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Telephone town hall meeting allows constituents to grill 15th District legislators

In an hour-long telephone town hall conference call Thursday evening, 15th District Representatives David Taylor and Bruce Chandler took a variety of questions from constituents.

Both started the call with statements about the most recent legislative session and how it went.

"Most people don't really quite understand how it all shook out in the end, and what the state budget really did," said Chandler. He said that he's spent a lot of time since returning home from Olympia explaining the results of the session to people.

"There were a lot of things that loomed on the horizon early in the session that in the end didn't happen," he noted.

Taylor was asked about the final hours of the overnight special session.

"It was mostly a blur," he said. "I think we did eight or 10 bills in the last 12 hours. It was the first time since I've been here as a representative that we actually went all night. Some of our senior members joke that you're not a representative until you've slept at the capital, so I guess now I'm a real representative."

Several callers expressed concerns about the state parks system and the failure of the Discover Pass to pay for the upkeep of the parks. One caller worried the whole system will die or be merged with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Another was outraged at having to pay a fee to just stop at a park and use the restrooms.

"I agree, one of the frustrations with the Discover Pass from the very beginning, going back a year ago, is that it became a monster," said Chandler. "The more the bill got negotiated the more they added to it. Last year when it was initiated on the 4th of July weekend it caught a lot of people off guard."

Chandler went on to express dismay how the bill added fees without supporting the system.

"We shouldn't be trying to operate parks like an airline," he said. "Nickel and dime people to death with a fee for this and a fee for that."

Another hot topic was the redistricting, with callers who are moving to the 14th District expressing dismay at the change. Chandler did his best to reassure one caller, noting that the lawmakers from the 14th District work closely with those from the 15th District.

Several callers asked for updates on some of the issues they had heard mentioned on the news. One asked about same sex marriage. Taylor explained that the law had passed, but efforts to put it on hold and put it up to a vote are being made.

Another caller asked about the status of rural hospitals. Chandler answered her comprehensively.

"That bill did not pass, and in the end there was funding for critical access hospitals," he said. "That was one of the biggest fights we had all through the session, particularly for Goldendale and the Sunnyside hospital, they were targeted to be not funded at all. I feel that was one of the most positive things."

In a poll taken of callers, 25 percent cited the economy as the most important issue for the state government to address.

"When your neighbor loses their job it's a recession, you lose yours it's a depression," said Chandler. "Everyone lives in a neighborhood that has seen people struggle."

The legislators finished the call by emphasizing that they want to hear from constituents and urged anyone with questions to call their offices.

"If we can't find an answer for you, we'll find somebody who can," said Taylor.

"We are in an exciting and dramatic time," said Chandler. "I appreciate people's input. Stay in touch."

You can reach Rep. Chandler at 360-786-7960 and Rep. Taylor at 360-786-7874 or through the website at http://houserepublicans.wa.gov.

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