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Sterk Makes Quick Jump Into Fray With Votes On A Raft Of Legislation

Spokane’s newest lawmaker made his way to Olympia this week, becoming the freshest of the 30 Republican freshmen in the state House.

Rep. Mark Sterk, R-Spokane Valley, arrived Monday - the start of the final week of the scheduled 1995 legislative session.

Like many lawmakers, Sterk is finding the life of a state representative isn’t all glamorous. At the end of the day, he goes to sleep in a trailer. The Spokane police sergeant is also taking a pay cut by coming to the capital, where all state representatives make $25,900 a year.

Sterk spent most of his time this week sitting in the House chamber, pressing the “yes” or “no” buttons at his desk as hundreds of bills came up for largely rubber stamp votes.

“The representatives that have been here all year long have done all of the blood, sweat and tears work,” Sterk said. “I’m just voting on their final products.”

As a newcomer, Sterk has been a “quick study,” according to Doug Simpson, a Republican caucus staffer who helped this year’s crop of new GOP lawmakers.

“He’s probably one of the brighter ones,” Simpson said.

That didn’t stop fellow Republican lawmakers from jokingly voting him “Turkey of the Week” for not showing up until a week after he was appointed, Sterk said.

The 43-year-old Veradale resident was appointed to fill a vacancy created when Mike Padden accepted a job as District Court judge last month.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” Sterk said.

To fill them completely, Sterk will first have to face an election in November.

His philosophy, at least, may give him an edge among voters who liked what Padden stood for during his 14 years as a conservative icon in the state capital.

Sterk said his experience as a police officer will help him tell lawmakers how the measures they pass will really work at a local level.

For example, Sterk said last year’s DWI law allowed police departments to seize the cars of second time drunk drivers, but provided no money for them to take on that responsibility. As a result, some cities have not been able to put the law to use.

Sterk said he believes in being tough on crime and placing more emphasis on victims’ rights.

“Any time a cop gets to put someone in jail, I think it’s a good thing,” Sterk said. He also said he would fight for money to build more facilities to deal with violent youths.

Sterk also agrees with Padden on social issues, opposing abortion and state-funded adoptions by gay couples. He supports GOP efforts to cut back funding for welfare mothers who have children while receiving benefits.

He said churches and private charities should step in and fill the role now being played by government. “If things happen on the national and the state level the way we expect them to, there will be a lot of people who will need help,” Sterk said.

And he says the Republican push for tax cuts could help that effort.

“Maybe because we don’t have to pay as much in taxes we’ll have few extra bucks to contribute to those things.”

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