Rivers to serve on budget, education committees in first Senate term

Sen. Ann Rivers will have positions on four Senate committees when the 2013 legislative session convenes one month from today. The La Center Republican and member of the new Senate Majority Coalition Caucus said two of those assignments promise to put her right in the middle of the session’s biggest challenges – crafting a new state budget and addressing court-influenced changes to public education.

“I’m very lucky. These are some incredible committees,” said Rivers, who will be a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, Senate Government Operations Committee and Senate Rules Committee.

Rivers said the dominant education question facing lawmakers stems from the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision early this year. The court found state government hasn’t complied with its constitutional duty to make “ample provision” for education and wants lawmakers to get moving toward full funding of a major education-reform law from 2009.

McCleary is an issue that’s legally pressing as well as financially pressing. None of us will get to sit on the sidelines and poke and prod; we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get in there,” Rivers said. “I’m familiar with the needs of the smaller and rural school districts in Clark County, so I’ll be a voice on the committee for those districts locally and statewide.”

As for serving on the budget committee, “it would be a shame not to have a seat at the table,” noting her 18th Legislative District predecessor, former Sen. Joseph Zarelli, was a budget leader for many years before leaving the Senate this spring. “Our new majority coalition has made a concerted effort to represent every corner of the state. I’m excited to be in a position where I can continue to make sure the budget-related needs of southwest Washington are heard, and met.”

The Senate Government Operations Committee’s work includes issues related to local government, giving Rivers an opportunity to look at how state-level decisions affect cities and counties. She expects 2013 will see cities looking for more authority related to setting fees. Her fourth assignment, to the powerful Senate Rules Committee, puts Rivers on the panel that decides which measures move forward from committees onto the full Senate’s voting calendar.

Rivers had served on the transportation committee in the House of Representatives but has too many other assignments to continue that in the Senate. Even so, she plans to remain engaged on the Columbia River Crossing issue.

“I know Senator Benton (R-Vancouver, another Clark County member of the Majority Coalition Caucus and incoming vice chairman of the transportation committee) is passionate about the CRC and will work very hard on that issue,” Rivers said. “I also have great faith in Senator Curtis King, who will be transportation co-chair from our bipartisan coalition and now represents a portion of Clark County. I’ll be keeping a close eye also; it’s too important to our region.”