State Rep. Norma Smith does not like to be given bad information.
When she was told that design flaws on working state ferries were not a issue, she was frustrated that the opposite was true.
“It was a problem that shouldn’t have happened and certainly should not have been defended,” Smith said.
For that reason, Smith has worked during the last year to fix what she considers a “fundamental disconnect” within the state’s ferry system.
Smith, a Republican, is seeking a fifth two-year term as a District 10 representative.
The district encompasses Island County plus parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties.
Smith’s Democratic opponent, Michael Scott, did not respond to requests for an interview and didn’t attend any of the area’s candidate forums.
Smith took 78 percent of the vote in the primary to Scott’s 20 percent.
The first ferry issue arose in 2010. Smith said she heard complaints about the new Coupeville ferry having a list, and crews were having to mitigate the problem by sorting cars and trucks to place more weight on one side of the boat.
More recently, the Tokitae out of Mukilteo was found to have ramps too steep for cars with low undercarriages.
Both issues have since been addressed, but Smith said that the problem has been that leadership within ferries is not listening to the concerns of their employees.
“We should have a culture where the folks on the ground are heard,” Smith said.
“That culture in ferries needs to change. You don’t dismiss the legitimate concerns of the staff you have charged with the maritime operations of your vessels.”
Smith’s fight with state ferries resulted in her working to get ferries leadership, engineers and staff in the same room to discuss and solve problems.
However, she said, “it shouldn’t have been that hard.”
The legislature’s most pressing issue moving forward is going to be the handling the constitutional mandate to fund public education upheld by the McCleary decision this year.
“Everyone is looking to put the maximum number of options on the table,” Smith said.
Among those options are looking to minimize tax incentives to increase revenues, but Smith said she wants to retain the incentives that are the most beneficial to businesses.
Smith said she’d also be looking for ways to tighten up operations on a governmental level.
“Anything we can do to help them to be more efficient and improve their performance,” Smith said.
This type of regulatory reform can also be a boost for the state’s economy, Smith said.
“If you look at the seven bills I’ve passed, none of them erode oversight, what they do is require the agencies to work more effectively,” Smith said. “By driving efficiency and reform, you as the job creator can make a business decision.”
Smith says she was instrumental in passing key legislation that makes it easier for businesses to interact with government agencies.
Now, the state’s focus is switching to energy policy, Smith said.
Smith said Washington’s cheap hydro electricity is a competitive advantage and an “absolute essential economic driver.”
If the state can continue to innovate and provide low-cost energy, it can attract production-sector businesses that create growth, Smith said.
“Advance manufacturing jobs boost the economy,” Smith said.
“I spend most of my time focused on this area.”
On the environmental front, Smith said she has been a key player in pulling together the $3.5 million needed to finish pulling more than 5,000 “legacy nets” out of shallow Puget Sound, and has worked to restore endangered forestland.
Washington’s natural areas, such as state parks, “are our treasures,” Smith said, which is why she initially voted against the 2011 implementation of the Discover Pass.
“It cuts off the access to the poorest among us,” Smith said.
That said, Smith said some improvements have been made, which she supported.
Smith said when the Discover Pass was implemented, legislators did not look at what an economic driver the parks are for the state.
“I think the decisions around state parks have been poorly made in that when that discussion was happening they only looked at the cost of state parks, they weren’t looking at the revenue generated by state parks,” Smith said.
On the issue of gun control, Smith said she believes in the Second Amendment and that the state should “focus our efforts on those who get them illegally, those who break the law with them, those who would harm others with them.”