Johnson sworn in as new 14th District state representative
Lawmaker will fight to retain Yakima Valley School, preserve local road projects
Following the opening gavel today of the 2009 legislative session, Norm Johnson raised his right hand and promised to “faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of a Washington state representative.” After taking the oath of office, Johnson, R-Yakima, said he is ready to get right to work for the people of the 14th Legislative District.
“What an honor to be standing here in the state Capitol as the newest representative from the Fourteenth District! It is an awesome responsibility and one that I take very seriously,” said Johnson. “I have some big shoes to fill from those who have previously held this position, such as Mary Skinner, Betty Edmonson and Shirley Doty. But as I promised today, I will represent our citizens to the best of my ability and provide a strong, reasoned voice for them in Olympia.”
The former Yakima city councilman has an aggressive schedule ahead of him, having agreed to serve on five House committees, including as ranking Republican of the Audit Review and Oversight Committee and as a member of the powerful Rules Committee. Yet, Johnson is especially eager to get started on his new appointment to the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee where he plans to defend continued funding for the Yakima Valley School in Selah.
“We all realize our state budget is in serious trouble with a deficit that could exceed six billion dollars. However, there are ways we can close this budget gap without tearing families apart. The governor's budget proposal to close the Yakima Valley School is the wrong approach, and I'm willing to work with her to find the right solution,” said Johnson, who has served as a trustee with two local hospitals.
“For fifty years, the school has provided a home for the developmentally disabled. It provides the best of care for its residents, as well as jobs for 275 people in Selah. Some residents have elderly parents who cannot travel far to visit. If this facility is closed and residents are moved, it could permanently separate families,” added Johnson. “We have to place these people somewhere and other local facilities may not be equipped to handle the needs of these residents. Any move would be costly, not only in terms of dollars, but the emotional price families would pay as they are separated from their loved ones. That's why I plan to do everything possible to save the Yakima Valley School.”
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Johnson said he will work to restore funding for local projects the governor cut from her proposed transportation budget.
“When the Legislature raised the state gas tax, our local citizens were promised funding to complete the Valley Mall Boulevard project, yet it is not found in the governor's budget plan. The Valley Mall project is critical for our local farmers and warehouses to move products to market. When you make a promise to the citizens, you need to keep it,” said Johnson. “I will work to ensure our local projects are funded, including the Valley Mall project, the Selah truck route, and additional lanes and snow sheds on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass.”
As a former teacher and school administrator, Johnson plans to put his experience to work as he serves on the House Education Committee.
“There's been a lot of discussion about eliminating the WASL. While I'm not a great fan of the test, I don't think it should be sacked without providing something to take its place. It's very important that we hold schools, teachers and students accountable to ensure the best education possible,” noted Johnson. “I'm looking forward to working with Chairman Quall on the committee as we are both former educators who share similar viewpoints about getting back to the basics in education.”
Johnson encourages citizens to contact his office any time with questions, comments or suggestions about state government.
“I've dedicated my life to public service as an educator, a mayor, and city councilman, and I'm really looking forward to serving people as their state representative. I don't plan to be partisan in my approach, but practical. That means not only working with members of my party, but reaching across the aisle with the majority party to find solutions that will make Washington a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Johnson concluded.
Johnson can be contacted through his office in Olympia at (360) 786-7810 or toll-free at 1-800-562-6000. Address is: 414 John L. O'Brien Building, P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600. His legislative assistant is Michele Smith.
The 2009 legislative session is scheduled for 105 days.
###Washington State House Republican Communications