The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Legislative Commentary


Last updated 9/6/2018 at Noon

A lot of folks take advantage of the Labor Day holiday to make one more late-summer trip, but for me Labor Day weekend means staying around Ritzville and taking part in our Wheat Land Communities’ Fair, which started Thursday and ran through Sunday.

Besides taking a turn working the gate, I also participated in the parade and livestock auction.

I’m also looking forward to being at the Palouse Empire Fair on its opening day Thursday, Sept. 6, as one of several elected officials who will cook food and serve it to senior citizens. This year I’ll be one of the servers.

Between the fairs in Ritzville and Colfax, the Connell Fall Festival/Columbia Basin Junior Livestock Show and the other excellent fairs in our region, it’s easy to find and enjoy a slice of local life at this time of year.

Here are two news items from this week that deserve comment:

Will executive branch act to keep kids in school? It’s one thing for students to have a day off because of the fair, as they do in Ritzville, but another because teachers aren’t in the classroom, even though the Legislature approved a billion-dollar infusion for K-12 salaries just this year.

That led our side’s budget leader, Senator John Braun of Lewis County, to write to Governor Inslee, the superintendent of public instruction and the attorney general.

He called on them to honor the improvements made to public-school funding and take action to make sure children aren’t kept out of class:

“In the coming days, more than 1 million students are scheduled to return to classrooms that will have seen historic increases in school funding by the Washington State Legislature, fulfilling its paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within our borders.

“Unfortunately, all families may not have this same opportunity with some teachers threatening to go on strike. It is with this in mind I write to respectfully request your engagement and if necessary, intervention, in any public school employee strike that prevents students from accessing their educational opportunities, our state’s paramount constitutional duty.”

Noting how the state Supreme Court has determined that schools are now being funded in compliance with the constitution, Senator Braun observed “the greatest threat to our students’ education is from adults bickering over how to divide the bounty.”

Senator Braun has also publicly cautioned school districts and teachers that they shouldn’t expect the Legislature to come up with another big chunk of money (meaning above maintenance level).

That is relevant because according to Thursday’s Spokane Spokesman-Review, the teacher raises being offered by Spokane Public Schools stand to put the district in the red.

A new front against the Snake River dams: The activists who want to breach the dams have a new venue for their agenda, in the form of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force.

The governor created the group in mid-March, just after our legislative session ended. Its fourth full meeting was Tuesday.

The southern resident killer whales generally call Puget Sound home and have been in the news a lot lately.

The availability of prey (they prefer Chinook, or “king” salmon) has been a topic for the task force since its first meeting May 1, and removing the Snake River dams had already made a list of possible recommendations as of late July.

This is despite the high survival rate of juvenile fish in the Snake River system, and the serious loss of salmon to sea lions and other predators that gather in the lower Columbia.

The activists probably figure a task-force recommendation to remove the dams will give their crusade the political credibility it is lacking.

The first draft of recommendations is expected in about a month.


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