Opinion

Cathy Dahlquist | This first term was a whirlwind | Plateau People

The past two years as your 31st District state representative have gone by incredibly fast. The Legislature had six special sessions and two regular sessions in my short time serving. While I could lament the fact that one-party control in the Legislature has led to complete gridlock on major issues, such as the budget and government reforms, I am pleased to have had a voice in education and public safety policies.

Many of you know that I served as the president of the Enumclaw School Board before running for state office. Education is my passion. I have children in the public school system and know that while our school district is successful, there are areas in our state where school districts are leaving children behind. Every child deserves the opportunity to have a first-class education.

That is why in 2011 and 2012 I introduced and cosponsored legislation, House Bill 1415 and HB 2533, which would fund education first in the budgeting process. Not only would K-12 basic education get the first dollar, it would be a separate budget so social services would not be pitted against education spending.

In January, the state Supreme Court ruled on the education funding case, McCleary v. State of Washington. The court gave a stern warning to the Legislature by telling budget writers that education should be treated as the “paramount duty” our state constitution mandates. The Fund Education First proposal I supported would have addressed the court’s concern that other state programs were being prioritized above schools.

I also supported a bipartisan teacher and principal evaluation measure, Senate Bill 5895. This new system is a great step to ensure every classroom has an excellent teacher. This legislation will guide good teachers to become better. And, it will help to ensure every child has the benefit of an engaged and knowledgeable teacher in their classroom, just like what my children have in our schools.

I also worked on public safety legislation. House Bill 1206 was my first bill passed and signed into law. Prosecutors asked me to introduce this legislation to better protect criminal justice workers from on-the-job harassment.

During public testimony, Kennewick Det. Mary Buchan shared her story of being threatened with bodily harm on the job and the lack of recourse law enforcement officials have to address real and credible threats.

As signed into law, it added criminal justice workers, including police officers, prosecutors and other correctional staff, to the list of staff protected from harassment while performing their jobs. Judges and juries already have this protection. Those threatening law enforcement officials in the course of work-related duties need to know we take their words seriously and there are penalties.

It’s the right thing to do for those who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. That’s why I was so honored to have received the “Legislator of the Year” award from the Fraternal Order of Police for this legislation. Protecting our protectors is something all of us can be proud to support.

Finally, I am grateful for all of your support and feedback. I represent your voice in the Legislature, so your calls, emails and visits truly helped me serve you to the best of my ability. I look forward to visiting with constituents this interim. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist is serving her first term as a state representative in the 31st Legislative District. She is the assistant ranking Republican on the House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee. She also serves on the House Education, Rules and Technology, Energy and Communications committees.

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