Last updated 1/11/2019 at 3:37pm
While this year’s election season is over, as I mentioned in last week’s commentary, the general election itself isn’t wrapped up quite yet. As of yesterday the outcome of elections for two Senate positions was still up in the air. Hopefully things will be settled well before November 27, which is the deadline for county election offices to certify and turn in their results to the state.
As Senate Republican leader I look forward to knowing exactly how many members will be on our side of the aisle. In the meantime, we are going forward with the Senate Republican post-election tradition of gathering at a central location (Yakima, this year) to work on a game plan for the upcoming session, and choose the leadership team that will put the plan into action.
The 2019 session will begin January 14, now less than two months away.
‘So long’ to some fine public servants
Our Senate Republican Caucus met on Wednesday while most of us were at the Capitol for the Senate’s Assembly Days. It was an opportunity to thank a few members who have served their districts and our state well, and will not be returning next year.
Senator Jan Angel is retiring from the Legislature after 10 years representing the 26th District, which takes in parts of Pierce County (including the Tacoma Narrows Bridge) and Kitsap County. Senator Mark Miloscia, who I’ve known since we were both members of the House, fell short in his bid for re-election from the 30th District – which is mostly in south King County and has swung between Republican and Democrat for years. Senator Michael Baumgartner of the neighboring 6th District is stepping down after winning election as the new Spokane County treasurer.
Senator Joe Fain, who couldn’t be at our caucus meeting, also will be leaving us after a narrow defeat in the 47th District, which is another so-called “swing” district in south King County. Senator Fain, who was seeking a third term, had done a standout job as Republican floor leader, taking over for me after I was elected Republican leader in 2013.
When the Legislature convenes for its new session we will welcome Senator-elect Jeff Holy to the position being vacated by Senator Baumgartner. As of yesterday two other elections (for what is now Senator Angel’s 26th District seat, and the 42nd District Senate position in Whatcom County) were still too close to call.
Agriculture and the 2019 session
When I was in Olympia this week my agenda included touching base with Senator Andy Billig of Spokane, who was just chosen as the new majority leader in the Senate.
One of the things on my list had to do with how the Senate will address several policy areas that are especially important to our 9th District. When Republicans still led the Senate in 2017, we dedicated a committee to agriculture, water, trade, and economic development, and had another committee handle natural resources and parks. After Democrats regained the majority in the Senate ahead of the 2018 legislative session, they mashed agriculture, water, natural resources and parks into one committee. That meant only two Republican senators could bring their expertise to the committee, when we have several others who also could make valuable contributions. Maybe Senator Billig, the only Democratic senator left from east of the Cascades, will see that the committee structure we had two years ago makes better sense for our state, particularly in rural Washington.
When it comes to agriculture issues for 2019, we don’t know what will be on the Democratic majority’s list. The application of crop protection products was the subject of a controversial bill this year. Although the bill ended up commissioning a study instead of directly imposing devastating new restrictions, the study results could lead to another try at complicated and costly new rules. That could hurt our agricultural sector’s ability to compete globally.
The Legislature will have to agree in 2019 on a new two-year operating budget for state government. Senator Warnick from the neighboring 13th District and I recognize the importance of continued budget support for the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program. The state’s livestock identification program could also become a budget topic (and maybe a policy matter as well), as there are some things needing to be sorted out.
Although agriculture is the state’s largest employer, its needs are not fully understood by Olympia’s current crop of political leaders. That means the agricultural community will need to be vigilant. As long as Governor Inslee keeps claiming state government is headed for a $1.5 billion deficit (despite tax collections reaching historic levels), and his political allies control the Legislature, the threat of new taxes capable of hitting the agricultural sector is real.