The legislature began a second special session on May 23 to finish our work on the state budget and bills necessary to implement the budget. My bill, House Bill 1570, the Washington State Housing Opportunities Act, is one of those necessary bills, and I’m glad to report to you that it passed the House recently.
President Obama’s top advisor on homelessness, Barbara Poppe, wrote this op-ed in support of my bill.
The Washington State Housing Opportunities Act renews and expands the Home Security Fund, one of our most important tools to address housing affordability and homelessness. Since the legislature first enacted a surcharge on real estate documents to create the Home Security Fund twelve years ago, we have seen a statewide per-capita decrease of nearly 20 percent. In raw numbers, however, the actual number of homeless persons has climbed. The surcharge invests in a range of interventions including domestic violence programs, services for homeless youth and young adults, permanent supportive housing, and emergency shelter.
Without my bill, thirty dollars of the surcharge, which now stands at $48, was set to expire next year. My bill gives communities additional authority to increase the fee in order to respond to the unique housing affordability and homelessness crises that all communities in Washington—urban and rural—are experiencing.
This is my top priority bill in my first session as your Representative, and I’ve been working since day one with stakeholders on all sides of the issue, local and county officials across the state, and legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of the legislature to keep and expand this important program. The bill is now in the Senate, and continued outreach to members of that Chamber is important. Just this week, the Seattle Times reported on the rising number of homeless people in our state.
Reaffirming my support for a carbon tax
The dangerously irresponsible decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement has made it more urgent for states and cities to take the lead on curbing the moral crisis created by President Trump’s actions. I wholeheartedly applaud Governor Inslee’s leadership in joining California and New York in forming the United States Climate Alliance. I’m sad for our nation and our world today, but heartened to know we have leaders like Governor Inslee and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon in our state. I’m grateful I get to call them colleagues in this upside down state of the world.
As this special session continues, I want you to know that I am renewing my commitment to advocate for a carbon tax as part of our budget solutions. It is within reach.
I stand firm with Rep. Fitzgibbon and share these principles for a carbon tax:
“Any carbon tax proposal that we enact must provide support for disadvantaged communities, must support an equitable transition for workers and businesses to a less carbon-intense economy, must protect energy intense, trade-exposed industries like pulp & paper, steel, and aluminum, and must invest in greater emissions reductions.”
Governor signs Law Enforcement and Victims’ Safety bill
We recently passed the fifth anniversary of the tragic shooting at Café Racer. We continue to push for policies that end the crisis of gun violence by promoting responsible gun ownership. I’m glad to report that the legislature made an important—and bipartisan—step towards these goals. Governor Inslee recently signed House Bill 1501 to protect law enforcement and the public from persons who illegally attempt to obtain firearms. The bill requires firearms dealers to notify law enforcement when the dealer denies an application for a firearm because the person fails a background check and makes that information available to officers in the field to protect public safety. It also requires law enforcement to notify domestic violence survivors when an abuser with a protective order prohibiting firearms possession attempts to obtain a firearm. With Rep. Drew Hansen’s leadership, this bill passed the House 83-13 and unanimously passed the Senate.
Budget negotiations progressing, but not fast enough
I have been actively engaged in budget issues around homelessness and housing to make sure the budget we pass—a moral document—helps our communities reduce homelessness, while fulfilling our State’s other responsibilities, including our paramount duty to fully fund public education for all students.
Republicans and Democrats are finally sitting down to negotiate the budget together, and we must continue moving forward in a bipartisan manner to avoid a devastating shutdown of state government.
I’m hearing from my constituents that this is no time for partisanship and to get the job done, pass a budget, and go home. I agree with you, and I know many of my colleagues in the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle are hearing the same message in the communities they represent.
Continued advocacy on education funding and climate action
Perhaps some good news in this stalemate is that Washingtonians are civically engaged like never before. I hear your voices, and I appreciate all your advocacy.
Over a million people across the state have delivered messages supporting action to protect the climate, and parents and teachers from across the state have occupied the capital almost continuously since the end of the regular legislative session. Your voices are powerful. Thank you!!