WENATCHEE — About five weeks before the end of the 2023 legislative session, the representatives for District 12 said work on the budget continues.
During a legislative town hall Thursday night, Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, and Rep. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, provided an update on the work that needs to be done. During the town hall, the lawmakers provided a series of updates while answering a series of audience questions and pre-submitted questions.
Part of the challenge for both representatives is representing the recently redistricted 12th. As an attendee pointed out, the district stretches from the outskirts of the Seattle area across the Cascades to Chelan and Wenatchee.
“What we have spent a lot of time doing, we are on the road and we are meeting folks in the new part of the district,” Goehner said. “We need to make sure that we are listening to folks, that is how we are effective legislators.”
The legislature will need to pass a biennial budget this session Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal calls for about $70 billion in spending. Goehner said the Senate is set to release a budget proposal Monday, while the house will release its version on March 27.
“We’ve been working diligently, over many hours throughout the session, to complete a budget that I think will be very, very beneficial to the people of the twelve,” Steele said. “We’ve tried to really prioritize things that are meaningful in terms of quality of life and true needs in the 12th District.”
Steele and Gohener both said that it is important to fully fund special education.
“I’ve supported every bill that has come out of K-12 education with respect to special education funding and trying to get money in that area of the K-12 session,” said Steele, who sits on the house education committee.
The lawmakers said the legislature should roll back recent changes to the state police pursuit bill. Steele said he had heard anecdotal evidence about drivers who were not pursued and later committed additional crimes.
“This matters to all of us in the legislature,” Goehner said. “We want to make sure that we get this right.
According to Steele, Senate Bill 5352, which amends the law, has cleared the Senate and could now be considered by the House of Representatives. In Steele’s eyes, the bill would not fully restore Washington’s pursuit law, though it could be a “step in the right direction to give law enforcement officers some of the tools that they really need to ensure public safety.”
Goehner said law enforcement officers use discretion when opting to pursue, and will naturally pull back when it’s not safe to continue to chase a suspect.
“Law enforcement only uses this tool in the most dire of circumstances,” Goehner said. “We have to give them the flexibility to make that judgment at the moment.”
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