Since the 2015 legislative session ended in July, I've been back home meeting with people like you, employers and local officials. As I've traveled around district listening to the successes of our communities and some of the issues they face, I've also been given great feedback on how I can best and most effectively serve you.
My job in addition to being your state representative as a lieutenant firefighter has also kept me pretty busy as our state faced one of its worst wildfire seasons this summer. I'm thankful for the support firefighters and first responders have received from communities throughout the state, and continue to pray for families affected by the wildfires.
Here are a few things I've been working on this interim:
Reviewing the Growth Management Act
2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Growth Management Act (GMA), which provides the land use planning framework for Washington counties and cities. It's been seen by some in the 35th District as an encumbrance as it's had a crippling effect on our rural communities' abilities to grow.
Since it was first enacted, three commissions have reviewed the act and made recommendations for policy improvements. A brief overview of those reviews can be read here. Just this past month, the House Local Government Committee on which I serve as the assistant ranking member held a work session to consider a structured review of the GMA. You can watch that work session here.
I will continue to push for a comprehensive review of the GMA in the 2016 legislative session. My hope is we can find a solution that allows local jurisdictions the flexibility to make decisions that will produce the best economic and environmental outcomes for their communities.
Keeping families together
You may recall the passing of radio-great Casey Kasem, king of the “American Top 40” and voice of Shaggy on the popular cartoon “Scooby-Doo,” in June 2014. In his final years, Kasem, who struggled with a form of dementia and advanced Parkinson's disease, found himself in the middle of a family feud between his three adult children and his second wife. Kasem's children accused his wife of intentionally keeping their father away from family and friends, and the situation spiraled into a tense legal battle.
One of my priorities as your representative is to empower and protect the rights of our elderly and disabled. That's why I've joined Rep. Linda Kochmar in preparing legislation that prevents elder isolation and allows families to best care for each other in times of need. Our hope is that no family will have to experience what the Kasem family went through.
Bringing Communities in Schools to the 35th District
Serving on the House Education Committee, I've learned more about how a student's home life and community can affect that student's academic success. Washington's 2014 high school dropout rate was 12.3 percent — that's 9,670 students over the 4-year high school time frame.
This interim, I've been working with Communities in Schools — a national program that aims to connect students with community support — and local school superintendents in North Mason and Shelton school districts to explore ways in which local resources can help students succeed in school. There are currently 12 Communities in Schools affiliates in Washington.
Nationally, the organization has seen 83 percent of the students it serves meet academic improvement goals and 91 percent of students graduate. It's a great program that I hope we can see expanded in our district!
North Mason School District had a 2014 dropout rate of 11.9 percent, and Shelton School District had a rate of 13 percent.
The 2016 legislative session begins January 11, but please know I am your representative year-round. I encourage you to continue to contact me with your ideas, concerns and questions using the contact information below.