Years ago, we're told, state lawmakers and legislative staff would annually trek from Olympia and Puget Sound into the wilds of Eastern Washington for a days-long round of hearings and meetings.
It's time to return to that, says Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup. Last year, he promised a delegation from the dry side of the Cascades that he'd visit Eastern Washington. So he did. He went to Yakima, the Tri-Cities and Spokane on several trips. He concluded that lawmakers need to be more accessible and to communicate more with Eastern Washingtonians.
Hence SCR 8416, which would move the September 2006 legislative assembly to a yet-to-be-determined "location east of the Cascade Mountains."
"Many of them cannot travel this distance (to Olympia)," Kastama told lawmakers at a hearing this week. "I think it would be a very concrete reminder that in fact we're one state...I think it would be helpful if we got out behind the bubble of Olympia."
Other lawmakers' impressions of the region:
"Very good roads going nowhere," said Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, noting Eastern Washington's economic difficulties. "They've got extremely good roads over there, going to places that are all boarded up."
Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, said she worries about the cost of shipping staff, records and lawmakers to Eastern Washington for several days.
Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, urged lawmakers to at least pass the bill out of committee, which they did. After all, he said, the full Senate and then the House of Representatives would also have to agree before anyone starts reserving hotel rooms.
"It could be 10 to 20 years down the road before they make a decision," McCaslin said.