New state senator reaches out to Issaquah constituents
February 2, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
A new lawmaker represents southwest Issaquah and Talus residents in Olympia: Democrat Randy Gordon, whom the King County Council chose to succeed former state Sen. Fred Jarrett.
Gordon, a Bellevue attorney and Seattle University law professor, will serve until November, when 41st District voters will choose a senator to fill the seat until 2012, when the term ends. Besides Issaquah, the district includes Bellevue, Mercer Island and Newcastle. Jarrett left the post after County Executive Dow Constantine appointed him to the No. 2 spot in King County government. Gordon intends to seek the seat in the November election.The new senator left King County for Olympia on the same day County Council members appointed him, Jan. 11 — the first day of the legislative session.
Describe your duties as a state senator.
Generally, senators are involved in three major duties: Developing state policy; drafting and, when appropriate, eliminating laws; and helping constituents with problems they may be having with state government. Since my main reason for being in Olympia is to represent the people of the 41st Legislative District, I spend most of my time speaking to constituents and people interested in my district’s issues. I’m attending a lot of meetings to learn more about the issues important to my constituents. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but I am deeply honored to represent the people in my district.
I am working very closely with my colleagues in the House and Senate on legislation covering a wide range of policy areas to make our schools, economy and society function better. So far, this means pretty long hours with my day, starting at 5:30 a.m. when I drive down to Olympia from Bellevue, and ending with a drive back between 9 and 10 p.m.
What are your priorities as a lawmaker?
My top priorities are tackling the state’s $2.6 billion shortfall, improving education, creating new jobs, and protecting consumers and taxpayers from predatory corporate practices. I came here to hit the ground running, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I am trying to close tax loopholes and make sure that we spend our funds efficiently.
I am proud to serve on the Early Learning & K-12 Education and Judiciary committees. I also sit on the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee, working to make state government operations more effective, efficient and accountable. These are important policy areas that affect everyone in this state.
I have sponsored a number of bills to advance these goals, and my Web site lists all the bills I have sponsored and co-sponsored.
What are the biggest challenges the Legislature must overcome and how do you propose to solve these problems?
As I mentioned, the state is in a financial crisis. Tough decisions must be made about which programs and services should stay or go. The Senate has already passed a bill to furlough two-thirds of state employees. I have only gone along with this reluctantly, with the understanding that state employees will not be asked to bear the full brunt of the budget shortfall alone, but that sacrifices will be spread broadly across our people so no one group is disfavored. More cuts will be made by the time this session ends in March.
Our state has a “paramount” duty under our Constitution to fully fund basic education and contractual obligations, such as agreements reached in good faith with employees under collective bargaining agreements. I appreciate and agree that taxes must never be the first option before having first exhausted other choices. That is why I am supporting closing tax exemptions that stand in the way of everyone paying their fair share along with us.
What in your background most prepared you to serve as a lawmaker?
Fortunately, my experience as a trial lawyer, law professor and active member of our community has prepared me for this job. These are issues I’ve tracked for years. I know what questions to ask during committee hearings to get to the truth. Just as I have to learn about issues from clients as a lawyer, I have to learn about issues from constituents as a legislator. It helps having curiosity about how things work.
Describe a typical day at the office.
My office is located on the fourth floor of the Legislative Building. The Senate chamber is just one floor down. I arrive between 6 and 7:15 a.m. and meet with my assistant, Mollie Timm, and session aide to discuss my schedule. Each of my days is divided into 15-minute intervals, so there is not too much downtime. I attend hearings between two and four hours a day, and spend varying degrees of time on the Senate floor when bills need to be debated and passed. Between committee meetings, I meet with constituent groups, my colleagues in both chambers and Senate staff.
It is wonderful working in the Capitol building itself, but it is awfully hard to get around. I still get lost occasionally if I take a different elevator. One morning I had breakfast in the dining room — the next morning I couldn’t find the place where I had eaten the day before! Fortunately, I have a parking spot right in front of the building, but I was surprised to learn that I had to pay for it!
On the Web
Learn more about new state Sen. Randy Gordon at his legislative Web site.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.