New legislators are still smiling after first week

OLYMPIA — Liz Loomis endured her first day as a state representative with a slight fever and a triple soy latte.

“That has protein,” she joked.

By Friday, her fifth day, the Snohomish Democrat said she was feeling a lot better and drinking a lot more water.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “Finding time to eat is a challenge. You definitely run on adrenaline.”

Ditto, said Reps. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, and Norma Smith, R-Clinton, who, along with Loomis, are Snohomish County’s newest legislators.

“It’s been thrilling,” Smith said as she sat in her office gazing out the window at the Capitol. “It’s awe-inspiring.”

Liias said it’s been frenetic and fascinating.

“I’ve met with people about a lot of issues that I didn’t know existed,” he said.

Each of the three assumed office via appointment: Loomis, 37, succeeds John Lovick, the new Snohomish County sheriff; Liias, 26, takes over for Brian Sullivan, the new County Council member; and Smith, 56, replaces Chris Strow, who went to work for the Puget Sound Regional Council.

Monday marked the start of the 2008 Legislature and a day of pomp and procedure and committee meetings.

Tuesday, the rookies each took part in the ceremony preceding Gov. Chris Gregoire’s State of the State address when they escorted statewide elected officials to seats in the chamber of House of Representatives.

“It’s all part of being a new legislator,” Smith said. “That kind of ceremony is steeped in tradition. It’s a good thing to be a part of it.

“When you walk in and look up and see all the people in the gallery and they are excited to be there and to be the guests of the governor, you understand this is for them, too,” she said.

On Wednesday, they cast their first votes on substantive legislation — House Bill 1102 to grant property tax exemptions to fully disabled veterans. The measure passed 96-0.

“I guess you’re officially part of history,” Loomis said. “That particular vote was quite important. The second e-mail I received was from a disabled veteran. I didn’t know him, but I feel like I do now.”

Liias said he looked at the vote button for a moment before pressing it.

“It means hundreds of people will get help across the state,” he said.

Several legislators congratulated him after the vote.

“We all recognized this was one of my first steps of joining this body,” he said.

Writing laws is another step. Loomis introduced eight bills and Liias four, representing some of their own ideas and some of those of the Democratic caucus leadership.

Smith is looking to introduce her initial bill next week to require convicted sex offenders to pay for electronic monitoring devices that they must wear, if they can afford it.

But not every moment this week has been spent doing the people’s business.

Liias, who the Legislature’s youngest member, is of Finnish descent and had the chance to meet Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen at an event.

“We had a brief conversation in Finnish,” Liias said.

The two talked politics and elections and the prime minister suggested they pose for a photo for Liias’ future elections. Liias said he hopes to be part of a state delegation that visits Finland later this year.

Friday afternoon, following votes on several bill dealing with housing, the grueling pace had still not torn the smiles from their faces.

“It’s good to be here,” Smith said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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