Holding state government accountable

2016 legislative session • February 12, 2016 

The Current

Letter from Leadership 

Dear Friend:  

Day 33 is in the books. Tuesday represented the midpoint of the 60-day legislative session and fiscal committee cutoff. The remainder of the week included a lot of House floor action. For a list of House bills that are dead or alive, broken down by committee, click here.

State representatives will continue to pass bills off the House floor through Wednesday of next week, which marks house of origin cutoff. The House will then turn its attention to committee work and Senate bills.

Across the rotunda, throughout Olympia

The major news since our last e-newsletter didn't come from the House but, rather, from across the rotunda and throughout Olympia. 

Last Friday, the Senate voted not to confirm Gov. Inslee's choice for secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). This move ended Lynn Peterson's controversial tenure as leader of this large state agency.

This prompted an angry response from the governor, including an e-mail to all WSDOT employees, a news conference and a cancellation of meetings with the Senate Majority Leader. I sent a letter to the governor on behalf of our caucus yesterday expressing our concern for his actions. I concluded by asking the governor to come back to the table and work with Republicans.  


The bottom line is this: WSDOT leadership is responsible for several high-profile failures that have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of our constituents have contacted us with their concerns about these outcomes and were happy to hear someone was finally held accountable.

As our state implements new reforms and a transportation package, this is the right time to make a change. We look forward to working with Acting Secretary Roger Millar. Mr. Millar and the next secretary of WSDOT must listen to Washingtonians, manage projects, deliver on the promises made by the Legislature, and be a good steward of tax dollars.  


On Saturday, Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Dan Pacholke resigned in the wake of his agency's early-release scandal. It was disappointing to hear Mr. Pacholke describe Sen. Mike Padden as "blood thirsty" simply because the Senate is acting not only within its authority, but with a sense of purpose to get to the bottom of this serious problem. 

Mr. Pacholke is a 33-year employee of DOC. You would think he, more than anyone else, would want to find out exactly what happened and invite the scrutiny of any investigation.     

Holding state government accountable  

We have other problems in state government that must be addressed. Below you will find stories on failures in the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Western State Hospital and Health Care Authority (HCA). 

One of our caucus priorities is to protect taxpayers and hold state government accountable. This priority is backed by the expectation that state agencies use the money appropriated to them and execute the policies enacted by the Legislature.

We don't expect state agencies to be perfect, but we expect them to learn from their mistakes and be held accountable. In most cases, we have really talented public employees who are experiencing failures in leadership. We appreciate what they do day in and day out. Our state can and must do better when it comes to finding leaders.

A common question from the media of late is: Do you think our state will have trouble attracting top talent now? The answer is: No. True leaders expect to be held accountable. True leaders are drawn to challenges, they don’t run away from them. If someone is worried about being held accountable, we don’t want that person running a state agency.

In your service,

Rep. Dan Kristiansen
House Republican Leader
39th District

Rep. Mary Dye

Preventing, responding to wildfires 

Last year was the worst wildfire season on record for our state. More than one million acres burned, with thousands of firefighters and hundreds of Washington National Guard members responding.

We are taking the lead on solutions to prevent and respond to wildfires in the future. 

Rep. Mary Dye (pictured) is sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would create the Local Wildland Fire Severity Account in the state Department of Natural Resources. The money in this account could be accessed by local suppression entities to respond to wildfires.

Another bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Joel Kretz, would establish prescribed burning pilot projects and make technical changes to the permitting process for prescribed burning to ease the system for burn technicians.

We have also sponsored wildfire-related bills that would: direct the State Fire Marshal to develop a statewide prefire mitigation plan; use GPS technology to protect the safety of wildland firefighters; and allow livestock owners to access public property in order to reclaim stray livestock in fire suppression scenarios.

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has also proposed some great ideas to address wildfires. In the next four weeks, state lawmakers will sort bills out and put the best solutions forward. Please stay tuned.


Protecting taxpayers and holding state government accountable

We are all familiar with the high-profile, costly errors at WSDOT and the early-release scandal at DOC. Leaders in these state agencies have been held accountable. But there are other problems in state government that are having real consequences for Washingtonians -- including our most vulnerable.

KING 5 reported on Tuesday our DSHS-run state institutions for individuals with developmental disabilities have been cited by the federal government for multiple violations. There also continues to be problems at Western State Hospital that threaten both patient and staff safety. This article outlines some of the legislative proposals that would reform this state institution.

The HCA also recently revealed more than 91,000 people enrolled in our state’s Apple Health Medicaid program had their personal information handled improperly -- including dates of birth, Social Security numbers and personal health information. This is very unsettling for patients. IT security continues to be an emerging problem that all levels of government must confront.

As we look to find new leaders and ways to improve state government, let's not forget our state auditor -- who conducts audits and investigations of state agencies -- is awaiting trial for charges of filing false tax returns, false declarations, obstruction, and possession of stolen property.

Washingtonians deserve a state government that is effective, accountable and has strong leaders.   


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