By Evan Smith
Two new 1st District state legislators say that their committee assignments give them ways to help the district.
Democratic 1st District Rep. Shelley Kloba has become vice chairwoman of the Commerce and Gaming Committee and a member of both the Transportation Committee and the committee on technology and economic development.
In the Republican-controlled senate, Democratic 1st District State Sen. Guy Palumbo has become ranking minority member of the Senate Higher Education Committee and a member of the Local Government Committee.
Palumbo said Sunday that briefings during his first two weeks on the Higher Education Committee have confirmed his belief that the state needs the graduates that colleges in the 1st District can produce.
The 1st Legislative District includes most of Mountlake Terrace, all of Brier and Bothell, north Kirkland, unincorporated areas of King County between Bothell and Kirkland, and unincorporated areas of Snohomish County north and east of Bothell.
He said that briefings to the Higher Education Committee had made clear that the state has a serious workforce pipeline challenge.
“Half the aerospace workforce will be aging out in the next 10 years and we don’t have workers ready to backfill those positions,” he said. “Our major technology employers like Amazon and Microsoft can’t find enough computer engineers to hire. We also have a huge need for health-care workers as the silver tsunami approaches.”
Palumbo said that he wants to help get facilities for UW-Bothell and Cascadia Community College in the 1st District to turn out more qualified workers.
Palumbo said that the local colleges are among those around the state that have had to wait for facilities.
“Institutions have to wait 14 years on average to get a new building,” he said.
He called fixing the bottleneck in higher-education infrastructure for high-demand fields “low-hanging fruit.”
“I will be looking into innovative ways to address this problem through the use of public-private partnerships.”
He said two weeks ago that on the Local Government Committee, he wants to work on population-growth policy.
Palumbo, who has been a Fire District 7 commissioner and a Snohomish County planning commissioner, called the Local Government Committee “a perfect fit based on my background and experience.
“There will probably be several GMA (Growth Management Act) reform bills that will be considered this year. I look forward to any opportunity to make improvements in the way we deal with population growth, which is at the core of many of the issues facing the 1st District.”
Kloba said before the legislative session started that she believes that the work of the Technology and Economic Development Committee and the work of the Transportation Committee cover interrelated areas that have a big impact on the 1st District.
“We have a vibrant and growing tech sector that presents excellent ways to improve economic opportunities for our region, and I look forward to working with area businesses and schools to promote development,” she said. “Our transportation systems are the critical infrastructure that allows our residents to get where they need to go, and our businesses to get employees to work and goods to the marketplace. I look forward to improving transportation options for all.”
Kloba, a former Kirkland city councilwoman, said that, unlike the other two committees, Commerce and Gaming is not a committee she had specifically requested.
“However, I am anxious to apply my local government experience as well as my perspective as a health care provider on the issues that will come before us related to alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and gambling,” she said. “My top priorities will always be the things that foster strong kids, strong families, and strong communities, and I know that these committees will give me the opportunity to work on those issues.”
Evan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.