Getting to Know Your Legislators

Kathleen Collins, SMACNA Legislative Consultant

The stereotype is that it is hard to get to know legislators. The reality is the individuals who serve as state senators and representatives are normal people with a variety of backgrounds and interests and a desire to make a difference. They arrive in Olympia with their own interests and the interests of their constituents at heart. The Legislature deals with a wide diversity of issues, so most legislators develop expertise in only selected areas dictated in part by committees they serve on and their interests. Legislative committees cover specific topics and SMACNA issues are covered in a few key committees. This article will highlight some of the legislators on two of the most important committees for contractors, the Senate and House labor committees.

The Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee handles all issues related to employment such as workers compensation, unemployment, apprenticeships, wages, and leaves. It also handles many of the issues related to construction contracting. This is a profile of some of the committee members.

• Senator Michael Baumgartner, a Republican from the 6th legislative district in Spokane, is Chair of the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee. He has a background in international business and economics. He supports small business issues and promotes affordable higher education. He sponsored the bill that created the Department of Enterprise Services.

• The lead Democrat on the Committee is Senator Karen Keiser from the 33rd legislative district that includes Des Moines, SeaTac, and Burien. Senator Keiser currently is the lead on capital budget for the Democrats, the budget that funds state and local construction projects. She chaired the Senate Health Care Committee when the Democrats were in control and has been a long-time member of the labor committee. Senator Keiser sponsored the state’s first Family Leave Act in 2007 and helped negotiate the updated Family Leave Act passed this year.

• The Vice-Chair of the Committee is Senator John Braun, a Republican from the 20th legislative district in south Thurston County and Lewis County. Senator Braun runs Braun Industries, a firm that builds emergency vehicles for jurisdictions across the U.S. He has served on the labor committee since joining the Senate in 2012, sponsoring many employment bills aimed at improving the business climate and employers’ rights. Senator Braun is Chair of the Senate Ways & Means, the committee charged with writing the state budget and handling all revenue matters.

• Senator Steve Conway is a member of the Committee. He is a Democrat from the 29th district, covering south Tacoma and Spanaway. Senator Conway was the chair of the House labor committee for many years before moving to the Senate in 2011. He retired as a business agent from the commercial food workers. Over the years he has been supportive of union and employee rights and has worked on many health care issues.

• Senator Lynda Wilson is a Republican member of the Committee from the 17th district in east Vancouver. She won her Senate seat in 2016 after serving in the House for two years. She and her husband run DeWils Industries, a custom cabinetry business with international sales. Her priorities are increasing jobs and decreasing regulation on business. She is Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

• Senator Bob Hasegawa is a Democrat member of the Committee from the 11th district that includes the southern half of SODO, Tukwila, and Beacon Hill. He worked for the Teamsters Union for 32 years as a truck driver and operating engineer. His passions in the legislative process are social justice, labor issues and small business. He recently ran for Seattle mayor, losing in a crowded primary.

The House Labor & Workforce Standards Committee works on all of the employment related issues, including workers compensation, unemployment, apprenticeships, wages, and leaves. The Committee used to handle some contracting issues but those are now in a different committee. This is a profile of some of the Committee members.

• Representative Mike Sells, a Democrat from the 38th district in Everett, chairs the House Labor & Workforce Standards Committee. Rep. Sells worked as a teacher for 30 years and was active in the teachers’ union. His priorities are investing in training and workforce development, especially for emerging industries. He is the current Secretary-Treasurer for Snohomish County Labor Council.

• The lead Republican on the House Labor & Workforce Standards Committee is Representative Matt Manweller. He represents the 13th district, an area that runs from Kittitas to Lincoln County. Representative Manweller is a professor at Central Washington University where he teaches political science and constitutional law. His priorities are efficient government and less regulation for business.

• The Vice-Chair of the Committee is Representative Mia Gregerson. She is a Democrat from the 33rd district that includes Des Moines, SeaTac, and Burien. Prior to joining the Legislature, she served on the SeaTac City Council. Representative Gregerson wants to create job opportunities for minorities and women, including construction jobs.

• Representative Gina McCabe is a Republican on the Committee from the 14th district. Her district covers Yakima County down to the Columbia River. Representative McCabe runs several small businesses in Goldendale, including a hotel and a performing arts studio. Her priorities include less business regulation and job creation.

If you want to learn more about these legislators you can go to The House and Senate have a list of all their members, including backgrounds and interests, and the committees they serve on. We will feature more legislators in future issues.

If you are interested in identifying the legislators for your business location or home residence, go to “Find Your District” on the legislative web site,

SMACNA can assist you in setting up a meeting with your legislators, if you would like.