Sen. Rivers lays out 2018 gameplan | News

Following the layout of 2018 gameplans from several local lawmakers based in South Clark County, the sole resident lawmaker of the north part of the county has also addressed what’s in store for the coming short Legislation session that begins Jan. 8.

Sen. Ann Rivers,

R-La Center

(Legislative District 18)

Age: 51

Political experience: State representative, 18th Legislative District, 2010-2012. State senator, 18th Legislative District, 2012-present. 

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science (minoring in natural science and history) and a secondary-education teaching certificate.

Work experience: Former teacher, legislative staff member in Alaska. Governmental and public-affairs consulting, and when the Legislature’s not in session works at Tri-Mountain Golf Course in North Clark County. 

Community involvement: North Clark County Community Food Bank, volunteers for events such as the American Cancer Society’s West Clark County Relay for Life. She has served or is serving on the board of directors for several organizations, including Innovate Washington. 

Family: Husband Fred and sons Derick and Rex.

Last session’s work: My bill to discourage distracted driving became law, and I ended the year being out front on improving the Senate’s policies on workplace behavior, which includes sexual harassment, because we have opportunities to make a good policy better. In one way or another much of this work will continue in 2018 — but in an “adjustment” sort of way, because that’s what the 60-day sessions are supposed to be about.

Are you planning on sponsoring any specific bills?

This past year we saw strong bipartisan support for a Senate Republican bill aimed at clearing up the backlog of maintenance at our state parks, but it was completely ignored by the House. One of the bills I’m planning for 2018 takes a different approach to getting additional money to our parks — and I think it’ll have a good chance to reach the Governor’s desk. I also have ideas for addressing some specific concerns my constituents have brought to my attention — one having to do with drainage district audits and another dealing with county road vacation.

I am being realistic about what is possible in a so-called “short” session, so it is a short list compared to 2017.

Do you believe the state should have stricter gun laws? How will you improve gun safety?

It’s been barely two years since a majority of voters created our state’s background-check law (Initiative 594). I’d like to know how that’s working. Also, I wouldn’t want government to force people to take firearm-safety training, but the more people who get the training, the better. I helped pass the 2016 law that is intended to help gun shops identify suicidal customers and bring the topic of suicide into firearm-safety training — that’s the kind of thoughtful conversation we should continue to have in Olympia, but mass shootings make it harder. I’ll be turning the discussion to punishing law breaking gun users rather than law abiding gun owners.

With many of the school construction bonds failing to gain the super majority across the state, do you believe the Legislature should change bond proposals to a simple majority?

It takes a supermajority vote in the Legislature to authorize the sale of bonds, which is the same idea as a school district bond issue. I realize many bonds fail, but not most — if you look at the numbers from 2000 to now, it’s much more often than not that a majority of bond issues pass in a given year. If a school district understands its taxpayers and crafts a bond issue that is appropriately sized and can assure voters that the construction project will be managed properly, 60 percent approval should be as attainable as 50 percent.

Do you believe the Hirst Decision needs to be “fixed” or do you believe it to be a good law in coordination with the Growth Management Act?

The Growth Management Act was approved by the Legislature. The Hirst decision isn’t a law, it’s a court decision, and I can’t imagine that something like that coming out of the Legislature, because the adverse effects hit rural areas disproportionately. There are many places in our state where city or community systems simply aren’t an option for getting drinking water. It’s amazing that the Senate adopted a Hirst bill four times in 2017, but the House didn’t act on a single piece of Hirst legislation — not even at the committee level. I am skeptical that the change in political balance in Olympia will produce a good solution soon enough for the rural families and economies that are being hurt by Hirst. We need a Hirst that works.

Given the developments regarding transportation over the Columbia River, what do you feel needs to be done to ensure a solution will benefit Washington, and can the Legislature do anything to meet that end?

Many of us in the Clark County delegation are working together on the transportation issues that concern both Oregon and Washington. This past year the Legislature approved our bill to create a bi-state work group to meet regional transportation needs. I realize the need for progress has only increased with the traffic associated with the new casino in North Clark County, but we’re talking about major investments, and they need to be approached in a thoughtful way.

What is an issue that “nobody is talking about” that needs to be addressed by the Legislature?

There are so many discussions happening regarding so many issues that it would be inaccurate to say there’s an uncovered topic. Sometimes it takes a little while for the most important topics to become ripe for a broader discussion and actions. Unfunded pensions liability, pharmaceutical costs, and definitive action on opioid abuse epidemic are issues that I’ll be pushing hard on. Millions and millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on important research — if fruitful, that research is sold to the private sector at a premium. This needs to be reformed to recoup precious dollars.