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State Rep. Upthegrove keeps eye on local issues; sponsors bill to decrease wait times at DOL
State Rep. Dave Upthegrove acknowledges there’s a lot of energy in Olympia focused on fixing the huge gap in state spending.
But even so, the Des Moines-based legislator said there are a number of local projects he’s putting the focus on this session.
“There’s lots of focus on the budget,” said the state rep., now in his fourth term. But, “I kind of spend time on items that are big tickets to our community.”
One of those “big-ticket” items that’s directly correlated to Kent is the Pediatric Interim Care Center. The Kent-based facility, which cares for drug-addicted newborns, is highly dependent on state funding and is included as a line item in the state’s general fund.
For that reason, Upthegrove said, it stands out when there’s talk of major funding cuts.
In fact, he said, state funding for the PICC was supposed to be completely eliminated in this year’s supplemental budget, which legislators are now working to balance.
Upthegrove, whose mother served on the board of the PICC, and who called the center “near and dear to my heart,” worked to get it reinstated on the current spending plan. It may be back in the budget for the duration of the current fiscal year, but there’s still the more onerous biennial budget that must be hammered out, and once again, Upthegrove may find himself pushing his colleagues toward keeping it funded.
“It actually saves the state money,” Upthegrove said, noting the facility provides one-of-a-kind services to some of the most fragile residents of the state, and who are often in the care of the state.
PICC was the first and remains the only around-the-clock nursery focused on assisting drug-addicted newborns through withdrawal.
“It doesn’t just serve our community,” Upthegrove said. “It serves a lot of people.”
Another local entity that Upthegrove said he is committed to keeping operational is Flaming Geyser State Park. The 480-acre state park situated along the Green River near Auburn was on the state Parks Department’s proposed list of parks to be closed, due to lack of funds.
Upthegrove, who this session chairs the House Environment Committee, said he was not about to let that happen.
If he is going to support funding of the state parks system, Upthegrove said he needs to be assured that Flaming Geyser State Park remains open. That may involve cutting back hours of operation, or possibly partnering with neighboring cities to ensure its operation, but Upthegrove said he’s committed to the park.
The state representative also sponsored a bill this week that would allow private driving schools to offer exams for drivers’ licenses. The private-sector businesses would provide the service as contractors to the state.
“I think it has a lot of bipartisan support,” Upthegrove said, noting his cosponsors include state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, who is chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, and Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, the ranking Republican on the Transportation Committee.
Upthegrove said he introduced the bill after hearing of “incredible wait times” for people stuck at drivers’ licensing offices.
“I finally got fed up with it,” Upthegrove said, noting people he knew were telling him of backups, and lines that sometimes formed outside the DOL offices before they opened.
The bill also would change drivers’-license renewals to every six years (a change from the current law which stipulates every five years), and would provide a discounted application fee for people renewing their drivers’ license by mail or online.
When asked about the level of cooperation this year, given how much will need to happen with the budget and other issues, Upthegrove said overall it was good, and that he’s always had good relationships with his colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
But he noted as a member of the majority party, there will be decisions made that will reverberate for years to come.
“Those of us who cast the tough votes are going to own those decisions,” he said.
But, noting a second job he’s taken - officiating high-school basketball games as a referee - you live with the calls you make.
“You do the best job you can and you go home,” Upthegrove said.
Your voice in Olympia
State Rep. Dave Upthegrove
P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600
Olympia phone: (360) 786-7868
Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993