2013 State Legislative Session Kicks Off
The 2013 state legislative session opened in Olympia Monday, and WTA is already working on advocating for issues that are important to hikers, including funding to keep Washington State Parks open, safe and maintained.
The lay of the land in Olympia
This promises to be one of the most interesting legislative sessions I've seen in my 12 years as WTA's Advocacy Director. After the November elections, Democrats in the Senate held a 26-23 vote majority. But in a twist, two Democrats joined the 23-member Republican caucus, giving the newly-formed 25 member coalition the power to select a Senate Majority Leader and appoint Committee Chairs and members.
One of the Democrats who joined the coalition—Senator Rodney Tom, of Bellevue—was chosen as Senate Majority Leader, and most Committees are now chaired by Republicans.
Join us at lobby day to stand up for trails
WTA prides itself on working across party lines, so we're as excited as always to rejoin the fray in Olympia and advocate for some issues that are important to hikers. Here is a quick sample of the issues we'll focus on this year:
- State Parks' Budget Woes: State Parks has seen its share of the state's General Fund decline from $98 million in the 2007 biennium to $17 million in the 2011-2013 budget. This year, that number may fall to zero. Outgoing Governor Christine Gregoire allocated $19 million to State Parks in her proposed budget. State Parks has asked for $27 million. Given the importance of State Parks to our economy and quality of life, we think this is an important investment. WTA supports State Parks' funding request.
- Joint State/Forest Service Pass: We've heard loud and clear that our members and other hikers would like to see a joint pass that provides access to both state and federal lands. To that end, we'll work with legislators to get funding in the Operating Budget that will assess the best way to structure a joint pass.
Other key issues
This year, we'll be advocating for a range of local and federal issues that impact Washington hikers. From forest planning to funding public lands and trail maintenance, we'll keep hiker's interests front and center for decision-makers.