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Legislative news from Washington state

Native legislators serve in leadership roles

SEATTLE - Four Native legislators are in leadership positions in the state House and Senate as the legislature grapples with a diminished economy and problems within the state's transportation system.

Washington state has a total of five American Indian/Alaska Native legislators, ranking fifth among states in the number of Native state legislators. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oklahoma has 22 Native legislators, Montana has 10, Alaska has eight and New Mexico has six. In Hawaii, 10 Native Hawaiians serve in the Legislature.

All told, 78 Native people serve in legislatures in 16 states.

The Washington state Legislature convened Jan. 14. The House of Representatives confirmed Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, as speaker pro tem. Morris is Tsimshian and also has Samish ties.

As speaker pro tem, Morris presides over floor debate in the House during the speaker's absence and also serves as a member of the House Democratic leadership team. That's a boost for his constituents in the 40th District.

''As speaker pro tem, I'm part of the core leadership group,'' Morris said. ''That means I get to voice my concerns and issues to people who decide what happens and what doesn't.''

Morris is also on the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Audit Review, the Rules Committee and the Technology, Energy and Communications Committee.

Morris was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1996. When the part-time Legislature is not in session, Morris is CEO of Energy Horizon, an energy resource planning company. He is a co-founder of Northwest Energy Angels, which invests in new energy technologies.

Morris is also chairman of the Council of State Governments West.

Don Barlow, D-Spokane, is vice chairman of the House Education Committee. He is also a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Health Care and Wellness Committee.

Barlow, Ottawa, was elected to the House in 2006.

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John McCoy, D-Tulalip, is serving his third term in the House. McCoy is chairman of the Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, and a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Human Services committees.

McCoy, Tulalip, is chairman of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. He is general manager of Tulalip's Quil Ceda Village.

Sen. Claudia Kauffman, D-Kent, the first Native woman elected to the Washington state Senate, is vice chairman of the Consumer Protection and Housing Committee and a member of the Early Learning and K - 12 Education Committee; the Economic Development, Trade and Management Committee; and the Transportation Committee.

Kauffman, Nez Perce, was elected to the Senate in 2006.

Dunn disciplined for behavior

SEATTLE - Jim Dunn, R-Battle Ground, former ranking Republican on the House Housing Committee and former member of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, is being disciplined by the House Republican leadership.

Dunn, Inuit, was stripped of his committee assignments and denied travel reimbursement after he made a sexual remark to a woman at a legislative function last fall.

He was reprimanded in a Nov. 5 letter from House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt and ordered to take sensitivity training. A Dunn aide said Jan. 17 that Dunn had completed the training but had not yet been assigned to a committee.

Dunn served in the state House from 1996 - 2002 and again since 2004.

Economy, transportation are big issues

SEATTLE - Pressing issues facing the Legislature include buffering Washington's relatively strong economy, budget surplus and three years of jobs creation from the looming national recession; and replacing an aging fleet of vessels in its ferry system, which is part of the state Transportation Department and is the largest ferry system in the nation. The ferry system serves eight counties and Sidney, British Columbia.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at