Seaquist says Legislature made progress, but there’s work to do

Staff writerApril 2, 2014 

state Government State Rep. Larry Seaquist. D-Gig Harbor, provided a rundown Thursday morning of the 60-day legislative session during the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Public Affairs Forum.

He is the second of the three 26th Legislative District lawmakers who will speak during the event. Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, will speak on Thursday, and Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, spoke March 20.

Seaquist said he’s wary of getting stuck in a bipartisan quagmire like the one in Washington, D.C., and that he’s concerned the opposition can slow government to a crawl. He believes there is room at the table and is inspired by across-the-aisle cooperation.

During the session, Seaquist worked on a few things in the state House that didn’t make it through the Senate.

One issue that is still in the works, Seaquist said, is to find “head room” for junior taxing districts such as the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District. Senior taxing districts are able to take a larger chunk of property-tax funding, and junior districts fight for what’s left. Seaquist said a bill to expand the powers of junior districts died in committee.

A bill the City of Gig Harbor requested also failed to make it through this session. The bill would have allowed public docks to charge fees while they maintained immunity from a lawsuit in the event a visitor is injured .

A big portion of the Legislature’s focus is transportation. Despite the need, a transportation package stalled this session.

“I’m kind of concerned we’re stuck in political No Man’s Land, not moving on what needs to get done,” he said.

Seaquist advocates for a regional coalition, from Gig Harbor to cities in Kitsap County along the west side of the Sound, to talk about projects together.

Seaquist said he will continue to host education town hall meetings to hear from the community and to have a dialog about how to improve the system.

Seaquist talked about larger issues that will require more than a bill to remedy. One of them is mental health. Currently, hospital emergency rooms are full, and jails are acting as state-run psych wards in Pierce County, he said.

This year, $40 million was put into mental health care reform. It’s a start, Seaquist said.

“At least the Legislature is starting to take some important steps in that area,” he said.

The Public Affairs Forum begins at 7:30 a.m. each Thursday at Cottesmore of Life Care, 2090 14th Ave. NW.

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