Q&A 19th Legislative District Senate — Brian Hatfield


Raymond Democrat

State Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, says he’s devoted his adult life to public service and helping people navigate their way through bureaucracies.

As a legislative assistant for five years to the late senators Arlie DeJarnatt and Sid Snyder, Hatfield says he learned the ways to make a difference. In 1994, he was elected to the state House of Representative, a position he held for six years, before resigning to become the liaison for Legislative and Community Relations to Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.

In 2006, he returned to the Legislature, taking the state senate seat of his former mentors.

He’s since risen through the ranks to become chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee. He also sits on the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee.

In April, Hatfield helped shepherd $4 million in state funding to bring a sewer line from the city of Elma to the Satsop Business Park, which could help attract new employers.

Hatfield says his primary goal in the Legislature these days is to find innovative ways to bring jobs to rural areas. As a board member to the Community Economic and Revitalization Board, he’s in a position to divvy up low-interest loans and grants to improve infrastructure and attract new employers. This past year, he helped approve funds for a new warehouse building at the Port of Willapa Harbor. He also helped convince the board to forgive part of a loan given to the Grays Harbor PUD in the wake of the closure of Grays Harbor Paper.

This year, the Washington State Farm Bureau named Hatfield as one of its legislators of the year for his continued commitment to farm-related legislation.

Hatfield recently married Jacqueline, a small business owner in Lewis County; and together they have a blended family of four children.

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?”

It has been determined that “ample” means funding the education reform act, passed in 2009. Roughly $1 Billion of additional spending on basic education in the 2013-2015 budget, is the estimated “down payment.” I believe we’ll find the funding, but ALL reforms must be embraced before we can move forward. My support for K-12 employee health care reform, charter schools, and teacher evaluations has angered some, but it has also earned me the support of groups like Stand For Children and the Public School Employees of Washington. More focus on STEM and vocational education is important, as well.

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 Taxes are ALWAYS a last resort, as evidenced by the fact that Washington’s main source of revenue (the 6.5% sales tax) hasn’t been touched since 1983. They are also CLEARLY unpopular with the voters, so the “smart, political” answer would be “YES”. However, I feel it’s my duty to point out that 1185 is unconstitutional, as it provides for “Minority Rule” on all fiscal matters. Without temporarily suspending an earlier Eyman initiative, 960, we could not have fixed E-911 by providing the tax structure needed to keep up with changing technology. The legislation, supported by Sheriffs, Firefighters, etc. passed with simple majorities in both Houses of the Legislature, but failed to receive a 2/3rds vote in EITHER. I also worry about the precedent set by the 2/3ds requirement. If 2/3rds is “OK” for fiscal matters, what is there to stop interest groups from coming forward with 2/3rds Initiatives to “protect” their issues from the Legislature — be they environmental, educational, pro-life, pro-choice, pro-gun, anti-gun, you name it? I’m voting No.

• Initiative 502 that would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution and possession While I believe that marijuana legalization, nationwide, is a matter of “WHEN” and not “IF”, I still have too many questions about 502 concerning the conflicts with federal law, the establishment of a clear “driving while impaired” level, and the impacts to our medical marijuana laws, to support it at this time. I’m voting No.

• Initiative 1240 that would authorize up to 40 publicly funded charter schools; I support charter schools because I believe there is a need for this option in the urban areas. The prime sponsor of the House charter schools bill is a strong Democrat, who represents Seattle’s Central area. Why shouldn’t his constituents have the same level of local control and input surrounding their schools, that we currently have in the 19th District, and throughout rural Washington? I’m voting Yes.

• Referendum 74 that would allow same-sex couples to marry My struggle with the policy, political and personal aspects of this legislation was made very public during the 2012 Legislative Session. Like the tax issue, I believe the “popular political” vote in the 19th District is “NO”. However, as a long-time supporter of constitutional rights and freedoms, I will be voting Yes. I understand that many of my friends and neighbors have a different view on this issue. I fought to add amendments protecting churches and individuals from lawsuits to this bill, and I believe those protections will work. I also fought for a referendum amendment, to send this bill directly to the voters.

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?

The state can continue to help with infrastructure, and we in the Legislature need to continue working to improve our overall business climate. As chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee, and as a member of our state’s Community Economic Revitalization Board, I’ve been able to help with improvements at our ports, our counties and cities, etc., that have helped attract and retain jobs. As a co-founder of the Roadkill Caucus, we stepped up and played a key role in passing reforms to our state’s unemployment and worker’s compensation programs. As a House member, I was the prime sponsor of legislation enacted to exempt agriculture activities from DOE “shoreline regulation” updates. This past session, I was the prime sponsor of “Legacy Biomass” legislation. The first change, of any kind, to I-937’s renewable energy standards, recognizing the use of hog fuel and pulping liquors to create energy as “renewable.”

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?

I will continue working with our timber county commissioners and the DNR to find reasonable solutions to this issue, but the Federal Endangered Species Act is the bigger problem. The fact that Seattle Audobon, a strong supporter of I-937, can threaten suit under the ESA in order to stop a wind farm in Pacific County — and be successful, is a prime example of just how messed up things have gotten. Our Republican-controlled Congress seems to have no problem passing bills to make “political statements” on health care and taxes. I’d like to see them address some of our environmental issues.

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?

In the late ’80s a portion of the MVET was carved out and dedicated to criminal justice funding, to address a crisis at that time. Tim Eyman’s I-695 led to the elimination of this funding. The recession led to further budget cuts, at the state and county level. Prevention programs, such as mental health and drug treatment, provide a way to save money, long-term. In the short-term, we may need a new, dedicated revenue stream and provide the counties with more options — and less mandates.