Cascadia College hosted a question-and-answer session with State 1st District legislators on Jan. 9, giving lawmakers an opportunity to preview some of the work they hope to accomplish in the new year.
Eric Murphy, president of Bothell-based Cascadia College, served as moderator for the event. The 1st District includes Bothell, part of Mountlake Terrace and Kirkland.
State Sen. Guy Palumbo, Rep. Shelley Kloba and Rep. Derek Stanford — all Democrats –were part of a panel covering topics that included education funding, transportation and environmental concerns.
During his introduction, Stanford mentioned a bill that would bring more lottery money to fund education. Stanford said he is frequently asked why all of the $180 million in state lottery money generated is not going toward schools.
“Right now about 70 percent of that goes directly into education,” he said. “My bill will put the rest of it into education as well.”
On the topic of education, Murphy asked about the underfunding of special education and why — if it is considered to be basic education — several districts are having to use a third of local levy proceeds to subsidize it.
Kloba said that historically the state hasn’t provided enough money for special education, which can be partially attributed to an artificial cap on how much additional funding districts can receive.
“If that cap is around 13 percent, but 15 percent of your kids are special services, that’s going to have to come out of an additional pile of money,” she said.
Kloba said one of the her goals for the upcoming legislative session is to create a multiple-tiered funding system as opposed to the straight multiplier now used to cover special services.
The current education funding system ” perversely incentivizes” school districts who aren’t following best practices for inclusion of special education students, she said.
“We need to reflect that our current system perversely incentivizes not best practices for inclusion,” she said.
One of the most anticipated topics addressed by legislators was transportation, specifically improvements to Interstate 405 that would benefit commuters.
“If you’re coming from Canyon Park, Marysville or Monroe, you have to use these roads that intersect with 405,” Palumbo said. “It will immediately make our lives better if we can add the extra lane.”
Palumbo said the improvements would allow people easier commutes and more time spent at home with their families.
Kloba added that 1-405 enhancements will not only benefit commuters, but will also help businesses and distributors. “Not to mention great mobility improvements that help our farmers and manufacturers get their products to market,” she added. “All of those things rely on great mobility.”
Stanford said when he communicated with businesses in the area, transportation and commute are often a main priority.
“They’re relying on that transportation just like we are,” he said.
If the area wants to continue to attract new businesses, which will promote economic growth, Palumbo said a functioning transportation system is a priority.
As the area prepares for Sound Transit’s expansion in the 1st District, Stanford said lawmakers need to stay on top of the process to ensure community expectations are met.
“We need to make sure they things we expect come through and they’re well-designed to work with our community,” he said.
As the questions turned toward the environment, Palumbo admitted 2018 was not a good year for those initiatives. However, he said 2019 will be better, with legislation that include a low-carbon fuel standard and a net-metering law for solar power.
“There’s a whole host of really good bills,” Palumbo said.
Palumbo also said he would like to see a ban on dredge mining. Washington is one of the last western states to allow dredge mining in rivers, “which is really bad for salmon and recovering trout,” he said.
As concern for the area’s orca whale population grows, Palumbo said it is a “sleeper issue” that could lead to a special session. To keep orcas from becoming extinct, something will have to be done soon, Palumbo said.
“We have to cut down on competition for their food, we have to cut down on vehicle noise that keeps them from finding their food and we have to take care of toxins that are leaking into their bodies,” he said. “We have to take bold actions here.”
Each of the legislators encouraged questions, concerns and feedback from their constituents. You can find your legislator and their contact information by entering your address at this link: https://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/.
–Story and photo by Cody Sexton