Rep. Peterson recounts rewarding, grueling freshman year as state lawmaker

Freshman State Rep. Strom Peterson, a Democrat from Edmonds who represents the 21st District (which includes much of Edmonds plus Lynnwood and Mukilteo), discussed his first year as a state Legislator during Thursday’s Edmonds Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Beck’s Tribute Center. (The entire video of Peterson’s presentation is embedded above.)

Peterson recounted the successes and frustrations he experienced during the record-breaking 176-day legislative session (it was supposed to be 100 days long). He also described a “sense of camaraderie” despite grueling days and weeks as the divided Legislature with a Democratic majority in the House and a Republican majority in the Senate tried to reach agreement on a state budget.

“Obviously education was the big sticking point and we had to find money for that,” Peterson said, alluding to the State Supreme Court ruling that the Legislature has failed to meet the constitutional mandate that the state fully fund basic education.

“One of our big victories this year was our funding for mental health,” Peterson said, calling it a bipartisan effort. “We spent nearly $100 million to improve access to mental health in our state, as well as $100 million in construction money to really expand access so people can have access to beds if they are in a crisis situation.”

State Rep. Strom Peterson
State Rep. Strom Peterson

Other issues Peterson said he worked on during the session included:

    • Co-sponsorship of a successful oil train transportation bill, 1449, which he called “a good public safety bill.” Peterson said it requires BNSF and the oil companies to provide 24 hour notice as to what type of fuels are being transported so that first responders know exactly what they are dealing with if there is an incident “so they know exactly how to respond.” The measure will be funded through a 4 cent a barrel tax on oil coming by train, he said.
    • A $500,000 allocation of state money for an alternatives analysis of at-grade rail crossings along the Edmonds waterfront, aimed at improving emergency access.
    • Money to revitalize the Edmonds fishing pier, to help pay for acquisition of Edmonds’ Civic Field (currently owned by the Edmonds School District) and to pay for a new roof and HVAC repairs to the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Next year, Peterson plans to reintroduce a measure that he worked on during the past session: A paint recycling bill that will allow consumers to take half empty gallons of paint to their local paint store that can take it to paint recycling center where the paint can be reused and resold. In addition, he’s working on a bill to help bees by requiring the Department of Transportation will have to replace any invasive species it removes with native species “that are high pollen producers. It’s a great opportunity to keep especially our wild honey bees flourishing,” he said.

Peterson, who owns the Cheesemonger’s Table in downtown Edmonds, noted he has a selfish reason for pursuing the issue. “I sell some local honey in my shop,” he said. “I like my beekeepers.”

He also invited citizens to contact him with issues they are concerned about and to make an appointment for a tour if they plan to be in Olympia. You can find contact information on his website.

“People ask me in general, did I like [my legislative experience,” Peterson said. “I loved it. It’s fantastic. I’m surrounded by some great people and made some great friends — on both sides of the aisle.”

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