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Local legislators receive key assignments

Committee assignments have been announced for the trio of 31st District legislators and each will be taking on new roles for the 2009 session.

The 61st Legislative session begins Jan. 12 in Olympia and is scheduled for 105 days with adjournment planned for April 26. The Legislature will be wrestling with the biennial budget and a possible shortfall between $5 billion and $7 billion, according to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The 31st District’s two state House members, Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, and Chris Hurst, D-Greenwater, were assigned to high-profile committees.

Roach was named the ranking minority member of the Transportation Committee. He will continue to serve on the Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee but, because of the demands of Transportation, he will drop the Education and Finance Committee.

Hurst will serve as chairman of the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee. This is the first time he has been assigned as chairman of a standing committee.

The representative is serving his second consecutive term. He was first elected to the House in 1999 and served through 2002. He returned to the legislative action in Olympia in 2006.

Hurst said the Public Safety Committee will be busy in during the session.

“The committee has jurisdiction over the sentencing grid, which is always a balancing act,” Hurst said. “This is a high volume committee and we deal with bills that always catch the public’s attention.”

Hurst, who spent 25 years as a police officer in Black Diamond, said citizens now have “a different view what they want to do with nonviolent offenders. Citizens now want smarter solutions for nonviolent offenders, while we need to lock up the worst of the worst.”

Roach said the Transportation Committee will be dealing with projects being dropped due to the budget deficit.

“We will be fighting for people who thought they paid for projects,” Roach said. “The governor is not delivering on projects. Some people in Olympia do not value a promise and inaction has put us in a bind because of the economic situation.”

Roach said he does not expect the Democrats or Republicans to “come up with any new funding packages. We will be trying to keep projects we have and prod the governor to do something.”

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, will also be serving on a new committee during the 2009 session. She will move from the Ways and Means Committee to the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

The senator said the move to Education is a good opportunity to work on bills and issues she has been focusing on during her career.

“I’ve been working in that area for a long time,” Roach said. “Salable skills are important in education. We need a skilled workforce and it is important to have something to fall back on.”

Along with education, the senator is the ranking minority member on the Government Operations and Elections Committee and serves on the Judiciary Committee.

Reach Dennis Box at dbox@courierherald.com or 360-802-8209.

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