Rep. Joe Schmick: Legislating at the local level
The 2020 legislative session is in full swing and the familiar issues of tax increases, $30 car tabs, gun rights, homelessness, crime and public safety are at the center of much legislative effort and debate.
These larger, more broadly impactful policy decisions will play themselves out in front of the political realities of our state. West side, urban ideology still holds sway as Democrats hold significant majorities in both chambers.
But being in the minority doesn't mean you can't fight for your constituents on these larger issues, while at the same time listening to your constituents for significant, local opportunities to make changes for the better.
Several of my bills this year have a very specific local bent to them. While they may not get attention from TV stations or the bulk of the ever-dwindling capital press corps, they are nonetheless extremely impactful and important to the smaller constituencies they affect.
House Bill 2585 is in response to fines issued to Pullman firefighters by the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) after the first responders rescued 22 citizens from rising flood waters last year. Because a complaint had been made, and evidence of a violation substantiated, L&I said they had no choice and that the law was clear. Even after several conversations with the director, significant outcry by the public, and an appeal to some level of common sense, the department's fines stayed in place.
My bill would give the director of L&I discrepancy to waive fees or modify penalties when action is taken to avoid imminent loss of life or serious injury. If your life is in danger, you want first responders doing whatever they can to execute a successful rescue, instead of worrying about being fined if they use this tool or that technique.
House Bill 2463 would allow – but not mandate – for an optional designation on a driver's license or identicard for those with developmental disabilities. This was specifically requested from constituents who have family members that they are concerned about. They want social workers, first responders and law enforcement to quickly ascertain their loved ones may need a little more attention, explanation or communication.
House Bill 2450 attempts to give a little more incentive when trying to retain qualified and experienced emergency medical personnel to rural or underserved areas. It would allow for an exemption of hunting and fishing license fees for emergency medical professionals with at least five years' experience.
House Bill 2755 seeks to bring transparency to the cost of air ambulance services. Living in rural areas can mean utilizing air ambulance services. While prepaid or monthly plans are available for these services, there seems to be some discrepancies in who is being charged and how much they are being charged. A critical service like this, where no other viable options exist to serve emergency situations, demands a high level of transparency.
House Bill 2447 has to do with the legal definitions of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in state law and rulemaking processes. There has been a continual flow of new and innovative types of alternative off-road vehicles of a variety of shapes and sizes that are slightly different than previous iterations. This bill increases flexibility so that new models can be registered under the existing statutes.
Perhaps none of the bills mentioned in this article appeal to you or will make any difference in your life whatsoever. But they will impact someone. Each of these bill ideas came directly from someone in the 9th Legislative District. While not earth shattering, each one is an important issue for folks that reside in our beautiful part of the world.
Despite what the mainstream media may have you believe, legislating in Olympia doesn't have to be all politics, all the time. If we can come together to support our neighbor's issue when they need something straightened out, perhaps they'll be there for us when we need something done.
(Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, represents the 9th Legislative District.)