Town Hall Wrap

Town Hall March 2013-1


Another town hall meeting. I should go back on the calendar and count how many we’ve done. These have been fun over the years and we keep fiddling with the formula. This time we had a full room so we took questions on index card. I read the cards exactly, and I think I read most of the questions. We get to more questions this way with fewer repeats, and some people like this. (We hear from them afterwards.) Some people would prefer to ask their question directly, and I think we’ll try to allocate more time for that as well. To do this we would have to be less long-winded.

Town Hall March 2013-3

We got questions on a variety of topics. I’d say the top were Education funding, and why are we even considering changing anything about how the system works, Healthcare, particularly the Medicaid expansion, overall budget/tax questions, including the 2/3 vote threshold issue on which Rodney and I disagree. Cyrus seems to be on my side of this. I gave the speech on super-majorities that I’ve done a number of times – referencing the founders of both the US and Washington State, the Federalist Papers, and other historical arguments about why the system outlined in the constitution actually works pretty well and we should stick with it. It’s available to read in the last newsletter I sent out.

You’ll hear more from me on education funding when we roll out our budget in a few weeks. (Secret knowledge: I think the that making “steady and measurable progress” on McCleary as the court has called for will require an additional $1.4 billion in new funds this year. If I can make this work in a budget I will do so.)

Town Hall March 2013-2

We are absolutely doing the Medicaid expansion as well. It saves hundreds of millions and covers hundreds of thousands of new people, most of them the working poor. My favorite example of why people don’t really understand how this impacts people was a moment at my drycleaners a few years ago. I was discussing the bill with one of the owners. She talked clearly about how hard it was to get medical care. They had coverage for the kids through Apple Health, but not for the parents. Another customer was there at the same time and I don’t think she realized until that moment that people can work hard, run a successful small business, and not be able to afford care. The Affordable Care Act will make care available to everyone at reasonable cost, and we’re working hard to bring it to Washington this year.

My most disappointing thing this year is our failure to get the votes to pass HB 1588, the bill requiring background checks for firearms sales. The bill is reasonably written, with exceptions for concealed pistol license holders, etc. I spent an entire day counting votes and came up 1 short to pass a bill that would not have had crippling amendments. This would have required a vote of the people before it was adopted. This policy is supported by over 80% of my constituents. I’ve been buried in mail on the issue – on both sides. I apologize for sending a form response. There are too many emails to address individually.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions we didn’t address. Thank you for coming and for keeping these civil experiences for 10 years.

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Author: Ross

I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.