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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Governor Inslee Delivers Inaugural Address

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Democrat Jay Inslee took the oath of office as Washington's 23 governor in a first-in-history Capitol Rotunda ceremony Wednesday morning. Inslee, a former Congressman and state lawmaker, was joined by his wife Trudi, his grown children and grandchildren.

In pre-swearing in remarks, Inslee's friend and environmental activist Denis Hayes focused on global climate change and said Inslee is the "first political chief executive in American history to be elected principally on a platform of combating climate disruption."

After the swearing in, the inaugural ceremonies moved into the House chamber where a joint session of the Washington legislature convened. 

In an inaugural address titled "The World Will Not Wait," Inslee, who made his reputation in Congress as a renewable energy advocate, continued the theme.

In prepared remarks, Inslee said: "As a parent and a grandparent, I cannot consciously accept the dangers of climate change for my family or yours ... On climate change, we have settled the scientific controversy. What remains is how we respond to the challenge."

In his speech, Inslee also pledged a partnership with state lawmakers, including the new, mostly Republican coalition majority that now controls the Washington Senate.

He reprised his campaign rhetoric to bring "disruptive change" Olympia calling it a "multi-year" effort.

In addition to calling for more funding for public schools coupled with "innovation and reform," Inslee invoked the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and said he would work with the Legislature to "address this crisis responsibly." 

"I don't have all the answers, but ... common sense tells us that this solution will involve mental health and keeping the guns out of the wrong hands, while respecting the right of my son to hunt and my uncle to defend his home," said Inslee.

Touching on another hot button social issue, Inslee called for the passage of the Reproductive Parity Act. It would require health insurance plans that cover maternity services to also cover abortion. "Washington women need the freedom and privacy to make the health care decisions that are best for themselves and their family," said Inslee.

Afterwards some Republicans said they didn’t appreciate the focus on social issues. State Representative JT Wilcox said he was encouraged by the new governor’s talk of jobs and government reform. But is wary of an economic development strategy that revolves around clean energy.

“This is sort of like betting the state in one very narrow direction and as a strategy I’m not attracted to that,” Wilcox said.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, has said he wants to steer clear of controversial social issues as the legislature navigates a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall and the need to find additional funding for public schools in order to comply with a Supreme Court ruling.

Governor Inslee planned to play an afternoon game of basketball using a newly installed hoop on the garage of the Governor's mansion next door to the Capitol building. Wednesday evening the new governor and his wife will attend the Inaugural Ball at the Capitol.