Harbor legislators named to House committees

OLYMPIA – Grays Harbor County will be well-represented on House committees in the coming year, with state Reps. Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger appointed to committees tackling legislation on natural resources, health care reform implementation and the state’s tax structure.

Tharinger, D-Dungeness, will continue to serve on the Environment Committee, and this year will also be on the Health Care & Wellness committee, which is taking up implementation of health care reform. Additionally, Tharinger has been named vice chairman of the Finance Committee, which considers issues relating to state and local revenues, tax exemptions and changes in the administration of taxes.

“During my first term, I pushed to end outdated tax exemptions that don’t benefit our citizens but deprive the state of revenue necessary to fund things like rural hospitals and strong schools,” Tharinger said. “We were able to pass bipartisan legislation closing a tax loophole for large, out-of-state banks, saving the state millions of dollars. That’s the kind of reform we’re going to be closely examining as we consider how to meet our constitutional obligation to fund education without completely shredding the safety net that protects our most vulnerable citizens.”

Van De Wege, D-Sequim, has been reappointed to the Agriculture & Natural Resources, Health Care & Wellness and Rules committees. He will also be serving on the Government Operations & Elections Committee. The Rules Committee decides which legislation — and in what order — will be considered on the House floor. Only bills voted on by the full House have a chance of making it all the way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

This is also the first year that Van De Wege and Tharinger will both serve on the Health Care & Wellness Committee.

“I think it’s good for districts like ours to have a strong presence on the committee taking up issues like access to health care,” Van De Wege said. “Many of Grays Harbor’s health rankings have been lower than other areas of the state, and we need to consider how access and affordability of services play a role in that.”