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Sen. Roach sponsors town hall meeting at Enumclaw library

Sen. Pam Roach of the 31st District made a town hall stop at Enumclaw's public library May 6, using the forum to answer questions, discuss ongoing projects and address new issues. She also talked about her ejection from the Senate Republican caucus, downplaying its potential to affect her work given the length of time before the next session. It was also an ad hoc debriefing of the most recent legislative session and what Roach saw as failings.

"As a disclaimer, I'm a Republican," she said. "I did not vote for the budget, and I did not vote to repeal the two-thirds requirement to pass a tax increase in the Legislature. But, not being in the majority party, that didn't make much of a difference. Republicans did not vote for the budget because we were not invited to the table.

"This was one of the worst sessions we have ever had and I'm sad to say we couldn't make the hard decisions to fix the budget. This budget is not sustainable."

Roach cited the ailing economy and the pressure it has put on major employers to lay off their workers, contributing to an unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent. The senator criticized new taxes placed on businesses, mentioning a manufacturing tax that has pressured a gold bouillon processor's profit margins.

"The last man I was talking to was the owner of a trucking firm that sold trucks to drivers," she said. "He told me business was down 40 percent in the last year alone. In all his years in business, he had never laid off any of his employees, but this year he had to lay off 30 with tears in his eyes.

"He used a metaphor for his business that stuck with me: Like a tree, the first goal is to keep it alive. Sometimes to do that you have to trim the leaves. That speech is being repeated across the state by other business owners like him."

In contrast, the senator brought up Rainier School in Buckley as a victory for a battle that would likely be fought again in the next legislative session. She repeated a pitch for a pet project to offer a camping ground for handicapped persons to spend time outdoors recreationally.

She also expounded on the importance of a temporary respite care program at Rainier School, something the facility does not currently offer.

"Many individuals opt to care for a disabled child in their own home," she said. "Then something happens: that child becomes an adult, and then the parents get older, and it gets harder to care for their son or daughter. They may consider giving them to the state, but at that point the state has all say in raising the child and the parents have no say. So there's hesitancy there."

Roach went over other ongoing personal missions, such as closing loopholes in criminal sentencing. She also discussed reforming the Child Protective Services branch of the state's Department of Social and Health Services. She placed herself at odds with the social services organization when she became involved in Enumclaw grandparents Doug and AnneMarie Stuth's efforts to gain custody of their granddaughter.

Roach painted a picture of a Child Protective Service that desired blonde, blue-eyed girls not affected by drugs due to their popularity with adopting parents and thus their ability to gain federal matching dollars for speedy adoptions.

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