Voters return Brown to Senate

Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldNovember 5, 2013 

Voters are returning state Sen. Sharon Brown to Olympia after she was appointed to a vacant seat earlier this year.

She had 12,973 votes, or 75 percent of those counted Tuesday night, and Phillip Lemley had 4,239 votes, or 25 percent. Both ran as Republicans.

The campaign was practice for Brown, who will get to do it again next year, as she serves the last year of the four-year term former Sen. Jerome Delvin was elected to in 2010. Delvin resigned after being elected to the Benton County commission in 2012.

Brown said she was honored and humbled by the faith the voters had placed in her and excited to get back to work in the Legislature.

She wants to continue to examine business regulatory reform and get people back to work in sustainable jobs, she said Tuesday night.

In her first session in Olympia, Brown worked to bring a sound budget to the state in a fight that lasted through two special sessions, she said during the campaign. She claimed credit for helping fight off $1.3 billion in new taxes on items like bottled water and beer proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee, and said the legislature left a $576 million "rainy day" fund intact while increasing spending on education.

"We worked with our friends across the aisle, we agreed on a budget, and, most importantly, we in the state of Washington did not shut the government down," she said during the campaign.

Brown, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, wants to see reforms at the state Department of Transportation before she will consider a gas tax increase, she said.

A statewide listening tour by senate transportation leaders, which included a stop in Pasco, will be helpful in choosing priorities for state transportation, Brown said.

More needs to be done to deal with the effects of voters passing an initiative allowing the sale of recreational marijuana in Washington, she said. Richland, Kennewick and West Richland in the 8th Legislative District have passed moratoriums on marijuana-related businesses.

Brown, who previously served on the Kennewick City Council, wants to see Inslee do more to address the differences between state law, which allows for marijuana sales after the passage of a ballot initiative last year, and federal law, which still forbids it, she said.

"We still have the overriding issue of what are we going to do, how are we going to solve the problem?" she said. "I believe that the governor is engaged with having those discussions on the federal level."

Brown admits legislation she proposed to allow business owners to refuse to offer services to people based on their religious beliefs could have been drafted better. The bill was introduced after a highly publicized case involving Arlene's Flowers in Richland, which refused to provide services for a gay couple's wedding.

Brown's intent was for the bill to address issues that come up when the protected right of religious freedom goes up against the protected right for same sex marriage, she said.

"I think that the issue is not going to go away," she said. "I have heard there are different senators looking at different ways of addressing the issue."

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;

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