Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Joe Schmick 3-Fer

My good friend and our newest 9th District State Representative, Joe Schmick, has attacted a lot of media attention as of late:

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Schmick appointed to House Appropriations Committee

Washington 9th District Rep. Joe Schmick wasted little time making headway in Olympia. The freshmen legislator recently was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee.

Schmick, 49, a Colfax-based farmer and small business owner who was appointed to replace David Buri in November, was chosen by caucus leaders to sit on the House budget-writing panel.

House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said Schmick is a newcomer with energy who is ideal for the committee.

"Joe has the work ethic that's essential for Appropriations, which is one of the most demanding committee jobs in the Legislature. Our leadership team has a lot of confidence in him," DeBolt said.

Schmick also will serve on the Higher Education and Local Government committees, both of which deal with policy and issues important to his district, he said.

"I look forward to the opportunities my committee assignments provide to focus on critical areas of public policy," Schmick said.

Schmick also was chosen to be part of the two-member delegation that carried a message to the governor during Monday's session-opening ceremonies informing her that the House was organized and prepared to do business.
From yesterday's Lewiston Tribune:
New lawmaker takes it all in
Rep. Joe Schmick stays on the run as Washington Legislature opens

OLYMPIA - On his first day at the new legislative session, Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, shuffled around brightly covered catalogues on his desk before his meetings began.

He picked up a 3-inch notebook of last year's budget notes and laughed as he waved it through the air.

"I don't think I'll ever get on top of my studies" he said.

Though it's his first time at a legislative session, Schmick proved himself a capable political actor during his time with the Whitman County Farm Bureau and in lobbying to be named to replace former Rep. David Buri in the House.

Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, attested to Schmick's capacity to represent his district during the session.

"People have a way to sense sincerity," Ericksen said, motioning to Schmick. "People will be able to tell that he's really ready to work for Washington."

Still, Schmick did seem nervous as he rushed past school groups in the Legislative Building to meet Gov. Christine Gregoire for the first time. During his minute with the governor, Schmick beamed and blushed as he shook Gregoire's hand.

In the House chambers, Schmick reported about his meeting with the governor to other representatives on the House floor. "It was pretty short and sweet, but it was an honor for me," he said. "The governor did say (she wanted to work) on time and to be on budget."

For his first day, Schmick spent time in the Higher Education Committee, listening to testimony about the state's master plan for higher education, and in the House Appropriations Committee to discuss the governor's 2008 supplemental budget proposal and hear testimony on the governor's early learning and K-12 budget proposals - stopping once to grab a few peanut butter crackers, which passed for lunch.

Schmick's days will get busier as he looks forward to meetings with the Local Government Committee later in the session.

While he has no specific bills he wants to champion this session, Schmick said he is passionate about representing his district. Schmick is also dedicated to his party's goals of minimizing state spending, as he believes many Washingtonians don't want or aren't able to pay higher taxes to fund huge state projects.

"There's not a group in state government that couldn't make a pretty compelling case for the need for new money," Schmick said. "There's just not enough money for all of them."

By 5:30 p.m. Schmick was back in his office, ready to take a real lunch break and tend to some personal affairs.

Schmick has organized a deal to sell his vending business in Colfax. He hopes this will leave time for his wife, Kim, to visit him on the coast - weather permitting.
And finally, from the December 22, 2007 edition of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Mr. Schmick goes to Olympia

Joe Schmick's first days as a representative in the Washington Legislature have flown by with an unending slate of meetings and handshakes.

Schmick said he's still trying to get accustomed to his new role as a 9th District representative after nearly one month in office.

"I am just a fish out of water," he said. "I have a lot to learn. It's all new. That's why I have really been trying to get around the district and meet with as many people as possible."

Schmick was selected Nov. 26 by commissioners from Whitman, Garfield, Adams, Franklin, Asotin and Spokane counties to serve out the remaining year of David Buri's term in the Legislature. Buri resigned from the Legislature to become director of government relations at Eastern Washington University. Buri was elected in 2004 and had one year left in his second two-year term.

