Sen. Ann Rivers and Reps. Larry Hoff and Brandon Vick ran out of time answering questions during town hall
Although Sen. Ann Rivers and Reps. Larry Hoff and Brandon Vick miss public forums and face-to-face interactions, they listened to their supporter’s concerns during a telephone town hall Monday.
The discussion kicked into high gear following a poll ranking issues of concern — 44 percent of callers said opening schools and businesses was a top priority, 28 percent want their tax burden reduced, 12 percent focused on environmental safety, 11 percent on public safety and 5 percent on childcare affordability.
“The only question we didn’t have in that poll is all of the above,” Hoff said. “All of those issues are vital to the majority of our citizens. We’re going to strive to bring all of those into fruition.”
Hoff added that it’s time for the governor to let businesses reopen at full capacity.
“That’s the only way we get this economic engine back on track,” he said. “Getting our economy back in shape is going to help everybody in the long run, and certainly, the businesses that have been hanging back their fingernails for way too long.”
Vick tackled the issue reducing taxes during this economic downturn. He said something that touches your wallet and impacts your ability to care of your family is personal.
“What’s happening in your day-to-day life and my day-to-day life is different,” Vick explained. “We all like schools and roads and clean water and those types of things, but when you pay those taxes, you realize you spend a lot of the year working for someone else.”
Therefore, Vick believes lawmakers must find a balance when implementing these taxes to keep their supporters and opposers on an even playing field so they can rightfully earn the value of a hard day’s work.
One of the more interesting conversations generated from Battle Ground and Camas callers wondering why their schools received less COVID relief funding from the state than others.
Rivers spoke candidly on the situation. She and Democratic Sen. Christine Rolfes are working closely on this issue because they both value education.
“Vancouver got $22 million federal funding. Good for Vancouver, but it left all of my other districts in the hurt locker,” Rivers said. “We have to get that sorted out. I think we’re sitting on nearly $8 billion of extra money, which would be perfect for that one time fix to make sure that our school districts are kept whole.”
Hoff explained why a smaller school district, such as Hockinson, was left out in the cold in comparison to what the Evergreen, Vancouver and even Battle Ground school districts received.
“All of that (federal assistance) is proportioned out by a formula that includes free induced lunches. Hockinson doesn’t have that higher level of assistance, and because of that, they’re funding wasn’t as dramatic or robust as other districts,” Hoff said. “Now, it’s back in the state’s lap for considering how we take care of those school districts that have been disenfranchised.”
Rivers serves as the Senate Republican Caucus Chair. Although Democrats and Republicans argue, she has seen them compromise and reach agreements that have been beneficial for all. This educational relief scenario is one of those opportunities to come together.
“The discussions about how well we work with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are not reported,” Rivers said. “It’s very difficult, but that doesn’t mean we don’t continually reach across the aisle because we have been able to get some good things done by doing that.”
Camas schools recently returned to 4-day in-person learning after a short pause caused by an outbreak after a number of students attended a gathering and were exposed to COVID-19. The caller from Camas asked what school districts will do if there is an uptick in cases with these new variants of the virus spreading across the country.
“The relationship between the county health department and the school districts is critical at this point,” Vick said. “The good news is, while our public schools are getting back, the case studies are there. We’ve had our private schools at full capacity all year long. There has been a case here and a case there, and the county and the schools have come up with a very good system to isolate those kids. Have them take a two-week break without disrupting the rest of the school.”
If there is a larger outbreak, Vick said school and health officials have to reinvent the wheel. He believes Camas and Clark County Public Health handled their situation in the best manner, and that will help other school districts determine what to do in the future.
“I think we’re pretty confident as far as the ‘what if’ scenarios and how to keep kids safe,” Vick said.
The town hall was productive and moved along quickly. Unfortunately, the senators couldn’t answer everybody’s question in 60 minutes. Vick reached out to those people who still have questions to ask in his closing statement.
“We want to give you the best information we can and email is the best way to do that at this time. Phones and Zoom calls are pretty packed,” he said. “I wish we had more time than we had. Thanks for allowing us to do this job. It’s great to represent you and fight for Southwest Washington.”
Sen. Larry Hoff
Sen. Ann Rivers
Sen. Brandon Vick