Opinion

It"s time to focus on state"s biggest challenges - Island Forum

By Rep. Judy Clibborn

Woodrow Wilson once said, ``A nation is led by a man [or woman] who ... speaks, not the rumors of the street, but a new principle for a new age.''

The political unrest reached quite a low point in recent weeks with the controversy surrounding the election of our next governor. Allegations and accusations flew wildly, allowing partisans on both sides great ``flexibility,'' let's say, with the truth.

Unfortunately, there are casualties when the ``rumors of the street'' drown out the truth and replace it with partisan bickering. The first casualty is the fine work of our elections officials, including Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, who has received undeserved criticism. All of our county auditors, as well as the army of volunteers across the state, are to be commended for their hard work ensuring the election was as fair, impartial and accurate as possible given current law. I trust the elections process, including the legal battles and recounts, served our citizens well and represents their will. That said, we will surely work hard to improve upon the election process and save us from a repeat of '04. I'm hopeful that a package of bills intent on creating a more uniform voting system throughout the state will receive more support than it has in recent years. The Legislature should make election reform a top priority this session.

Another casualty of this drawn-out battle is the loss of the Legislature's most valuable commodity this time of year: Time. It seems nearly half of a lawmaker's meetings take place in the hallways, most likely on their way to another meeting. To truly solve the important issues facing our state -- improving our education system, increasing access to affordable health care, and creating better-paying jobs -- they must receive as much time and attention as possible.

Just as importantly, the beginning of the legislative session always brings with it a renewed sense of bipartisanship with which to build on. It is one of the things I most look forward to when I return to Olympia. It was regrettably short-lived this year, but hopefully not lost, for there is still much work to be done.

I have always believed that when our alliances fall along partisan lines, we as a community, and we as a state, lose in the long run. If, however, our alliances are public and private, government and business, then we win. It is my intention to put the divisive rhetoric of this election cycle behind us as quickly as possible in order to accomplish what we as legislators were elected to do.

I believe the House of Representatives is perfectly able to move past these trying times and do just what our title says: represent the best interests of our citizens. No doubt there will be more rough waters ahead -- a budget shortfall in the neighborhood of $1.6 billion means a fight over every last penny of budgetary allocations. Nevertheless, in recent years we have shown what bipartisan leadership can achieve. Despite even larger budget deficits last biennium, we were able to work together to pass a capital budget that invests heavily in our state's infrastructure and creates thousands of new jobs and new avenues of doing business. House members from both sides of the aisle were instrumental in passing a transportation package to get our cars and our economy back on track. We've also led the fight on more affordable health care, and hope to continue bringing down the cost for both patients and businesses.

Most importantly, the House of Representatives remains committed to ensuring a better future for our children by providing a world-class education to every student in our state. I am very happy the Democratic leadership in the House has created a new bipartisan committee focused exclusively on solving long-term funding problems for K-12 and higher education. No other investment we make has the potential for return and reward like our education system. With such a large and complex statewide system, it is high time we found some solutions to the challenges facing our students and teachers.

The House of Representatives didn't wait for the final result of the governor's race to begin its work. Indeed, I am pleased to be the prime sponsor of the first bill assigned a legislative number this year -- House Bill 1000 -- allowing local governments to use fax or e-mail for notification of special meetings, saving them both time and money. It's a modest piece of legislation, but one that hopefully makes life just a little easier for our citizens. That's what we are all here to do, and I am happy to have the support of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle.

I have no doubt we can salvage this legislative session and focus on real solutions for our citizens. If we are to truly lead, then we must put these political divisions aside and keep speaking of a ``new principle for a new age.''

State Representative Judy Clibborn represents the 41st Legislative District and is a resident of Mercer Island. She is a member of the House committees on Health Care; Economic Development, Agriculture & Trade; Rules; and is Vice-Chair of the Local Government Committee.

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