A contingency of more than 100 Tri-Citians ventured to Olympia in February for the annual Tri-Cities Legislative Day. About 40 people from the Tri-Cities Legislative Council joined another 60 other Tri-Citians Feb 19-20 to lobby and discuss important regional issues with state legislators and governor’s staff.
It was the largest group of Tri-Citians to ever attend the event. “We’re reminding them that Washington doesn’t just run along the I-5 corridor,” said Steve Simmons, Legislative Council chairman and owner of the Country Gentleman. “We got a number of comments from legislators and we’ve heard this before, that we’re generally the most articulate and best organized group that comes, and this year we were also the largest group (from a municipality).”
The Legislative Council, made up of representatives from the local chambers and economic development organizations, presented unanimous positions on six issues it deemed regional priorities: Climate change and renewable energy, economic development and infrastructure financing, Hanford cleanup, the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, a regional public facilities district and regional transportation.
Simmons said one of the more encouraging things the group heard from the legislature was a willingness to be more informed about nuclear power.
“There’s been a real hard anti-nuclear line on the other side of the mountains and it sounds like it’s beginning to soften. Maybe the conversations can get started,” he said.
Past lobbying efforts by the group helped secure WSU Tri-Cities as a four-year university, obtain funding for a new lab near Hanford and create a master facilities plan in the Tri-Cities.
The crowd from the Tri-Cities does not go unnoticed, said state senator Jerome Delvin, R-Richland.
“It was great to have a hundred-plus people from the Tri-Cities who were able to showcase themselves and the businesses and technologies of the region,” Delvin said.
Delvin said that other legislators noticed the strong Tri-Cities presence. “I think they’re impressed that we have a community that cares and wants to make that known to policy makers here in Olympia,” Delvin said.
A reminder of home in gray-skied Olympia doesn’t hurt either. “It’s always good to have visitors from the Tri-Cities,” he said. “It’s quite a journey to get here and I don’t see them very often.”
Legislators sat down with the Tri-Cities representatives in three conference rooms during the two-day trip, said Mattson, Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce president.
The legislators were given copies of the group’s position papers before the visit and updated Tri-Citians on legislative progress for those issues.
“It was very, very informative to have the legislators come and update us on those issues, as well as other issues affecting our state,” Mattson said.
The Tri-Cities Legislative Council has been organizing the yearly lobbying trip since 2003, Mattson said.
The Legislative Council has representatives from the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tri-City Industrial Development Council, Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, West Richland Chamber of Commerce, Pasco Chamber of Commerce and the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.