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In Our View: Questions for Candidates

From McCleary to bridge to restrooms, primer on issues for those seeking office

The Columbian
Published: May 25, 2016, 6:01am

The lineup is official, which means the game is about to start.

Friday was the deadline for candidates to file for this year’s election, kicking off the campaign season. Three legislative districts — the 17th, 18th, and 49th — rest entirely within Clark County, meaning that a total of three state senators and six members of the House represent the vast majority of residents.

Odds are that several of the candidates seeking those offices will knock on your door between now and the Aug. 2 primary, and voters should be prepared to engage with them. With that in mind, here is a primer on the issues for quizzing candidates and holding them accountable:

Education funding.

In the 2012 McCleary v. Washington decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature has not lived up to what the state constitution says is its “paramount duty”: Funding basic public education. Since then, lawmakers have increased spending on K-12 education by $4.8 billion, but prior to the 2016 legislative session the court chastised them for not doing enough. The justices held the Legislature in contempt and issued a fine of $100,000 a day.

This year, lawmakers responded by passing a plan to plan for education spending, kicking the issue down the road another year. Do candidates believe a property-tax increase is necessary for funding basic education? Would this allow local districts to reduce their reliance upon local levies funded by property taxes? Should the state pass a capital-gains tax to help fund schools? Has the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds in dictating increased funding and, if so, how should lawmakers respond?

Climate change.

Gov. Jay Inslee has said he wants to be the nation’s “greenest governor” and has put forth several policy ideas that largely have been ignored by the Legislature. Last year, lawmakers inserted into a transportation package a provision that forced the governor to choose between low-carbon fuel standards and the much-needed transportation funding. Candidates must be ready to answer these questions: Should state government take climate change seriously? And what should the Legislature do about it?

The Interstate 5 Bridge.

In 2013, the state Senate scuttled a Columbia River Crossing plan that had been a decade in the making and would have replaced the century-old bridge. Some local representatives — and many local residents — opposed the plan because it included an extension of Portland’s light-rail system into Clark County. So, where do we go from here? Candidates must be ready to weigh in on the future of the Interstate 5 Bridge; the future of light rail in Vancouver; and how to engage Oregon officials to forge a compromise that is beneficial for both states.

Bathroom politics.

Proponents are collecting signatures to try and place Initiative 1515 on the ballot, regarding the use of bathrooms by transgender people — an issue that has made news across the country this year. What do candidates believe is an appropriate response on this topic?

Clark County’s nine legislative positions have drawn 32 candidates. Six of them are incumbents, plus Rep. Lynda Wilson is running for the Senate position from the 17th District following the retirement of Don Benton. Regardless of their experience or lack of experience in elected office, candidates should be prepared to answer well-informed questions from voters.

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