OLYMPIA — Residents in Snohomish and Island counties get a chance Saturday to tell state lawmakers what they think of efforts to hike the gas tax, boost the minimum wage, revamp marijuana laws and toughen rules against using a cellphone while driving.
And they won’t have to travel to Olympia to do so.
Democratic and Republicans lawmakers from the two counties are hosting town halls Saturday to gauge the public’s opinion of what’s been done and what’s left to do in this year’s legislative session. Public meetings are planned in Everett, Lynnwood, Bothell, Coupeville and Shoreline.
No two meetings are exactly alike in terms of turnout or the topics.
“People are going to want an update on where we are on the big issues like education and the budget,” said Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton.
She hopes to talk about the “good bipartisan work going on here” to protect people’s privacy and personal information from online snoops and nefarious drones.
But whatever is in the headlines this week could dominate the conversation, she acknowledged.
“That’s usually the case, and we’ve got a few days of headlines,” she said Monday.
This year’s 105-day session is scheduled to end April 26. That means lawmakers are past the halfway point.
Among the highlights thus far is Senate passage of a $15 billion transportation package that includes an 11.7-cent increase in the gas tax and higher car-license fees. Also, the House passed a bill to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour in four years.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill to outlaw most activities on a cellphone by drivers while a car is moving. It would mean no emailing, no Facebook and not even use of a map app on a smartphone.
As those issues advance, the Legislature also must act on a new state budget and possibly new or higher taxes to help fund the public education system.
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said school funding could be a big topic because area teacher unions are trying to get people to show up.
The Washington State Labor Council, the state’s largest coalition of unions, on Tuesday called on union members statewide to attend a town hall in their community to “urge their lawmakers to support pro-working family legislation,” such as raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour and providing paid sick leave.
Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, anticipates questions about trains carrying coal and oil and work to protect the public in the event of an accident. A recent spate of derailments around the country could fuel interest on the subject, he said.
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, expects to talk about education and transportation.
She’d like to explain why she thinks the Senate should follow the lead of the House and pass the Washington Voting Rights Act to ensure fair and equitable elections. Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, wrote that bill.
But she expects there might be a lot of talk at her district’s town hall about preserving the front nine holes and clubhouse of the Wayne Golf Course in Bothell. McAuliffe said she, Moscoso and Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, are working to secure up to $3 million in the next state capital budget to help acquire the land.
“You never know what (subject) will be big,” she said.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @dospueblos.
All events are Saturday.
1st Legislative District
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell; Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace; and Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell: 10 a.m.-noon, Northshore Senior Center, 10212 E. Riverside Drive, Bothell.
10th Legislative District
Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton; and Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island: 10-11:30 a.m., Coupeville Recreation Hall, 901 NW Alexander St., Coupeville.
21st Legislative District
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood; Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds; and Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo: 10:30 a.m.-noon, Meadowdale High School’s Great Hall, 6002 168th St. SW, Lynnwood.
32nd Legislative District
Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, and Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline: 2-3:30 p.m., Shoreline Fire Department, 17525 Aurora Ave. N, Shoreline.
38th Legislative District
Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip; Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett; and Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett: 10-11 a.m., Everett School District headquarters, 3900 Broadway, Everett.