OPINION Participating in democracy: Lobby Day

A column by a Snoqualmie resident.

  • Friday, March 15, 2019 8:30am
  • Opinion

Each year our state government hosts a “Lobby Day” in February when our state representatives make special efforts to welcome constituents and discuss issues.

Carpooling to Olympia with friends, we reviewed bills that our 5th Legislative District Sen. Mark Mullet and 5th Legislative District reps. Bill Ramos and Lisa Callan were sponsoring. I was amazed that 2,500 bills are being considered. About 90 percent of the bills are bipartisan, and while some make minor improvements to our communities, some are transformative.

I encourage you to visit the State Capitol. Tour guides walk you through the capitol explaining the building’s history. Constructed in the 1920s, it’s marvelous. The dome, fourth largest of its type in the world, is made of blocks shaped to remain in place by gravity alone. The lights comprise the largest Tiffany collection in the world. Hanging in the dome, a bronze chandelier weighing 6 tons is suspended by a chain weighing 1.5 tons. Lining one hallway are class photos of Washington representatives since the beginning of statehood. Our friend Mary, a retired teacher, noted they were all white men until about the 1960s when a few women appeared.

As we entered the House gallery, above the House floor, I noticed how many representatives are women and people of color, which was a happy contrast to the class photos. Being “Children’s Day,” many had brought their children, and Rep. Callan was there with her teenage son. A few male and female representatives held toddlers.

Rep. Bill Jenkins (R, LD-16) shared that it was great to be back after suffering a heart attack at the start of session and appreciated the love he received from fellow legislators. He then received a standing ovation. In these days of bitter partisanship, it was heartwarming to hear such an expression of affection.

We met with our senator, Mark Mullet, prime sponsor for 29 bills and co-sponsor for 86. SB-5251, “Concerning Prescription Drug Cost Transparency,” aims to lower the cost of drugs by increasing pricing transparency. SB-5251 could help explain why an EpiPen (for anaphylaxis shock) costs $600-$700 here, and $50-$150 in Canada. Or why Americans are dying because insulin is so expensive here, while it’s cheap in Mexico. Mullet also co-sponsors SB-5371, “Protecting Consumers from Excessive Increases in Insulin Drug Prices.” Mullet also sponsors SB-5252, which would lower the percentage of voters required to pass school bonds from 60 percent to 55 percent. Senator Mullet has an impressive list of important legislation.

Rep. Ramos, prime sponsor for six bills and co-sponsor for 36, warmly welcomed us into his office. Ramos is on the Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources, College and Workforce Development, and Transportation committees. Five of his bills address the environment. His “Carbon Sequestration” bill, HB-2047, is important because it impacts climate change through quantifying and maximizing the process of forests removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Ramos also explained the art of bill titles. In Washington state a bill’s title must reflect the content. If titled “Expanding Highway 18,” it can’t have an unrelated amendment. A broad title can result in unwanted amendments, while too narrow a title makes tweaking impossible.

Ramos’s schedule is filled with committees, hearings and meetings. Long days notwithstanding, Ramos said he loves his new job.

Finally, Rep. Callan, prime sponsor for seven bills, and co-sponsor for 62, welcomed us. Callan is on the Human Services and Early Learning, Capital Budget, and Education committees. Six of her bills address issues concerning children, families and education: HB 1575 (Vulnerable Children/Care), HB1577 (K-12 Computer Science Education), HB-1657 (Homeless Youth Services), HB-2108 (K-3 Class Sizes/Funding), HB-2116 (Institutional Education), and HB-1900 (Maximizing Federal Funding for Prevention, and Family Services). It is easy to see where Rep. Callan’s heart lies.

Callan, Ramos and Mullet are also collaborating to keep track of progress and deadlines on the Highway 18/Interstate 90 interchange to make sure things are on schedule. Once finished, they’ll move to expand Highway 18, eliminating its 10-mile bottleneck. Though not Callan’s area of expertise, I was impressed with her command of the issue.

“Lobby Day” gives an opportunity to participate in our democracy first hand. I recommend it as a day of learning and fun.

Roger Ledbetter is a politically-active resident of the Valley. He and his family have lived in Snoqualmie since 1979. Contact Roger Ledbetter through the editor by email: editor@valleyrecord.com.

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