Friday, January 22, 2021

Ninth District legislators outline session priorities

| January 13, 2021 12:55 AM

RITZVILLE — Reopening the state, transparency in energy costs and better access to health care are among the issues legislators from Washington’s Ninth District want to address during the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature, which began Monday.

Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, and Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, talked to the Herald about their legislative priorities before the session began.

Schoesler is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and said wise use of the capital budget is important to him. The Ways and Means Committee oversees the capital budget in the Senate. Schoesler is also on the Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs committees.

Dye said she will introduce four bills to the House Environment and Energy Committee, where she is the ranking member.

“I think we have the ability to really illustrate some new thinking in the arena of the climate,” Dye said.

Dye is also a member of the Appropriations and Capital Budget committees.

Schmick said mental health issues are becoming more apparent. Schmick is the ranking member on the House’s Health Care and Wellness committee.

In his district, there was a 16-year-old boy who had autism and needed assistance, Schmick said. The boy had to get treatment in Oklahoma, because there weren’t enough beds at the local hospital.

“I struggle with that, because I know that they would do better if they were home, or at least near their home, where the parents could be part of the solution,” Schmick said. “I don’t believe that this is an isolated case, so I’m working on that.”

Schmick is also a part of the Appropriations and Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources committees.

Dye said there has been a lot of effort put into working intermittent renewable energy into the state’s power grids to help combat climate change. However, consumers are unaware of how much more they need to pay to have an extensive power supply.

“We are just asking for some transparency on our monthly power bill so that we can know ... how much additional cost to our power bill is based on how much intermittent energy is being added in as part of the power supply,” Dye said.

She has concerns, Dye said, about the idea to “tax our way out” of the economic problems COVID-19 presented to the state. Numerous locally owned businesses are struggling to survive under Gov. Jay Inslee’s lockdown order, she said.

“We really want to avoid any more harm than what they can bear,” Dye said. “Reality is that our independently owned businesses are the drivers of our economy,”

Schoesler said the state’s budget needs to be sustainable with no new or higher taxes.

“A struggling employer, community (and) working families simply can’t afford newer, higher taxes because at the end, corporations don’t pay taxes — people do,” Schoesler said.

Schmick said people in his district are concerned about Inslee’s emergency powers.

“The fact that this governor has just not felt it necessary to call a special session — I just don’t believe it’s good governance that we, as elected (officials) have been locked out of the governor’s office,” Schmick said.

Schoesler said there is considerable frustration with schools and Main Street businesses unable to open, so advocating for those positions is the legislators’ job.

“We’re watching small businesses wither and die at the hands of Jay Inslee,” Schoesler said.