Back to Olympia for the 31st trio

By Dennis Box and Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

The 60th state Legislative session began Monday with one new Democratic face from the 31st Legislative District and two Republican incumbents.

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, survived the state and national Democratic landslide in November and began her fifth term and 17th year in office. She is second in seniority behind Republican Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley.

Once again Roach will be working from the minority position. Democrats have control of both legislative houses and the governor's mansion.

In the Senate, the Democrats hold a dominating 32-17 edge, upping the ante from last year when the Ds were in control 26-23.

In Roach's 17 years, the Senate has been in Republican hands seven times, most recently in 2003 and 2004.

Roach said she expects the Democrats to be “careful. They are looking toward the 2008 gubernatorial race. I don't anticipate a far-left agenda. I don't think there will be any increase in taxes with a $2 billion surplus.”

The senator expects the majority party will be interested in certain groups of people that needed assistance.

“I plan to work hard to make Rainier School a destination point for individuals with disabilities,” Roach said.

Roach will continue as the ranking minority member of the Government Operation and Elections committee. The senator said this session she will also serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Some of the legislative items on Roach's list include reintroducing her bill to teach a second language to elementary school children.

“Every student would have an opportunity to learn another language,” Roach said. “(The bill) would mandate it, but with exceptions.”

Another issue Roach intends to address is funding a victim's notification bill.

The bill would alert victims, if requested, if a perpetrator escapes, is moved from one prison to a different location or is released.

On the business front the senator plans to introduce legislation to exempt 󈫺,000 new business from the B and O (business and occupation) tax. There has been an increase in new business failures. It would cost about $50 million, but that's a small amount to help new business, which are the backbone of Washington's economy,” she said.

Roach said she is looking forward to the session and expects to run for a sixth term.

“As long as I'm productive,” Roach said. “I enjoy helping people and I enjoy campaigning.”

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As he heads to Olympia for his seventh session as a 31st District lawmaker, Bonney Lake's Dan Roach has several pet projects he's hoping to get passed.

Looking at the big picture, he'll be reintroducing a bill that would ease the burden of the state's business and occupation tax on new ventures, will work again to pass a bill limiting protests during funerals of military veterans and hopes to lead the effort to cut back on the growing problem of identity theft.

Regarding the B and O tax, Roach speaks from experience, as he and wife Melanie operate a growing business, Roach Gymnastics in Sumner. His goal is to help entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of their business development by phasing in the tax, which is collected based on gross revenues rather than net profits.

Washington is near the top in the nation when it comes to small businesses failing, Roach said, and he figures phasing in the B and O can help reverse that gloomy statistic.

Under Roach's plan, the tax would take five years to be collected fully, giving business owners a chance to get on their feet before being hit with the full force of the tax.

Roach thought his funeral bill was headed for passage last session, but it was derailed shortly before the Legislature adjourned. He's been promised it'll be among the first bills addressed this time around.

Roach sponsored the bill after learning of vocal protests around the country - including some in Washington - outside churches where funerals were being conducted for military veterans. His bill takes personal freedom into account, but mandates protesters must keep their distance from the site of the service.

As the ranking member of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Committee, Roach said he is working on several bills to protect consumers as part of a coalition that includes Attorney General Rob McKenna and members of the King County Prosecuting Attorney's office.

Looking close to home, Roach said he'll attempt to get money in the budget for improvements to state Route 410 at 234th Avenue. “It's still on the radar,” he said, noting money for the dangerous intersection was once in the budget but has been pulled off.

Remaining on the subject of local money, Roach will be looking for financial help for both Enumclaw and Buckley as the Plateau communities work to upgrade their sewage treatment plants.

The biggest financial challenge, Roach said, will be taking a responsible approach to the healthy surplus that greets legislators. There will be haggling across the aisle, he said, but acknowledged the Democrat's healthy majority gives them the ability to push their agenda.

“The Democrats have such a big majority,” he said, “they're definitely in the driver's seat.”

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Chris Hurst admits he's packing an ambitious agenda for his return appearance at the state capital.

And, while admitting not every piece of his proposed legislation will see the light of day, Hurst is adamant that he'll work to fulfill every promise made on the campaign trail.

The retired police commander, a Democrat from Greenwater, was elected in November to a two-year term in the state House of Representatives, knocking off incumbent Jan Shabro, R-Lake Tapps.

For Hurst, the capitol campus is familiar turf. He was first elected to represent the 31st Legislative District in 1998 and was re-elected in 2000. When he decided against seeking an third term, Shabro easily won the House seat and was again supported by voters two years later.

After November's general election, Hurst began making the rounds in the district, meeting with every mayor, a full slate of city staffers, individual citizens and constituent groups.

The result, he said, is “a very focused agenda of things we're trying to do for the district.”

The 31st takes in the Plateau communities of Enumclaw, Buckley, Black Diamond, Wilkeson and Bonney Lake, along with Auburn and Sumner.

“I have a long list of things, from projects to policy issues,” Hurst said of his agenda for the legislative session that kicked off Monday. “I'm more organized that I have ever been.”

Looking at Enumclaw, Hurst will be pushing to get state money - ideally $1.5 million - to help offset some of the costs associated with the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

The total cost ballooned, he said, due to delays caused by state mandates related to wetlands.

“It's not their fault the cost went up because of those delays,” Hurst said, referring to Enumclaw ratepayers who will otherwise pick up the check.

And, like Roach, Hurst plans on pursuing money to get the dangerous 410/234th intersection corrected.

On the subject of roads, Bonney Lake could use some money to help with a busy 410 intersection, Hurst said.

He candidly admits he'll push for one piece of legislation that will likely fail - because it's opposed by many fellow lawmakers. Members of the Legislature are now allowed to accept small gifts or have their meals paid for, as long as the value doesn't exceed $50. Hurst said he has always refused all gift offers and will suggest that tactic be made into law.

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