Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Blake’s Legislative Update for Feb 9: Basic Food boost / Farm to School / Uninsured rate drops

Azalie Bahrt serves as page

AzalieThe Legislative Page Program is a great opportunity for students to get a hands-on approach at what happens here under the Capitol dome.

I recently sponsored Azalie Bahrt, who attends Ilwaco High School, and the school’s Facebook page posted the press release I sent out. Click here to read it and, if you’re interested in one of your kids participating in the program, send me a note and we can work things out for next session.



Washington’s Basic Food program is getting a performance bonus

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often called food stamps, is a federally funded program that helps low-income people put food on their table each month. The program in our state is called Basic Food.

grocery foodIn Washington, one out of every seven people relies on the Basic Food program and about half of the people who use SNAP are kids. Hunger adds an extra challenge to doing well in school or at work. And there are too many people in Washington who are hungry or worried about where their next meal is going to come from. Every kid, every family, and every Washingtonian deserves to have enough nutritious food to eat.

Fortunately, Washington’s program just got a boost. The USDA awards bonuses to states that have efficient and effective SNAP programs. In 2014, Washington had a payment error rate of only 0.77 – the national average is 3.66. This puts Washington among the top six states with the highest percentage of payment accuracy. In recognition of this achievement, the USDA is awarding a bonus of $2,428,058 to Washington’s Basic Food program.

This bonus will mean that even more kids and families can get the healthy, nutritious food they need to thrive.


And while we’re on the topic of food…

Ellen Gray, Executive Director of WSFFN handing me a small package with pea seeds that that reads, “The Good Food Coalition asks that you PEAS help local farms grow healthy kids.”
Ellen Gray, Executive Director of WSFFN handing me a small package with pea seeds that that reads, “The Good Food Coalition asks that you PEAS help local farms grow healthy kids.”

Yesterday, the Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network (WSFFN) held its “Good Food & Farming Day” in Olympia and I had a chance to meet with them and talk about what they’re doing. The organization uses education, organizing and advocacy to advance sustainable food & farming programs & policies in our state.

This session WSFFN and the Good Food Coalition are advocating to restore $250,000 funding for WSDA Farm to School and Small Farm Direct Marketing Programs. They asked me to spearhead this effort through a letter to the chair of the Appropriations Committee, and I’m happy to say we succeeded in getting many of my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, to sign on to the request. To learn more about the program you can read the letter here.


Rate of uninsured people in Washington dropped by half

A new report by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler revealed that the number of uninsured people in our state is half of what it was only three years ago.

It dropped from 14.5 percent in 2012 to 7.3 percent or 522,000 people in 2015.

Uninsured cut by half chart

The report highlights the positive impact of the federal Affordable Care Act in Washington with county-by-county data on the uninsured and the law’s effect on many segments of the population.

The report also highlights key challenges in health care, including rising costs, prescription drugs, and increasing out-of-pocket costs for consumers.

For more information, you can read the report here.


Update on my bills

HB 2644: Animal forfeiture in animal cruelty cases

While Washington has a very strong animal cruelty and forfeiture law, I sponsored this bill to give law enforcement agencies and local animal care and control agencies better tools to enforce the existing law. For instance, this bill includes several procedural amendments that streamline the process, and will result in earlier hearings, better notice of petitions to local governments, shorter stays at animal shelters, and lower costs for local governments. In animal cruelty cases, including those involving hoarding, animal fighting, and puppy mills, animals must be taken into custody, which comes at a huge cost to local governments and shelters. Some cases involve over 100 animals at a time. Removal and time spent at a shelter is stressful for animals. My bill will shorten the period of time animals have to deal with these stressful situations, and will allow faster adoptions or returns. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and is currently in the Rules Committee for review.

HB 2695: Historic public recreational access

Washington is truly a beautiful state and many of us enjoy all the outdoor activities our public lands have to offer but, to do so, we have to be able to get to them. I sponsored this legislation because I believe it is important that the public has access to public land for recreational purposes. My bill requires the Department of Natural Resources, when undertaking a road maintenance or abandonment effort on state land, to ensure that all related road projects preserve, at a minimum, the opportunity for pedestrian recreation access. The measure was passed by the Committee on General Government & Information Technology yesterday.

HB 2857: Cross Laminated Timber

We don’t currently have a CLT market in Washington, but supporting one would have multiple benefits, including jobs and an opportunity to keep forests working and to address the ongoing forest health crisis. The manufacturers of CLT need access to small diameter fiber, which is often the wood that is removed in forest health treatments. An active CLT market would save the state money in forest fire prevention and suppression costs. Washington is well positioned to take advantage of this growing market, and the tax incentive in my bill would help jumpstart this new industry. The measure did not make it out of the Finance Committee, but it may not be dead yet. I’ll keep you posted if we get it moving again through budget negotiations.


Watch my Videos

As you know, I do two types of short videos during session. One is my Legislative Video Update, and the other one is my Ask Brian video where I respond to constituent emails. Here’s the link to my YouTube playlist, if you’re interested in checking them out.

Thank you for taking the time to read my e-newsletter. Stay in touch through emails or phone, hearing from you helps me represent you better.

Best regards,