Rep. Carlyle on the final days of session

As the Legislative session is winding down, 36th District Representative Reuven Carlyle sends these notes from Olympia.

The fast-paced, 60-day state legislative session is slated to end on March 11 and our final days in Olympia are filled with late nights and intense budget negotiations. As we strive to wrap up the people’s business, I wanted to take a moment to provide a high level overview of some of my projects as your representative in the Legislature.

A new independent report says Washington is expected to lead the nation in job growth this year. It’s a great start to economic recovery, but we have a long journey ahead. The heart and soul of our job growth, as always, is small business.

We face a projected $2.7 billion budget deficit following a $9 billion deficit last year. This is from a total of about $34 billion. The Great Recession has caused a dramatic drop off in tax revenues while demand for public services in education, health care, foster care, prisons and much more have increased substantially. It’s a perfect storm requiring courageous honesty about the deeper, more substantive public policy challenges we face.

A vast majority of our work in these final days has focused on balancing the budget in a thoughtful, equitable and economically efficient manner.

Here are some of my personal priorities this year.

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Rep. Carlyle backs new cell phone while driving law

Earlier this week the Washington State House Transportation Committee passed through SB 6345, a new bill that would further prohibit cellphone use while driving, making having a phone in your hand a primary offense subject to traffic stops and a $124 fine, with the sole exception of emergency use only.

In July 2008 legislators made the use of handheld devices while driving a secondary offense, meaning police could only dock you for it if they see another violation before initiating a traffic stop. If passed, this law would make Washington the fifth state to elevate holding a cellphone while driving to a primary offense, alongside the District of Columbia.

36th District Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D), who is behind companion bill HB 2635 that would make texting while driving specifically a primary offense, has thrown his support behind SB 6345.

“I am excited that the House Transportation Committee has passed this bill. Parents and other volunteer citizen activists worked incredibly hard along with Sen. Eide and me for many, many months, and I look forward to doing all that I can to get this bill through the House,” Carlyle said in a written statement.

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The budget, marijuana & cell phones top ‘telephone town hall’

State representatives Mary Lou Dickerson and Reuven Carlyle (both D-36th District) held a “telephone town hall” Tuesday evening Jan. 19 to discuss the important issues facing Olympia this legislative session. About 30,000 constituents district-wide were called to enter into the conversation, although the exact number who made it on the line is not known. Questions ranged from Dickerson’s controversial legalization of marijuana bill to broader issues including education, taxes and transportation.

The town hall worked as a sort of large conference call. Everyone on the call could hear the questions and answers, and if so inclined, could enter into a queue to ask questions themselves.

While the focus of most questions was the economy, Dickerson’s bill (HB 2401) to legalize marijuana for those who are 21 and older may prove to be the most contentious issue facing the Legislature. On Wednesday, Jan. 20th, an executive session was scheduled, but no action was taken in the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness. The importance of this bill to Dickerson was expressed clearly in her opening remarks.

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