RepWatch | Welcome back, Washington legislators

2018-01-14 | The Wenatchee World

Jan. 13--Olympian heights: The 2018 state legislative session convened Monday to begin its 60-day session, and 12th District legislators got straight to work. Rep. Mike Steele scored a school meal deal with a bill amendment he introduced last March, designed to incorporate farm-to-table foods in expanded school breakfasts. Steele, a Chelan Republican, added the language in March to House Bill 1508, the Breakfast After the Bell program, which passed the House 83-15 on Wednesday. The overall bill extends school breakfasts through the first morning period in districts with high poverty rates; Steele's amendment allows the Superintendent of Public Instruction to include Department of Agriculture farm-to-school initiatives in the breakfast program. The bill must still pass the Senate.

Fellow Rep. Cary Condotta lent his support to the breakfast bill, and brought seven bills of his own to be introduced in the House session. One would allow counties with scarce affordable housing to permit "single-family detached residential development of any density outside the urban growth area." Another requires price labeling on alcohol to include all taxes and fees; a third, with nine cosponsors, would cap the state tax rate for school funding at $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value, rather than the $2.70 achieved by last year's McCleary legislation.

Sen. Brad Hawkins hosted Leavenworth city officials Thursday to testify in support of his bill to allow municipal burning of plant waste in areas affected by the state's apple maggot quarantine. He's introduced two other bills for the new session: One that partners with three Democratic senators to create a revolving account for state-federal restoration projects on federal lands; another would modify the Legislature's calendar for votes, hearings and floor debates.

Other crucial items before the Legislature, according to WashingtonVotes.org: Passage of a $4 billion capital budget held over from last year, when it became a pawn in debates over the McCleary education fix and the Hirst restrictions on water-well drilling; Gov. Jay Inslee's proposal for a carbon tax, expected to push fuel prices higher as an offset to climate-damaging emissions; and simply negotiating the new post-election split that puts Democrats narrowly in charge in both the House (50-48) and Senate (25-24).

Double the doctors: A second physician has entered the Democratic primary for the 8th District congressional seat. Dr. Shannon Hader issued her formal announcement Jan. 8, although she'd been making the rounds as early as December. The Auburn native's medical and government bona fides are strong: Until last year, she was director of the Division of Global HIV and TB at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the same agency where she got her start confronting the epidemics abroad in Zimbabwe. Prior to that she spent four years as a VP of health policy at Futures Group International, a private consulting group now named Palladium, and almost three years as HIV coordinator for the District of Columbia. She resigned from the CDC last year specifically to run for Congress, she told the Washington State Indivisible Podcast, saying she was driven to run by anti-health, anti-science initiatives undertaken by President Donald Trump. Her undergraduate degree comes from Stanford University, her medical degree from Columbia University, and her continuing study in pediatrics and infectious disease from Duke University and Emory University respectively. She joins a crowded Democratic field, including former prosecutor Jason Rittereiser, realty agent Mona Das and fellow pediatrician Dr. Kim Schrier.

CHIP charge: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray argued on the Senate floor Wednesday for renewed funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which funds healthcare for low-income kids nationwide, including 50,000 here in Washington. Federal funding expired last year, and Murray told fellow senators it must be restored "without making deep cuts to successful prevention programs in the Centers for Disease Control that tackle avoidable conditions such as heart disease and diabetes." Congress missed its deadline to reauthorize CHIP without a break in funding more than 100 days ago.

Putting out fires: U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell partnered with Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner to bring forward the Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act. If passed, the bill could increase firefighter safety by requiring the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to provide GPS tracking for wildfire crews and begin using aerial drones to scout out and map wildfires in real time. The act would also require analysis of trends in firefighter injuries; predictive assessments to identify areas at largest risk of fire; smoke forecasting to provide accurate information to affected communities; and cost-share funding for at-risk areas to install advanced 911 and emergency alert systems.

Reach Jefferson Robbins at 509-664-7123 or robbins@wenatcheeworld.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRobbinsWW. Contact him securely by PGP key.

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