After years of gridlock and overtime sessions, the 2018 legislative session not only ended on time, but also saw the passage of several landmark pieces of legislation. Below, you’ll find more details about some of these legislative successes, as well as the legislation I worked on this year.
Passing a Balanced Budget
In the 60-day session, we approved a balanced budget that invests in our behavioral health system, expands access to higher education, and strengthens the safety net for struggling families and vulnerable Washingtonians. In addition, the budget addressed the last remaining element of the Supreme Court’s McCleary education lawsuit: teacher salaries.
By investing another $1 billion to support our teachers, we finally fulfilled our obligation to provide full funding for our public schools.
Reducing Property Taxes
On top of the investments in the budget, we also had the unique opportunity to lower property taxes.
With unexpected revenue growth, the state had more money than we needed to meet our obligations. I was happy to vote for more than $390 million in property tax relief, returning the money back to property owners.
Improving Access to Democracy
Here in Washington state, we’ve helped lead the nation in expanding democracy.
Registered voters are given two and half weeks to fill out mail-in ballots and return them. This year we expanded the number of ballot drop boxes around the state in an effort to make returning a ballot easier.
However, voter turnout is still too low. In fact, 2014 saw our lowest mid-term election turnout in more than 50 years.
In order to maximize the voice of the people, we passed a package of bills to improve access to the ballot and strengthen our democracy:
Addressing the Opioid Crisis
Opioid use disorder is an epidemic across the nation. Washington state isn’t immune — family members and friends are getting hooked on pills after surgeries, accidents, or other injuries. Thousands of lives are damaged, destroyed, or even lost because opioids are easily abused, sometimes before you even realize it’s happening.
This session, we took steps to address the opioid epidemic by significantly increasing funding for opioid use disorder treatment, new data tracking to improve supply distribution, increased staffing for the Prescription Monitoring Program, and increased access to the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone. We also passed a first-in-the-nation drug take back program, which will be paid for and maintained by drug manufacturers. Getting opioids and other drugs out of our medicine cabinets and away from our communities when they are no longer needed is another step on the long road toward ending the opioid crisis.
Often, after discovering a security breach has compromised their information, people rush to protect themselves from identity theft by freezing their credit. Up until now, they would find that doing so comes with a cost. The big three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) each charge $10 each time someone wants to freeze or unfreeze credit information. This session, however, we passed legislation to remove that fee and help consumers protect themselves from identity theft.
Washington also became the first state in the nation to pass a net neutrality law to protect against internet providers slowing or reducing internet service in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission rescinding the protections at the national level.
Under the legislation, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are prohibited from:
Promoting Public Safety
Every year, about 8,000 people are released from prison here in Washington, but too many of them go back to prison, because they don’t get the help they need to make a successful transition back into the community. I’m happy to report that I was able to move forward legislation to improve programs to ease prisoners’ transition into the community, which will help those who have served their time have a better chance of succeeding after release, reducing re-offense rates and keeping our communities safer.
In addition, I secured $7.5 million to rebuild the facility at the State Fire Training Academy, to make sure that all firefighters have regular, live fire training so that all of our communities know that their firefighters will be adequately prepared to protect them.
I also worked with colleagues in the Senate to pass legislation giving the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit the law enforcement authority to investigate and criminally prosecute fraud, abuse and neglect perpetrated by Medicaid providers.
Building Bridges Between Community and Law Enforcement
Without a doubt, the major achievement for the year was bringing together law enforcement, community groups, and lawmakers from across the political spectrum to reform Washington’s law related to police use of deadly force, and to start to build more trust between police and the community.
Last year, community members collected enough signatures to bring a deadly force initiative to the Legislature, Initiative 940, which came before my committee.
Throughout the session, I facilitated meetings with families, community groups, and representatives of law enforcement to find shared goals and agree to pass the initiative in the Legislature. We also agreed on language to clarify and improve the initiative after it becomes law, allowing for the policy to be implemented quickly and for the healing process between police and the community to begin as soon as possible.
The update to our law will help improve the relationship between law enforcement and communities by increasing training and accountability, requiring law enforcement to render first aid at the earliest opportunity, ensuring independent investigations for deadly force incidents, and including standards for family and community notification. The new policy establishes an objective good faith standard by which prosecutors can more clearly evaluate incidents when police use deadly force and whether or not to bring criminal charges.
We will now be able to provide the necessary tools for law enforcement to carry out their difficult jobs while creating accountability for aggrieved communities. By building this bridge, we can build trust between police and the community and reduce the needless use of deadly force.
Learn more about the 2018 legislative session in my latest GoodMinute video update!
All in all, it was a very productive and successful legislative session. If you want more information about these new laws or if you have questions about other issues we worked on this session, feel free to reach out!
All best wishes,
Representative, 45th District
Washington State Legislature