Legislative update: Police reform, education, housing, and COVID vaccinations

Dear neighbors, 

Thank you to everyone who participated in our first virtual town hall meeting for the 22nd District! 

It was a pleasure to answer your questions. 

This week, we’d like to give you important updates on police reform, education, housing, and COVID vaccinations. 

Police reform 

After the death of George Floyd last summer, we witnessed the largest civil rights protests in our nation’s history, a movement that spread across the globe. 

We heard those voices, and more than a dozen bills have been introduced to tackle different parts of the problem with the use of force by police. 

When someone is shot or killed by police and the law doesn’t offer pathways to clear justice for the victim, it damages the community, the reputation of law enforcement, and the notion of justice. Unnecessary police violence and a lack of accountability for that violence led to significant portions of the population losing trust in law enforcement. This summer we saw millions of people around the world and tens of thousands here in Washington demand change.  

In response, the Washington House of Representatives organized the Policing Policy Leadership Team. Led by members from communities who are disproportionately impacted by unnecessary police violence, the team met with community members, the families of victims of police violence, youth organizations, civil rights organizations, law enforcement unions, and academics.  

From this work, a clear picture of how we can change the culture of policing and reestablish communities’ trust in law enforcement emerged. 

Here’s an update about four key pieces of legislation: 

House Bill 1203 creates community oversight boards that allow the community the ability to review and provide input on the policies, discipline processes, and complaints for their local law enforcement agency. 

House Bill 1267 creates an independent agency to investigate deadly uses of force, allowing families of those killed by police as well as the community to have faith that a proper investigation occurred.   

House Bill 1054 set a baseline of acceptable tactics and equipment that make it clear that preserving and protecting human life must be law enforcement’s highest value. 

House Bill 1140 Requires law enforcement to provide juveniles with access to an attorney prior to any waiver of the juvenile’s constitutional rights. 

The goal of all of this is to strengthen accountability while rebuilding trust between communities and the police sworn to protect them. 

Helping students graduate during the pandemic 

 Steven M. Herppich

The House passed a bill to ensure that current Washington high school seniors can still graduate during this public health crisis, eliminating uncertainty for families and educators. 

The pandemic has disrupted learning all over our state. There is no school district that has not been hurt by COVID-19, and students should not be punished for circumstances out of their control. With this bill, districts can grant emergency credit waivers to eligible students who are on track to graduate. 

We’re proud of our action to help students succeed and move forward in achieving their dreams. We need to lift up the resilient, hardworking students of Washington. 

House Bill 1121 passed the 87-11 and is now being considered by the Senate, and if it passes, the final step is the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Helping cities become more livable 

A large part of our housing and homeless crisis stems from a lack of “middle housing,” which is everything in between a single-family home and an apartment building. That range includes tiny houses, duplexes, row houses, and triplexes. 

House Bill 1157 will help local governments plan for these housing types and pushes for a targeted amount of middle housing.  

The bill also authorizes cities and counties to establish incentive zones for such housing within urban growth areas, using the Real Estate Excise Tax as the vehicle for such incentives. 

Giving more people the chance to own home 

suburbs, homes

The clearest divide between the have’s and the have-nots is simple: homeownership. 

A house is typically your family’s largest asset. Not owning a home in your lifetime means that all the rent you paid goes into another’s pocket instead of building equity. 

House Bill 1350 gives more families the ability to become owners via co-ops.  

It allows for people to have limited equity, meaning they share ownership. 

This creative reform would give working families who couldn’t qualify for a regular mortgage the chance to build equity and wealth, month after month, instead of simply paying rent. 

Adding another judge in Thurston County Superior Court 

There’s a crunch in our local courts, with our county’s superior court one of the most understaffed in the state. 

Our population has increased by 40 percent since 1996, the last time the number of judges was increased in this county. 

House Bill 1167 would help close that gap and give more people access to our system of justice. 

COVID-19 vaccinations 

Child receiving shot

Many of you are asking about vaccination availability. 

The best way to sign up for COVID vaccinations is online—click here. If you know someone who doesn’t have access to the internet, they can call the Washington State Department of Health vaccine phone line at 888- 856-5816 or 800-525-0127 to receive assistance with making vaccine appointments as they become available. A Spanish option is also available. The COVID-19 hotline is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

If you are unable to reach the state Department of Health through their vaccine line, you may call Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) at 360-867-2610 for assistance. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and to all of you who’ve shared your ideas, comments, and questions.

It is an honor to represent you, and we hope to hear from you soon!