First District legislators set priorities

  • Oscar Halpert<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:53am

Education and health care funding, auto theft and identity theft are among the bigger issues First District State Legislative Reps. Al O’Brien and Mark Ericks will focus on during the upcoming Legislative session that begins Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Gov. Chris Gregoire in December proposed a budget that increases spending by more than $4 billion over the next two years. A large chunk of that money is earmarked for teacher pay raises and classrooms.

Ericks, a Democrat, said he hasn’t looked closely at the Governor’s budget, but feels adjustments to education spending are inevitable this year.

“I think there certainly is a need for us to take a close look at the (education) funding we’re providing, not only for K-12 but for higher ed,” said Ericks, a former Bothell Police Chief who was re-elected to a second term last year.

Democratic State Rep. Al O’Brien said he plans to “lay back” this year and help some of the newly elected legislators get their sea legs.

O’Brien, who chairs the House Public Safety Committee, will oversee a hearing on Friday, Jan. 12 about automobile theft.

State Rep. John Lovick, a Mill Creek Democrat, is primary sponsor of a bill that would make stealing a car a first-degree, rather than a second-degree theft. O’Brien is a co-sponsor of the bill.

O’Brien said he also wants to tackle identity theft during the session.

“I’m going to try to start a regional task force,” he said. “It would have a federal postal inspector, the Washington Attorney General, all under the umbrella of the State Patrol. I’m asking for each of the major law enforcement agencies to put a detective on it.”

He said identity theft is such a widespread problem that federal, state and local law enforcement must work together.

Additionally, O’Brien said he’s been hearing from mothers in east King County suburbs who are concerned about men exposing themselves to children. He wants to increase the severity of the penalty against such offenders, who now face a gross misdemeanor on a first offense and a felony for a second offense.

“I’m going to try to make it a felony the first time around and most importantly, try to get the guy to register as a sex offender,” he said.

Ericks said health care will be a major issue during the session.

“The whole issue of affordable health care is something I’m not certain we’ll get resolved but is something we’ll focus heavily on,” he said. “In particular, there’s a difference between general health care issues and health care insurance.”

To that end, he said, he wants to focus on the way health care insurance is structured and “how we provide catastrophic care.”

First Legislative District State Sen. Rosemary McAullife, who chairs the Senate’s Early Learning, K-12 and Higher Education Committee, was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Talk to us