OLYMPIA -- Lawmakers met with Tri-City community members at a conference Thursday to discuss the education funding and the challenges caused by energy regulation.
Members of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tri-Cities Legislative Council and lawmakers also discussed marijuana legalization, state health care, wine industry research, taxes and studded tires.
Most of the questions community members had for lawmakers concerned either education funding and regulation, or Initiative 937, the Energy Independence Act.
Jim Justin, legislative director for the governor, told the group the governor recommends that the $96 million increase in revenue, which was announced this week, should go toward education, which includes everything from early learning programs to higher education.
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Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, told the group the Republican House operating budget proposal, which will be announced today, does not have any cuts to higher education.
Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, said his main focus for the conference was I-937. He updated the group on the Senate's progress passing a bill that counts some biomass technologies for renewable energy requirements. But no progress has been made to include hydroelectric efficiency measures in a bill, he said.
Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, said I-937 has forced Washington to produce more electricity than it needs. The bill leads to waste rather than clean energy, he said.
Delvin said "hydroelectricity is by far our cheapest, greenest resource available, and it's renewable."