My First Bill

Rep. Condotta’s Fuel Tax Sticker

My opponent’s first bill (the one lowering standards for admission to teacher education programs) was written by an outside organization, so I thought I’d try my hand at starting closer to the beginning. Long story short, this bill adds carbon dioxide content to the fuel tax stickers that started showing up on fuel pumps a couple of years ago. The original brainstorm came from Republican Representative Gary Condotta of Wenatchee, in 2017. Rep. Condotta did not seek reelection in 2018.

Rep. Condotta’s fuel tax sticker program was just a 2-year pilot program, but there was a bipartisan effort, HB 1633-S, to make it permanent in the 2019 legislature. It got stalled and will be considered again in 2020. My bill is based on the current 1633-S.

Most people are surprised when they learn that burning a gallon of gasoline produces 19.6 pounds of carbon dioxide, but it’s true. Here is the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s list of fuels and their carbon dioxide contents — diesel weighs in at 22.4 pounds per gallon, which makes sense because there’s more energy in a gallon of diesel. Here’s an explainer about it all.

Anyway, it is exactly because most people are not aware of how much carbon dioxide their cars produce that my bill is needed. These days it goes without saying that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is largely responsible for global heating, but here’s a recent story about current scientific opinion.

Naturally, some people will change their habits, if they can, upon realizing the impact of driving more than necessary. It’s a very small step, but it’s also a very inexpensive step: Rep. Condotta’s program only cost $3,000 per year.

So here’s the draft bill, with thanks to the cosponsors of the original 1633-S. Like the original, my bill would make the carbon dioxide-fuel tax sticker program permanent.

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In Which I Challenge Alex Ybarra to a Climate Debate

The 13th Legislative district is ground zero for climate change. From Kittitas County, with the headwaters of the Yakima River, fire-prone forests, and development pressure from climate refugees, to Grant County, the #1 agricultural county in the state, to Lincoln County, with its dryland wheat farms, I can’t think of another area that will experience a more complicated set of effects, and that has more potential to help reduce global heating by capturing carbon. In fact, we have a significant opportunity for economic growth, if we play our cards right.

That’s why I am challenging my opponent to a climate debate. It doesn’t have to be a real debate, it can be a series of climate questions and our answers and discussion, but it needs to focus on climate because it is so important. This is an opportunity for us both to learn about it and help educate the public.

Whichever of us is elected will need to know about climate change in detail in order to both help us avoid as many of the problems as possible and gain as many of the opportunities as possible.

My email address is verheys@hotmail.com . Once I hear from Mr. Ybarra, we can start planning the event together.

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An odd first bill

I’m looking forward to making this campaign about issues and ideas and not individuals, so I hesitate to mention my opponent, Alex Ybarra, by name. However, people keep asking me why I’m running, and Mr. Ybarra’s first bill during his short time in the Legislature is part of the reason. Briefly, the bill lowered standards for admission to teacher education programs by removing the requirement to pass a test called the WEST-B.

The B is for basic, and if you ask 100 teachers about it, 95 or more of them will tell you that if someone can’t pass the WEST-B, they have no business being a teacher. It measures a person’s abilities in reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic.

To be fair, the bill was written requested by the Professional Educators Standards Board (PESB), which noticed that non-white students have a lower passing rate on the test and concluded that the test was culturally biased. I’m pretty sure complex tests like the SAT or GRE are indeed culturally biased, but in this case it seems just as likely that WEST-B passing rates are evidence of how our education system is failing these students, and how other factors also make it difficult for these students to learn the skills necessary to become good teachers.

I’m a teacher, and 96% of my students are Hispanic/Latinx, so I definitely understand the need for more teachers who look like my students. In fact, many of my students would make excellent teachers, and it’s a career I often recommend to my best students. They would have no trouble passing the WEST-B. What might keep them from becoming teachers is a sense that teachers aren’t respected and aren’t paid as they should be. The Republican Party has done more than any other single organization to make teaching a less attractive career, but there’s no reason to believe Mr. Ybarra feels that way. Meanwhile, his party also consistently opposes affirmative action citing (unwarranted) concerns about declining standards — but this bill literally lowered standards.

The PESB only has one tool: lowering or raising standards. It’s great that they’re paying attention to teacher diversity, but this bill did not address the roots of the problem, and it may have made things worse.

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