Last year's election brought with it a wave of new faces to Olympia: 21 new representatives and six new senators. Never mind hazing from upperclassman, these freshman have been slapped around by an unprecedented year as a $5.2 billion shortfall shadows their every move. Still, from Republicans such as Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane)  to Democrats such as former-rep-now-Senator Sharon Nelson (D-34), the freshman class is loaded with quick studies who've been at at the center of the action.

As we head into finals week, AKA the budget, we decided to check in with the Seattle-area newbies. Here's our first installment.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Burien, W. Seattle)

Course Load: Environment Committee; General Government Appropriations & Oversight Committee; Local Government Committee; Transportation Committee

Clique: Environmentalists

Reputation: He's the guy you want to sit next to during the test because he does his homework.

Most likely to become a committee chair before he's 26.

GPA: 3.9 (We're a little biased. PubliCola enthusiastically endorsed Fitzgibbon in the primary and the general. So, he's making us look good.)

[pullquote]"I make sure I don't get on the wrong side of Eileen Cody, but I know I can trust her on important stuff, especially when it comes to taking a vote on a crucial issue."[/pullquote]

Fitzgibbon ran as super green and has lived up to it, voting on the Al Gore side of every transit and environmental bill. We also noticed that he's made a point of signing on to every feminist bill this session—including the pregnancy center bill and a bill to help victims of sex crimes in court. He also passed his own vulnerable users' bill, something that's been bogged down in Olympia for years.

We interviewed Fitzgibbon last week.

What has been your biggest disappointment been this session?
Well, not having seen the operating budget yet—I would probably expect their to be some big disappointment when that comes out. Not counting that, I'm pretty disappointed that at least so far we haven't been able to secure regional mobility grants for two projects that really matter for our district: Metro route 120, which was a highly ranked project, and the Metro RapidRide Line D from Ballard to Downtown. That doesn't affect my district, but will be important as the viaduct comes down.

What is the most important thing you've learned this year?
I think that I've definitely learned how important it is to have bills and issues that are well worked before they come up during the legislative session. There's so much going on during session and the successful [bills] are the ones that stakeholders have spent a lot of time shaping and talking to legislators about.

What has your biggest success been?
Well I'm excited that it looks like we're going to pass the vulnerable users bill into law this year (check plus!), and there's more momentum on another bill that gives cities and counties more control over transportation design decisions.

What homework or issues will you be working on during the off-session to make next year's session more of a success?
One that I'm really working on is the renewable energy initiative, I-937, I'll be looking for ways we can both strengthen the initiative and give utilities more flexibility over their decisions.

Who do have lunch with?
We all have lunch with each other. Most recently, folks from around my caucus, including Andy Billig, Laurie Jinkins, and I often find myself eating with Judy Clibborn [the house transportation chair.)

Who is the scariest or most intimidating upperclassmen?
I make sure I don't get on the wrong side of [his 34th District seatmate] Eileen Cody, but I know I can trust her on important stuff, especially when it comes to taking a vote on a crucial issue.
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