First-time legislators prepare for session
With the 2019 state legislative session starting Monday, Skagit County’s three new representatives are preparing to make a difference.
Debra Lekanoff, D-Samish Island; Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor; and Robert Sutherland, R-Snohomish, were elected in November to their first terms in the state House of Representatives.
“It’s just been a whirlwind,” Sutherland said. “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing (since the election).”
On Friday, Sutherland was in east Skagit County touring properties damaged by elk — one of the many issues he said he’s learning about ahead of the session.
Sutherland was appointed to four committees — Appropriations, Rules, Public Safety, and College and Workforce Development — and said he’s excited to get to work on the issues that got him elected: gun rights and property taxes.
“Where I’m from, the 39th (Legislative District), people are very concerned with their property taxes,” he said.
Sutherland said he’s working on a bill to reduce the state’s property tax rates, but he isn’t sure if he will introduce it this session.
Lekanoff said she’s spent months before and after the election meeting with local leaders and constituents, trying to get everyone on the same page to tackle problems facing the region.
“It’s great to see the 40th (Legislative District) come together,” she said.
She was appointed to three committees — Capital Budget; Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Energy and Environment — and is vice chair of the Environment and Energy Committee.
Lekanoff said she’s working on eight to 12 bills to address issues on which she campaigned, including education opportunities, affordable childcare and environmental preservation.
As an example, she said she hopes to expand access to apprenticeships and affordable higher education.
Paul said he’s been similarly busy, meeting staff and legislators in Olympia.
Like Lekanoff, Paul said he plans to spend this session advocating for more opportunities in technical education.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in pathways for career and technical training,” he said.
He said he wants to advocate for expanded mental and behavioral health services in Washington’s K-12 public schools, saying they need to be better equipped to deal with students in crisis.
He will serve on the Transportation, Education, and College and Workforce Development committees.