Democratic State Rep. Brian Blake knows firsthand what it’s like to be an out-of-work logger.
The Aberdeen native hurt himself in the woods and had to learn new skills, attending Grays Harbor College and then earning a Bachelor’s of Science from The Evergreen State College, getting a job as an Environmental Specialist for the state Department of Corrections.
He’s been in the state House since 2002, where he’s risen through the ranks and is now chairman of the state Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. He’s earned praise from both sides of the aisle, trying to find an even keel between environmental interests and areas such as farming and forest practices.
He was recently named Legislator of the Year by the state Farm Bureau and gun advocates have honored Blake’s works for trying to protect their rights. This past legislation session, Blake sponsored legislation to ensure that workers get to keep their guns in their privately-owned cars parked at work. He also sponsored legislation that would allow gun owners to own a short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle in accordance with federal law.
This year, Blake helped secure $425,000 to add more lights to the Chehalis River Bridge. It’s a need that’s been batted about for years, but has been stuck in a legal quagmire between the state and city of Aberdeen, arguing over who should pay for the extra lights.
“Let’s end the argument and put lights on the bridge and make things safer,” Blake said.
Blake has also been an ardent opponent of the federal Wild Olympics legislation, saying that the federal delegation should spend their time trying to increase harvest levels in the National Forest, not focused on increasing wilderness designations in the forest.
With education funding critical in the next legislative session under court mandates, how do you propose the state deal with schools in the long run and what measures can be taken to comply with the court rulings that the state must “amply provide for the education of all Washington children as the first and highest priority before any other state programs or operations?”
The state House of Representatives has laid out education reform by adopting ESHB 2261 in 2009. We have created a new definition of what basic education is, and have proposed funding formula changes in the education reform bill. The state Supreme Court decision in McCleary vs. State recognizes that the full funding of basic education is, and should be, the top priority of the State. I support implementation of ESHB 2261 which would increase instructional hours, add full day kindergarten programs, and create new formulas for supporting pupil transportation. I will continue to fight for education in the 19th Legislative District so that our schools receive equitable funding.
How will you vote on the following measures on the general election ballot:
• Initiative 1185, which reinforces existing requirements that legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majority or voter approval I am concerned that Initiative 1185 may be unconstitutional. I have personal concerns that a super majority requirement may lead to a tyranny of the minority over the majority. This situation could lead our state to become dysfunctional similar to what the California Assembly has become.
• Initiative 502 that would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution and possession I have not fully read the reports on Initiative 502 at this time. I have heard that this initiative may free up resources, but I am concerned about the message this could send to our youth.
• Initiative 1240 that would authorize up to 40 publicly funded charter schools I oppose charter schools and I believe we can create more flexibility within our public school systems. I believe that offering charter school options for only some families creates greater inequality among our students. Charter schools are free from regulation and therefore cannot be held accountable for ensuring quality.
• Referendum 74 that would allow same-sex couples to marry I am for approving Referendum 74. I have always been a legislator who has supported individual freedom. I am perfectly comfortable supporting this referendum with the religious protections and safeguards contained in the language.
Unemployment continues to be higher in Southwest Washington than in other parts of Western Washington. Does the state have a role in addressing the problem and what can or should be done legislatively to help spur job growth in your districts?
I believe the State Legislature plays a role in the creation of local jobs by providing infrastructure assistance through the state transportation system, and through local investments. Infrastructure funding for a sewer expansion, recently passed in the budget, will help create jobs for the Satsop Business Park, and will also attract private investment. Supporting our education system, as an economic driver of local communities, in turn drives job creation. I believe that we can do better at ensuring our permitting systems are fairly implemented so that business has confidence in the integrity of our regulatory system. I am a member of the Costal Caucus, which has led the way to streamlining regulatory structure in Washington and improved the business climate to attract investments.
Concerns from environmental groups over the marbled murrelet has led to the State Board of Natural Resources to put on pause timber sales in Pacific and Wahkiakum counties on “potential habitat” that the bird has not yet occupied, putting a blow to county budgets that had anticipated those sales. Several utilities also pulled the plug on the Radar Ridge project over concerns the site was too close to marbled murrelet nesting habitat. What thoughts do you have to engage the state Department of Natural Resources as a legislator to tackle the marbled murrelet issue and do you think the murrelet issue could be as big a deal to the coast as the spotted owl was the rest of the Olympic Peninsula?
We must preserve the access to trust lands and their economic viability. I will fight tooth and nail to preserve economic access to these lands and I intend to hold the state Board of Natural Resources accountable through the legislative process. We should all communicate to our congressional delegation the devastation that occurs from the abuse of the Endangered Species Act. Misuse of the Act causes economic dislocation in communities that have already faced hardship and damage. I think this issue could be worse and will have a greater impact than what we have seen with the spotted owl. The 50-year management agreement of the Habitat Conservation Plan was a hollow promise if this court action is successful.
Grays Harbor County currently is involved in a lawsuit brought by its Superior Court Judges over what they believe is inadequate funding for judicial operations. Does the state have an obligation to better fund its courts and criminal justice system and what suggestions do you have for possibly solving this dilemma?
Cooperation between cities, counties, and the State is imperative for funding a fair and efficient judicial system. While I would certainly like to provide additional support for our court system, we are all bound by the limited revenues available. These entities must reach out and find common ground rather than wasting dollars within the court system. We should find ways to cooperate and look to see where the resources available are best spent.