The Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative forum drew a who’s who of political leaders to the city campus of Tacoma Community College, including Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Troy Kelley, a previous member of the state House of Representatives who was elected to be the new state auditor.
In opening remarks, TCC President Dr. Pamela Transue said she was excited to get business, education and government working together to accomplish great things for the community.
“I want to thank you for coming,” she said.
U.S. REP. DEREK KILMER
Fresh from gathering his bearings as a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former state Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, was in a good mood following his whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C.
“It feels a lot like college orientation,” he said. “There’s lots of reading and meeting new people. I’ve got a roommate.”
That’s fellow Washingtonian, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Vancouver, of the newly formed 10th Congressional District.
“We figure, if nothing else, we’ll write a sitcom,” Kilmer quipped.
Even though he has a new job and works in the other Washington, Kilmer remains a hometown guy.
“Home is here,” he said. “Home is here in Gig Harbor.”
Kilmer, who has been confirmed to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee, touched on a number of issues the 113th Congress will have to tackle.
The low-esteem in which Congress is held: “I don’t think Congress has been doing its job the last couple of years,” he said.
Despite that, Kilmer remains cautiously optimistic, citing a new spirit of cooperation between new House members who want Congress to “right this ship.”
Kilmer said he was relieved the deal struck by Congress earlier this month preserved the current tax rates for the middle class, but he said lawmakers missed an opportunity to deal with long-term fiscal challenges.
“Simply kicking the can down the road ... is a real problem,” he said.
The shaky deal to avert the fiscal cliff — at least for now — is causing uncertainty for employers and employees alike, Kilmer said.
“Tax policy matters,” he said. “Regulatory policy matters. Trade policy matters. Access to capital matters.”
Kilmer concluded by saying he ran for Congress to help shape a better future for his own two daughters.
STATE AUDITOR TROY KELLEY
“The state auditor is the watchdog of government,” Kelley said during his short address, adding he urged people to contact his office with ideas on how to run state government more efficiently.
STATE REP. JAN ANGEL
“You’re what this is all about,” Angel, R-Port Orchard, said in reference to the state’s business owners and workers. “You’re going to get us out of the hole we’re in.”
Angel touted her appointment as ranking Republican to the new Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee in the state House of Representatives.
The committee considers issues that relate to community development, veterans, parks and recreation, tourism and government relationships between the state and Indian tribes. It also considers bills that relate to accessibility and affordability of housing.
Angel said the committee fits well with her experience as a realtor. She is a past chair and board member of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, past president of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce and served eight years of service as a Kitsap County commissioner.
The 26th District lawmaker also was named to the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, which considers legislation related to health care, health insurance, pharmaceutical drugs and licensing of health care facilities.
Angel will continue her role on the House Transportation Committee.
“We’ve got a lot to do, and I’m very excited about that,” she said.
STATE REP. LARRY SEAQUIST
Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, began by reminding the audience of the differences between Washington state and Washington, D.C.
He contrasted the open-ended, three-day-a-week session of Congress with the state Legislature’s 105-day session, which includes weekends. A seven-day-a-week schedule, Seaquist said, forces the Legislature to prioritize and get things done.
Another big difference between the two Washington’s: red ink. While Congress can borrow money and the federal government can print more money, if necessary, Seaquist said lawmakers in Washington state must authorize expenditures that match forecast revenues.
Seaquist, who also represents the 26th District, said he likes to think the state Legislature is better able to work together than members of Congress.
“I ran on a decidedly bipartisan campaign,” Seaquist said, emphasizing his main priorities for this year’s legislative session.
Seaquist, who was instrumental in crafting and helping to pass a bill last year to delay for six years sales tax payments of $5.8 million on the new Narrows Bridge for each year, said he’s looking into a way to cap rising bridge tolls in return for local jurisdictions taking over state maintenance of the bridge after 2030, when construction costs are scheduled to be complete.
Seaquist, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, said there were no more cuts to higher education funding last year, and he wants to make sure tuition costs don’t rise now.
“So, we’ve got to get that back in balance,” he said.
Regarding the often-contentious relationship between the large-scale aquaculture industry and nearby property owners, Seaquist said he’s looking to propose a bill that will satisfy all parties involved. The bill would seek to balance the interests between clean waters, the aquaculture industry and those who live near those operations.
“We need a healthy Sound, a healthy industry and healthy neighbors,” he said. “The three ‘healthies.’ ”
Seaquist encouraged people to get involved in public policy, and he invited people to go to Olympia and testify on a bill that affects or otherwise interests them.
“That would really be useful,” he said.
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.