Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am always working to expand our email list to ensure constituents across the district have the opportunity to stay updated on legislative and state issues. I want to keep the citizens of the 13th Legislative District updated before, during and after the legislative session. If you have received this email without directly subscribing, you can visit my website by clicking here and sign up to receive my email updates. Please feel free to forward this legislative update to anyone you think may be interested in receiving these emails as well.
The legislative session is just around the corner. The gavel will fall to convene the 2018 Legislature on Monday, Jan. 8. This email update gives you a preview of some of the legislative issues I have been working on, some of the things I have been up to the last month or so, and a reminder of election-year activity restrictions.
Wildfire management and improving mobilization services
Wildfires are not new to us in Washington, but in recent years, the devastating fires have triggered important conversations about management and mobilization services. It has also lead to some good, bipartisan legislation. However, there remains many things we can do. I continue to take a proactive approach in how to combat our wildfires and will be working on legislation related to wildfire management and mobilization of services.
A new piece of legislation I am drafting would allow for the formation of Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs). It is an opportunity for local landowners to protect their own, and their neighbors' property, where no fire protection services are available. The RFPAs are voluntary, are governed by members of the community and are set up as nonprofits. Idaho and Oregon are utilizing these associations with success.
(Rep. Dent gets a firsthand look at the Jolly Mountain fire.)
Two other bills I will be working on this year, I introduced last session. They had bipartisan support, but anytime there may be an impact on the budget, no matter how minimal, the difficulty of passing the bill increases substantially.
House Bill 1019 would expand the definition of “mobilization” so we can have state resources and services in position before a wildfire starts, rather than be reactionary and scrambling to line up resources as the fire grows. Every second counts when you are trying to save property, natural resources and most importantly – lives.
House Bill 1839 would provide a sales and use tax exemption to eligible fire districts for the purchase of fire and emergency medical equipment necessary to prevent and suppress wildfires. This is a good cost-saving measure for rural counties and fire districts who do not have big budgets.
Strengthening our aviation infrastructure
My aviation background and experience brings a unique a perspective to the Legislature. It has given me an opportunity to work on aviation-related legislation with a strong understanding of the industry. We were able to increase the allowable grant amount for general aviation projects and pass the airplane license plate bill. Both will benefit our aviation facilities.
For the 2018 session, I am working on legislation to use some of the existing aviation-fuel tax dollars that currently go to the general fund. There has been a funding gap in addressing our aviation infrastructure needs and this legislation would provide an opportunity to upgrade our aviation infrastructure.
Last session, I sponsored legislation to establish a community aviation revitalization loan program. This would also provide a mechanism for capital and preservation projects at some of Washington's smaller public-use airports. It passed the House last year, 95-2. We will be working with the Senate to see if we can get an agreed-upon bill to the governor's desk in 2018.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with Bill Moody, a representative with the Global SuperTanker Response Team. Their firefighting plane is a B747-400 SuperTanker. It has a capacity of more than 19,000 gallons. It could be an amazing resource to have if we can show it would work for us in Washington state. I am still doing research; how agile is the plane? Is it cost-effective if you are dumping that much water or retardant at a time? Are we losing much before it hits the ground? I am working on answers to those questions and others.
2017 National Child Health Advocate of the Year Award
I recently received the 2017 Advocate of the Year Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The award was one of only two distributed by the AAP across the country. I am truly humbled by this award. Children's mental health issues are not partisan or political. It is about solutions. Having a child who battled mental health issues and having had foster kids who have also struggled with mental health, has helped me gain an understanding of the issues and realize we must do a better job of addressing the mental health needs of our youth.
Rep. Tom Dent with Pediatrics' Legislative Committee Co-chair, Lelach Rave, MD, FAAP. Dr. Rave nominated Rep. Dent for the award.
State Ag and Rural Leaders Conference
In early January, before the legislative session begins, I have the opportunity to attend the State Ag and Rural Leaders Conference in Missouri. We will be visiting agricultural, food and fuel sites in the Kansas City area. There will be discussions on state issues, as well as federal issues that impact states.
I am also attending the Council of State Governments (CSG) Western Legislative Academy (WLA). The academy provides training experience for Western state legislators in their first four years of service. Its objective is to help legislators become more effective and to build stronger state legislative institutions. A faculty of outstanding academics, corporate, military and public trainers work with a small class of lawmakers who come from each of our 13 Western states.
Both are great opportunities. I look forward to sharing with you the experiences from these conferences.
The upcoming year is an election year for me, and all House members. That means there are certain restrictions we must follow regarding our constituent communications before and after session. This email update will be the last one I send before the session begins on Jan. 8. However, you can still contact me with any questions, concerns or comments you may have regarding legislation or state issues. Please do not hesitate to do so if you need assistance.
It is an honor to serve you.