My oath of office and Senate committee assignments

I took the oath of office for a fourth four-year Senate term today as the Legislature convened for its 2011 regular session at the Capitol. The session is scheduled for 105 days. I will continue as Republican leader on the Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee.

Even though state government’s budget situation is bound to overshadow everything else this session, there are still important public-policy discussions to be had regarding the environment, particularly in relation to climate change; management of and access to water; and a reliable supply of clean, affordable energy. As a leader of the committee, I will work to make sure we have that dialogue.

I will also have a front-row seat for the Legislature’s handling of the state budget situation, as a continuing member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. There’s a big gap to close and no new revenue in sight. If the federal government comes up with anything for the states, it won’t be much, and the passage of Initiative 1053 protects Washington taxpayers from being tapped for more. The only choice is to bring the level of government spending down to match the revenue available, and that won’t be simple.

Also, it’s important that we make spending decisions sooner rather than later, because the longer it takes to agree on reductions, the deeper they will have to be. Those of us who are committed to protecting services for the most vulnerable in our state will be pushing for quick action.

I have also taken on a new committee assignment for 2011-12: the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee. I will miss serving on the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and working to protect employers and employees. But given our district’s agricultural leanings and preponderance of rural communities, I saw this as a positive move for the constituents I represent.