Senator John Braun and Rep. Ed Orcutt, both of whom represent Lewis County as part of the 20th Legislative District in the state legislature, recently shared their thoughts on the upcoming legislative session with The Reflector, The Chronicle’s sister paper in Battle Ground.

 

20th Legislative District

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia

Committees: Ways and Means (budget — Republican leader), Labor and Commerce, Financial Institutions, Economic Development and Trade

What are your top priorities this session? Are you planning on sponsoring any specific bills?

This past year the majority party approved many billions of dollars’ worth of tax increases and increased state spending by $9 billion (18 percent) yet so many needs were ignored or shortchanged by the 2019-21 operating budget. An enormous amount of tax money went toward pay increases without any input from the Legislature, meaning there was no opportunity to weigh that expense against very pressing situations in our communities. While the “short” sessions of even-numbered years are typically focused on mid-course corrections to the two-year budget, this imbalance should have us looking to reprioritize and address issues that concern my constituents, such as more support for community mental-health services and our developmentally disabled citizens, and increasing reimbursements to prevent more closures of nursing homes. 

Many of my priorities and the bills I’m sponsoring reflect what I and other Republicans are hearing from the people we serve: property-tax relief for seniors, honoring the voters’ desire for $30 car tabs, pushing for tougher DUI laws, a new approach to state hatcheries that will increase salmon stocks, and ways to put new controls on state spending ahead of the next budget cycle. I’ll also be working to keep a costly “Medicare for all” approach from taking deeper root in our state and showing why the governor’s latest energy proposal (on fuel standards) amounts to a higher gas tax with none of the benefits to our roads.  

Following the passing of Initiative 976 which makes changes to transportation funding, do you have any plans to address the initiative, the court case regarding its legality or transportation funding as a whole?

I’ll take this opportunity to highlight SB 6041, my new bill to dedicate the state sales tax on motor vehicles to transportation improvements. The passage of I-976 confirmed that the Legislature would be wise to start cultivating an additional source of transportation revenue, and the sales tax on vehicles is a logical candidate. My proposal would annually move a portion of the existing vehicle sales-tax revenue into a new fund, 10 percent at a time, starting in 2020. It would provide an estimated $30 billion-plus for transportation investments over the next 20 years, which is approximately double the value of the “Connecting Washington” package of projects and revenue approved in 2015, all without any new taxes. The governor attacks this idea by claiming it would take money from education, but that’s false — between long-term economic projections and substantial savings coming next decade from paying off the state’s long-term pension liability, there will be more than enough revenue to keep up with the phasing-in of this legislation and allow an orderly transition that protects the operating budget (including money for K-12).

With Oregon now at the table with Washington regarding replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge, what’s your take on the momentum regarding fixing transportation issues over the Columbia River?

For many of the communities I serve, Portland is the “big city” more than Seattle, and my first session as a legislator was the one that saw the Columbia River Crossing project collapse, so the bridge situation has always been on my radar. I think the bi-state committee process has more promise than the approach that was tried before, and Senators Rivers and Wilson are doing an outstanding job of representing Clark County and Southwest Washington on that group.

Would you support efforts to roll back gun sales and ownership changes brought on by I-1639?

No legislative district opposed I-1639 more strongly than the 20th District, where the “no” vote exceeded 68 percent. Many of the people I serve have a love for hunting and/or target shooting, an interest in self-defense and an appreciation for the Second Amendment, so if the majority side was to allow a full vote on a bill that would be less restrictive, that is absolutely something I would support.

Locally, sexual health education has been a flashpoint for controversy, with Battle Ground Public Schools nixing mandatory high school sex ed outside lessons regarding HIV required by law. With the potential for changes to sex ed coming from the Legislature the question comes up: should districts have to teach mandatory sex ed?

The legislation regarding sexual health education that has been considered up until now has removed all authority from parents and the local school board. We trust local school boards to make decisions about policies and procedures and negotiate contracts at a district level. We should also trust them to make decisions about instruction at a district level, no matter the subject. 

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama

Committees: Finance (tax policy) — Ranking member; Transportation; Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources

What are your top priorities this session? Are you planning on sponsoring any specific bills?

My priorities are to protect against any further tax increases and infringement on citizens’ rights; and to address various issues brought forth by constituents. Typically, focus on legislation is in regard to the committees upon which I serve but include a wide variety of topics brought by constituents. I try to prioritize the bills that get the most benefit for my constituents.

Following the passing of Initiative 976 which makes changes to transportation funding, do you have any plans to address the initiative, the court case regarding its legality or transportation funding as a whole?

Voters have voted for $30 car tabs numerous times, yet the Legislature has continued to add new fees. I have spoken out against the addition of the weight fees in the 2005 and 2015 transportation tax packages. I will work to implement I-976 while protecting Southwest Washington transportation projects — and the taxpayers who fund them with gas tax dollars.

With Oregon now at the table with Washington regarding replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge, what’s your take on the momentum regarding fixing transportation issues over the Columbia River?

I am encouraged that Washington and Oregon legislators are meeting to develop a replacement project. Whatever is developed needs to address the concerns and meet the needs of citizens, commuters, and commerce as well as to be fair to the taxpayers (including commuters) of our state. But just replacing the current I-5 crossing will not solve congestion issues — we need to build additional crossings and the process for replacing the I-5 bridge needs to include construction of at least one more crossing. Our citizens shouldn’t be made to wait until  I-5 is fixed before developing plans and starting construction of a new crossing.

Would you support efforts to roll back gun sales and ownership changes brought on by I-1639?

With the talk in Olympia (from the Governor and Attorney General) of additional restrictions on firearms, it is unlikely that HB 2103 would even get a hearing, much less come up for a vote. So, the question is whether or not legislators would support added restrictions. I would not.

Locally, sexual health education has been a flashpoint for controversy, with Battle Ground Public Schools nixing mandatory high school sex ed outside lessons regarding HIV required by law. With the potential for changes to sex ed coming from the Legislature the question comes up: should districts have to teach mandatory sex ed?

No. Locally elected school directors best understand the communities they serve and need to have flexibility in what is taught and at what age rather than it being mandated by the State.

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(1) comment

llhauer

How sad to see that the only mention Sen. Braun makes about health care is to state his opposition to the Medicare-for-All approach being debated in the state legislature. Rep. Orcutt doesn’t even mention health care as a priority. Not long ago Rep. Jim Walsh of the 19th district embarrassed himself and his constituents with a shouting tirade in the legislature in opposition to the health care ideas being discussed there. How is any of this helpful? When are Republican politicians going to actually come up with an alternative plan to the ones the Democrats offer instead of expending all their energy in opposition to any and all plans proposed? We constituents need and deserve affordable health care coverage, affordable prescriptions and protections for anyone with pre-existing conditions. And we deserve representatives who are paying attention to what we really want and who are investing their energies in those issues.

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