After two years of virtual legislative sessions, legislators returned to Olympia on Monday, Jan. 9 for opening ceremonies. It was great to see the galleries filled with family, friends, and staff. Allowing the public to visit in person with state lawmakers and testify in committee is important to our legislative process. It improves transparency and provides accountability.
On Tuesday, Gov. Inslee addressed the Legislature with his State of the State address. Rep. Peter Abbarno provided the Republican perspective. Since then, we have been busy with committee work and public hearings on bills.
This is my first update since election-year restrictions last May. I will continue to provide you with updates throughout the session and interim. Please feel free to share this update with others who may be interested.
A new 12th District
Every 10 years after the census information is updated by the federal government, Washington state redraws its congressional and legislative boundaries. The new 12th District is unique as it crosses the Cascade Mountains. It was a surprise to both sides of the mountains and those who follow the redistricting process. The district includes all of Chelan County, most of East Wenatchee, but has relinquished the rest of Douglas County to the 7th District and picked up portions of Snohomish and King counties.
The district includes nine school districts on the eastside of the mountains and eight on the westside. The split in cities is similar as well. I can assure you my seatmates and I have been committed to learning the new portions of the district in order to represent both sides of the mountains. I spent a lot of time during the interim meeting with school districts, local government officials and many other organizations on the west side to familiarize myself with their issues.
House Local Government Committee: I have again been selected as the lead Republican on this committee. My 16 years as a Chelan County Commissioner gives me a strong perspective on how our local entities view issues such as state agency rulemaking, performance audits and elections at the local level. Changes to the Growth Management Act have come before us and could have a significant impact on local planning responsibilities.
House Environment and Energy Committee: With the abundant, low-cost power we have in North Central Washington and new renewable standards continually being considered, I look forward to being part of the policy discussions coming out of the Legislature. This committee covers a wide array of issues including climate concerns, statewide recycling standards, and chemical issues in consumer products.
Transportation Committee: The new district gives us an opportunity to work with communities on both sides of the mountains to address important transportation needs. The state continues to fall behind on maintenance and preservation while we deal with congestion issues that plague different areas of the 12th District. We are working diligently to elevate the priority of some of these projects in our District.
No matter where you reside, most of the challenges facing our state are similar. Legislators need to work together to find common ground and embrace solutions that address our most pressing issues.
Washington is producing fewer housing units per household than any state in the country due to a variety of factors. We need to look at regulatory fees and costs, permit delays, restrictive zoning laws, and the antiquated Growth Management Act so more people can find affordable homes.
The state has seen record tax collections, massive increases in budget spending, but no tax relief has been provided for our citizens. As the cost of goods and services have also increased, tax relief should be considered to reduce your cost of living.
Crime continues to increase in Washington with chronic homelessness, substance abuse, and untreated mental health conditions exacerbating the issue. We need to ensure our families, communities, and law enforcement are safe. We need to be stronger on crime, restore vehicular pursuit (bipartisan legislation has been introduced House Bill 1363), address drug addiction, and put more officers on the street. Washington ranks last in the nation of officers per capita.
While the majority party did pass a transportation plan last session, it did not provide much for our region. I am hoping we can take a more proactive approach to creating a sustainable and resilient transportation spending plan.
The increase in homelessness over the last ten years in Washington state is staggering. (See chart below.) This is tied to our housing crisis, but also mental health and substance abuse issues. We need to consider all aspects of this issue. Spending enormous amounts of money on it has not solved the problem.
Follow the Legislature
I encourage you to stay engaged and follow the Legislature. I look forward to hearing from those new to the 12th District. It is important you provide input on issues that matter to you, our district and Washington state. Please contact me with any questions, concerns, or comments you have. I appreciate the feedback as it helps me better represent you in the Legislature. It is an honor to serve the 12th District in the state House of Representatives. Keith.Goehner@leg.wa.gov
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