Schmick, 49, has been farming in the Colfax area for nearly 30 years and operates a vending machine business in addition to serving on the Washington Farm Bureau Board of Directors. He unsuccessfully ran in 2006 for the 9th District's seat held by Steve Hailey.

Schmick said when he is not trying to meet people others are trying to meet him, leading to a constant flow of visitors in and out of his Olympia office.

"I am surprised when I am in Olympia how many people come into the office," he said. "It's hard to get away. Once you get in people just start showing up. Everybody wants to visit with you. They just want to get to know me so they have a name to a face."

When Schmick isn't conversing with visitors, he spends much of his remaining time answering phone calls, responding to e-mails and reading pages and pages of information regarding upcoming bills.

"Because this is a short session there are an awful lot of bills being prefiled to get on the schedule," he said. "And being new, I don't know what I have to read and don't.

"I am doing the best I can."

Schmick didn't have to wait long before jumping into the legislative ring, getting a chance to vote on two separate bills during his first week in office.

Schmick voted in favor of restoring a 1 percent limit on property tax levy increases during a special one-day session in his first official legislative acts.

The ballot measure, which Washington voters approved in 2001, was overturned by the state Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court agreed with a 2006 Superior Court ruling that I-747's ballot language was misleading and unconstitutionally deceptive.

In his second vote, Schmick voted against a bill that would have allowed Washington residents making less than $57,000 per year to defer half of their property taxes. The bill passed 55-39.

Schmick said he voted against the bill because it gives the state the power to seize homes and other personal belongings if deferments aren't repaid.

"When the state becomes involved they have teeth," he said. "The state can come and get you."

The bill also gives another task to already overworked county governments.

"Basically we gave the county another job and not a penny to do it," he said.

Schmick also has been busy cosponsoring a couple of bills that involve rule changes for counties. He said the bills should pass easily, but that is not the way it always works in Olympia.

"If it were easy there would be all kinds of stuff passed through the Legislature, but it's not," he said.

Schmick also has been vying for committee assignments. He thinks there is a strong chance he will be on the Higher Education Committee and also has requested an appointment to the Health Care Committee, although being a freshman might limit his opportunities.

"I have requested a few, but I don't know," he said. "Being the low man on the totem poll makes it hard."

However, Schmick said high turnover in the Legislature could allow him to advance rapidly. There will be several new legislators joining Schmick in the upcoming session.

"There has been five different members come in so there it's going to be quite a bit of shifting," he said. "I am surprised with how much turnover there is in the Legislature."

Schmick said he has heavily relied on help and guidance from his aide, Pam Hahn, who has 20 years of experience in the Legislature.

"I am very glad to have an experienced aide to get me through," he said.

His fellow 9th District legislators, Rep. Steve Hailey and Sen. Mark Schoesler, also have been helpful.

"We work together a lot," he said. "It is such a large district we have to work together. They've been extremely helpful."

Schmick said he has many goals while in the Legislature, but the most important thing for him is to make sure laws aren't passed that would negatively effect the 9th District.

"I have two goals: I don't want to do anything that will hurt my constituents and I don't want to do anything that will hurt the county or its cities," he said. "The counties and cities have very distinct budget problems. We can't keep doing things that cause budgetary impacts - that's just wrong."

Schmick has no intentions of passing the torch when his one year in the Legislature is up.

"I do plan on defending the seat," he said. The commissioners "didn't want to put somebody in there for a year and walk away."

Schmick said he does not take the job of representing the 9th District lightly.

"It's an honor," he said. "Everyone says that, but it is. It is an honor to have the people of the 9th District choose me to represent them. I can't tell you how big of a deal that is, but it is."

Schmick said he thought his political ambitions would go unfulfilled when he lost in 2006. He is appreciative for a second chance.

"When I lost the last time, I though I was done," he said. "I thought I was done and I was OK with that. I ran a good campaign and I talked about what people thought was important and I stuck with it."

Schmick knows he has a giant task ahead of him, but he is up to the challenge.

"I am not kidding myself," he said. "I've got a lot of work - it's a big district."

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