Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Orwall’s Feb. 11 e-Newsletter: Town Hall / Bills update / Homelessness / Intern / Gravitational Waves

Dear Neighbors,

We’re half way through this session and thing are moving really quickly, especially since we’re on the Floor passing bills around the clock this week, so it’s time for an update on what’s going on in Olympia.

With almost 2,000 bills introduced so far in the 2015-2016 biennium, you might wonder how legislators can keep track of it all.

Tina in committeeThe House of Representatives has 21 committees, each focused on a specific set of issues. At any given time, up to five different committees may be meeting at once, each considering their own lists of legislation and hearing from members of the public. Each legislator serves on two, three or even four committees and that’s how we are able to dive deep into the bills that consider issues specific to those committees.

Another thing that helps us narrow down which bills to concentrate on is the series of deadlines that a bill must meet in order to move forward in the legislative process.

Any House bills that did not pass out of one of the policy committees by February 5th, or one of the fiscal committees by February 9th, likely won’t be considered any more this session. The exception is for bills that are necessary to implement the budget.


Update on my bills

I’m pleased that 8 of my bills have survived the cutoffs and are still alive.

HB 2597, relating to training school educators to effectively address reports of child abuse in schools, passed the House this week. It adds to the requirement that school districts have a plan for recognition, initial screening, and response to emotional or behavioral distress in students, the indicator of possible sexual abuse.  It also clarifies the plan’s protocols and procedures for communication with parents and guardians, and includes parental notification of alleged sexual misconduct by a school employee.

As mentioned earlier, the House is on the Floor for the next week voting on bills, and I hope the remainder of my bills come up for a vote before the House of Origin cutoff on February 17th.

HB 1213 is a carryover from last year’s session. It simplifies the definition of “veteran” to be more consistent with federal definitions and helps to streamline veterans into the services they need.

HB 2341 closes DNA collection loopholes to help crime investigators and increase public safety.

HB 2449, known as the Keeping Kids in School Act, reduces truancy in schools through increased engagement and resources to students, schools, and parents, and promotes partnerships between the schools and courts to keep kids in the community and in school.

HB 2530 protects victims of sex crimes by addressing the backlog of 6,000 untested rape kits in our state.

HB 2668 allows former victims of human trafficking to vacate their records so they can get out of prostitution and lead healthy, productive lives.

HB 2793 provides for suicide awareness and prevention education for safer homes by reducing access to lethal means for people at risk of suicide.

HB 2876 provides financial support for the Foreclosure Fairness Act.


Securing safe, affordable homes

Nobody should have to wonder if they will have a safe place to stay tonight. In King County alone, the One Night Count found more than 4,500 people sleeping outside. This number is an increase of 19 percent over those found without shelter last year.



As you can see from the chart below, count numbers went up most dramatically in cities in South King County.


Our state also received the unfortunate news this week that the number of homeless students in Washington state has increased by more than 9 percent from the last annual count.

There are now more than 35,500 kids in our schools that don’t have a secure place to sleep at night.

Most adults would find it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve success at their jobs if they were homeless. How can we expect homeless kids to achieve success at school if they’re cold, hungry and unsafe?

The stock market has recovered. Unemployment rates are back to pre-recession levels. Yet homelessness has reached crisis levels. It is an emergency and the Legislature should treat it as such.

My colleague, Rep. Jake Fey, has a great bill to help reduce youth homelessness, and I was pleased to vote for it on the House floor. I also look forward to supporting HB 2396, another great measure related to helping homeless youth get access to health care when they are sick instead of waiting until the condition turns into an emergency.


Meet my policy intern

UW president ShoshanaThere are many rewarding things about serving in the State Legislature, like meeting with many of you to work together on solving pressing issues in our district and statewide, or like sponsoring pages from schools in our district so they can have a hands-on experience of the legislative process. And I am also fortunate to work with young, talented people who serve as interns here in the Capitol.  This year I am pleased and grateful to have Shoshana Wineburg as my UW Master of Social Work policy intern. She is a critical part of helping legislation move forward and a great addition to our team!



A great day in Science

albert-einsteinThe National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the detection of gravitational waves by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) observatories located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, verifying part of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This new finding may lead to developing technology in warp speed.


Come to our town hall!

Please join me and Legislators from the 33rd and the 11th legislative districts at our joint town hall on Saturday, February 20 from 10 to noon at Aviation High School located at 9229 East Marginal Way South in Tukwila.