Shea takes oath of office as Legislature convenes 2009 session
State Rep. Matt Shea took the oath of office Monday along with other House members during opening day ceremonies of Washington's 61st Legislature. The Mead Republican began his first term as a 4th District representative amid predictions of a grueling session during which lawmakers must tackle the double-barreled challenges of a faltering state economy and filling an unprecedented $6 billion budget shortfall.
“This is among the greatest honors and most humbling moments of my life, and I am eager to get started,” said Shea, who acknowledged that the scheduled 105-day session will likely take its place among the most difficult in state history.
“The dominating issue this year is the budget crisis, and as daunting as a deficit of six billion dollars is, now we're hearing predictions that the downward trend in the economy could push the shortfall to seven billion,” Shea said. “Tough choices will have to be made, and it's going to be a long, painful and arduous process. However, with disciplined budget-writing, leadership and political courage, we can do what's required to get through this.”
Shea emphasized that in addition to prioritizing spending and finding less costly ways for government to deliver services, the Legislature must craft a budget that doesn't raise taxes. Tax hikes, he said, would further harm the state's struggling economy and weakened business climate.
“We need to get people back on the payroll, taking care of their families and contributing to the economic strength of our communities and state,” he said. “New business development is essential to any long-term strategy to energize the economy, and the first step is to reduce government bureaucracy, red tape and excessive regulations that strangle economic vitality.”
A cum laude graduate of the Gonzaga University School of Law and now an attorney in private practice, Shea was appointed to a seat on the House Judiciary Committee, where he plans to pursue one of his top legislative goals – cracking down on Internet child pornography. He is co-sponsor of a Youth Internet Safety bill that would create a new crime of “viewing child pornography,” with an exemption for police who view the material as evidence. The proposal would also set up a study on the feasibility of establishing a forensics lab within the State Patrol to aid porn investigators.
“Keeping children safe and giving law enforcement the tools they need are a top priority,” Shea told reporters at an Olympia news conference, where Attorney General Rob McKenna unveiled a package of bills for the Legislature to consider this year.
Shea's other committee assignments include a leadership role as the ranking Republican on the House Environmental Health Committee. He was also appointed to the Transportation and Ecology and Parks committees.
“Addressing the needs of veterans and their families is another of my priorities,” said Shea, who served combat tours as an Army platoon leader in Bosnia and company commander and logistics officer in Iraq.
“Although there are Democrat majorities in both legislative chambers, House Republicans won't be on the sidelines. We have a positive agenda that focuses on making the state a better place to live, work and raise a family,” he said. “I believe a lot can be accomplished with reliance on solid values, faith in the future, and the courage to act responsibly.”
As he began his first full work day as new state representative, Shea pledged to follow through with the commitments he made during his campaign.
“My goal was not just to get elected, but to be an effective voice for the people of our district, to be a legislator they can trust and rely on. For me, that's what serving in the Legislature is all about,” he concluded.
###Washington State House Republican Communications