Hatfield on flooding, alliances and Olympia politics

If Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, had his way, there would be more Lewis County in the 19th District.

“For me it was natural,” Hatfield, 46, said about the redistricting that added part of Lewis County to the 19th legislative district. “Pacific County and Lewis County — particularly that western part — we’ve got a lot in common.”

The longtime legislator is personally connected to that western corner not only because its part of his commute, but also because of family history — his ancestors were Walville loggers, he said.

“I’d actually like to have Pe Ell,” he added about the town that, he says, has more in common with the 19th District than the I-5 corridor-focused 20th District.

Hatfield’s sensitivity to flooding issues — a concern in both districts — probably helps to bridge any remaining gaps. “Because the (19th) District has the mouth of the Chehalis, a lot of the farmland floods, and I’m very concerned about … coming up with a basinwide solution,” he said.

Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Hatfield in January saw a presentation of the Chehalis Work Group’s $28-million flood mitigation proposal, which would be funded through the state’s capital budget. Hatfield was impressed by the plan, he said, but is not sure the group will receive all the money it has requested.

“I think they made their case that we can’t start chipping off pieces, because all this goes hand in hand,” he said about the Work Group’s comprehensive, multi-pronged plan. “But you take what you can get, especially because we’re still recovering from the recession.”

Hatfield said he is confident that the group will receive some money, in part because of some likely political maneuvering. Jim Honeyford, D-Sunnyside, serves on the Rural Economic Development Committee with Hatfield and is the vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which controls the capital budget — and, according to Hatfield, is looking for funding for his own Yakima Basin.

“I think we’re in good shape for that project because … It’s mutually beneficial,” Hatfield said. Recruiting the help of U.S. Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, to secure federal funding also will be essential in the flood mitigation efforts, he added.

Hatfield was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1995. The then 29-year-old served as a representative for 10 years before leaving the elected position to work, for two years, for Lt. Governor Brad Owen. Hatfield was appointed to the Senate in November 2006 and has held onto his seat through elections in 2008 and 2012.

As a career politician who has “been around forever” and “grew up in politics,” Hatfield is hip to the give-and-take needed to succeed in Olympia. Take Senate Bill 5604, legislation prime-sponsored by Hatfield that would allow citizens to purchase NRA license plates; profits from which would go to gun safety. “Even if you don’t like the NRA, the money is going to safety education,” Hatfield, a self described “gun guy” said. “Last year, I countered back (to the bill’s opponents), that they could do a PETA plate.”

But one alliance on which he won’t compromise is that with his fellow 19th District legislators, representatives Dean Takko, D-Longview, and Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen. The three legislators are the second most senior delegation in Olympia, and, according to Hatfield, the most effective.

“I’ve had enough conversations with my colleagues, that I know we do work together better than any other delegation,” he said. “We tend to agree on just about everything — not absolutely everything, and I think that’s healthy too because we can debate amongst ourselves — but almost everything.”

A newer alliance for Hatfield is one with the 20th District freshman, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia. “I just signed on to a bill with Sen. Braun,” Hatfield said about Braun’s Senate Bill 5298, which would give TransAlta more time to transition into clean coal technologies.

I’m certainly supportive of that,” Hatfield said. “I’m not one that’s afraid of coal. There’s so much of it in this country; if we just ban it — like some people want to do — if we don’t even have coal exporting facilities, then we take away the incentive to invest in clean coal.”

In addition to being the chair of Ag and Natural Resources, Hatfield is member of the Financial Institution and Insurance and Ways and Means committees. This session he has prime sponsored legislation pertaining to water supply, salmon hatcheries, taxes on dairy products and the condition of local government finances.