olympia, you – the people back home – are at the forefront of my mind. I am honored to be your voice in the Legislature. Thank you for this opportunity.
We are now on day 24 of the scheduled 105-day session. Action is ramping up and more than 700 bills have been introduced in just three short weeks. In order to keep you informed I will be sending out e-mail updates, like this one, to let you know what I am doing on your behalf. These e-mails will also include highlights of what is happening at the Capitol and insight on pending legislation.
Please pass along this e-mail to others you think would be interested; they can sign up by clicking here. I also encourage you to watch my short video updates. You will be able to view these videos on our local television stations, the House Republicans YouTube channel and my new website at houserepublicans.wa.gov/macewen.
(You can view my latest floor speech and most recent video update by clicking on the image at the right).
New rules for the people
Four days ago, the House of Representatives adopted the permanent House Rules for how the body will operate for the next two years. It is standard protocol and is usually done quickly and quietly.
However, this year, House Republicans offered four amendments to those rules. Our goal was to show the majority that we are here to fight for the people, not just continue with business as usual. One of the rules we tried to amend would fund education first by changing House Rule 12.
It was a privilege for me to address my fellow legislators on the House floor about the importance of supporting quality education. It is our children who are impacted when the Legislature does not live up to its paramount duty. The graduation rate in my children's school district is 63 percent compared to the state average of 79 percent. And fifty-four of the children in my sons' district are considered low-income. These numbers are not acceptable. The path out of poverty is through a quality education. It is time that the legislature prioritize funding education instead of holding it hostage to other political needs.
Unfortunately, at the end of our fight only one of the rules was adopted. However, Republicans did have their voice heard – and thereby your voice was heard. The other rules we proposed would have:
- Placed the 2/3's requirement to raise taxes – which the voters passed with more than 64 percent of the vote statewide – into statute. The rule failed on a party-line vote; nobody in the majority voted to uphold the will of the people.
- Ensured that each legislator received a public hearing on at least one of their bills. Each legislator represents a district of approximately 137,000 people. The majority party did not support your legislator having at least one opportunity to represent you.
- Prioritized citizen testimony in committees.
We asked for those who take the time to travel to Olympia be given priority over lobbyists and Olympia insiders. Thankfully, the majority listened to our common-sense approach and chose to uphold this rule. We fought for you and now you will be heard.
Legislation to support forestry and agriculture
I believe it is important to be judicious in the legislation I sponsor. Big government does not benefit state citizens. Therefore, I have chosen to prime-sponsor only one bill so far this session. However, I have also co-sponsored some important legislation. Key among these bills are three that I am sponsoring to aid forestry and agriculture.
In Mason County alone, 3,897 people are employed by the forestry industry. Statewide the impact of this industry is huge as it provides more than 118,000 jobs and $5.3 billion in wages. One of my bills would extend a program that licenses state tree growers. Without this program, if the state Christmas tree crop were to become infested, with gypsy moth or another disease, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) could quarantine the entire harvest. Basically an entire season could be lost by USDA regulation. Since 75 percent of our trees are exported, there could be a lot of unhappy people nationwide in December. My other forestry bill would allow more flexibility in the purchase of timber.
My bill that will help our agriculture industry would create a program to return underused agricultural land back into a state of production by fostering connections among landowners, potential growers, and purchasers. Two of my bills are scheduled for a vote in committee on Thursday, February 7. Supporting our forestry industry has a huge impact on our economy. Anything we as legislators can do to bolster our state's economy and get Washington working is imperative.
I will continue to work on these issues and many more. If there is any element of state government that I can help you with, my door is always open. I am here to be a resource for you. If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (360) 786-7902, or e-mail me at Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov.
- Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your voice in Olympia.