A long, challenging session

The Washington Legislature begins work in the soul-deadening murk of January, a season of languishing frozen beneath charcoal skies, praying for the bus. It ends (or so we beg) just as Northwesterners awake to spring.

The 2013 regular session has a cloud of uncertainty, the charge to invigorate K-12 education mandated by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. On Thursday, Gov.-elect Jay Inslee responded to the call to infuse $1 billion more into basic education. “I have a figure in my head, but I don’t have money in my pocket,” Inslee said. Figurative-language translation: I want to do the right thing, but I promised not to raise taxes.

The state Senate remains a work in progress, with the derisively labeled “coup caucus” (members prefer “coalition caucus”) poised to make political history or to collapse under the weight of competing egos. Senate leader Rodney Tom underscores outcomes, and if he and Republicans succeed and adjourn on time, they could breathe life into the promise of third-way politics.

After K-12 education, the paramount duty under Washington’s Constitution, major issues of transportation, public safety, workforce development, higher ed and civil rights come to the fore. Here the Snohomish County delegation, Republicans and Democrats, play a meaningful role. Pivotal to building up WSU/Everett will be the leadership of Rep. Mike Sells and Rep. Hans Dunshee. WSU aims for $2 million to boost degree slots and perhaps lay the groundwork for a building. As a committee chair, Sells will labor to secure funding for aerospace-worker training consistent with the recommendations of the Aerospace Pipeline Committee. He’ll also team with Republican Sen. Kirk Pearson to advance interest arbitration for Department of Corrections’ employees on contract concerns and safety issues. Pearson, a champion of criminal justice, will introduce a bill to strengthen the notification requirements for juvenile sex offenders. Pearson’s senate colleague, Nick Harper, will drop a bill that cracks down on vehicle prowling, ensuring that habitual offenders be charged with a class c felony instead of a gross misdemeanor.

Rep. Marko Liias and Rep. Luis Moscoso, as co-vice chairs of the House Transportation Committee, will be responsible for promoting Snohomish County projects as part of a comprehensive transportation package. Liias, an emerging transpo wonk, is also floating a biodiesel bill to bolster in-state growers. Moscoso will prime the Washington Voting Rights Act, a seminal effort to advance voter equality (Rep. John McCoy is likely to co-sponsor.) And look for newly minted state Sen. Barbara Bailey, a budget hawk, to fine-tune proposals related to state spending and small business.

With the public interest as a touchstone, Snohomish County lawmakers can do enormous good. Now, please don’t disappoint.

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