Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has truly been a rewarding experience to serve as your 47th District state representative. As a first-term lawmaker, I believe my fresh perspective allows me to look at issues in a different way than some of the long-term legislators. Your valuable feedback made my job easier as we debated critical issues before the House of Representatives. Now that I am back in our communities full-time, I would like to share a little about what I have been doing as your citizen legislator and invite you to join me this Saturday for a casual conversation over coffee or tea.
Come share your thoughts with me this Saturday, July 30
I'll be at Cutter's Point Coffee in Covington this Saturday morning at 9 a.m. to answer your questions and chat about the Legislature, including what we as citizens and legislators can do to make our state a better place to live and work. This is not a formal town hall, so feel free to stay as your time allows.
Coffee with Rep. Mark Hargrove
Cutter's Point Coffee
Saturday, July 30
9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
16739 S.E. 272nd (next to Fred Meyer), Covington
If you are unable to make it Saturday morning, you can always call or email me. My contact information can be located here.
Visits with superintendents
After the budget was passed (which I voted against) lawmakers headed back to our respective hometowns. Education reductions in the state budget greatly concerned me, so I met with our local Kent and Auburn school superintendents. While difficult, they assured me their districts are making good progress in ensuring the reductions will not adversely affect students or teachers.
That was good news. However, I know many school districts around Washington are not quite as fortunate. My concern continues to be that while some districts can use reserves or other measures to buffer the affect of the budget reductions, others may have to resort to teacher layoffs or other drastic measures that impact student learning.
I recently contacted the Kent Education Association to set up a meeting to discuss education issues. I am always open to additional feedback, so please feel free to contact my office with your thoughts and concerns, or to arrange a meeting with me.
Other meetings, thoughts on the legislative process
I have been busy traveling around the 47th District meeting with Rotary clubs, Lions clubs, chambers of commerce and other groups to listen to the opinions of constituents. My number one job is to listen to you – and that is what I will continue to do.
I have heard a lot of frustration about the lack of bipartisanship in the Legislature and I agree with that sentiment. As a freshman lawmaker, I have been shedding some light on the legislative process that seems to be adding to the divisiveness.
When the 20 members of the freshmen class of Representatives (half Republican and half Democrat) went through our orientation, we were determined to be transparent and bipartisan. But when we arrived in Olympia, we found the structure got in our way. In committees and in the House as a whole, all the real decisions about how to vote on bills are made behind closed doors in each party's caucus. The speeches the public hears are all after the legislators have made up their minds about how to vote.
The majority party chooses each committee chair, and those chairs have the power to decide which bills get a hearing and which ones get a vote. The Speaker of the House has that power in the House as a whole. As a result, only bills that the majority party supports, and know will pass, get a vote. Therefore, with one odd exception, 100 percent of the bills that were voted on in the House of Representatives passed.
I just can't believe our Founding Fathers believed that if one political party had the majority by only one vote, they would get to decide if 100 percent of the bills would pass or not. And, I can't believe that our founders would expect representatives would make their voting decisions only among their own party and only get to hear the other party's views seconds before they vote.
This e-mail would be much too long if I went into how this system contributed to the logjam that kept us from getting a budget and a workers' compensation reform bill until the very last day of the legislative session. But I'm happy to chat with anyone about how the legislative system in the Washington State House of Representatives can be improved. I recognize that the majority party would be reluctant to change the rules when the current system favors the majority party, whether it is Democrat or Republican. But I'm on a mission to change it. I recently attended a conference with representatives from a dozen other states, and after talking with them, I know that it doesn't have to be this way. We can do better for the citizens of Washington.
What I would like to see is an open debate on the merits of ideas in a forum where the public can listen and participate. Closed-door politics has lead to mistrust in government, even though most of us are trying to represent our constituents to the best of our ability. We need to change this system.
Lest I end these thoughts on a sour note, I should add that I have met a lot of great people in the Legislature across the political spectrum – people of character and integrity. While I may not agree with many of them on particular issues, they give me hope that we can improve the way our government functions and restore transparency to our government, so we can earn back the public's trust.
It's good to be home…
Finally, it has been great to be home with my family and to meet with you and others around the 47th District. As you know, our Legislature is made up of ordinary citizens, like me, who hold full-time jobs, have a family and take care of the same chores everyone else does – mowing the lawn, fixing items around the house and caring for loved ones.
In my full-time job, I am an instructor pilot with Boeing. In the last couple of weeks, I have flown the first Boeing 787 airp
lane ever built, flown the 777 and 747-400 simulators, flown both the cargo and passenger versions of the 747-8 airplane, and today flew a 777 airplane. It's good to get my head out of the Legislature and remember that I am not just your legislator, but I have a fulfilling private-sector job and family life as well. While it is hard to juggle all that life and work demands of me, I have truly found serving as your legislator to be a rewarding job.
Thank you, again, for allowing me to serve you. Please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.