Legislative Update: Budget Highlights, Celebrating Spring and Diversity, A Word on Hate Crimes & More

Dear friends and neighbors,

It was such a joy to see so many at the town hall a week and a half ago at LiUNA Labor Hall in Des Moines. Sen. Karen Keiser, Rep. Tina Orwall and I always enjoy meeting with you and taking your questions and providing updates on what’s going on in Olympia.

Yesterday, I was honored to be part of the House Democrats budget team that unveiled our “Resilient Washington” 2023-2025 operating budget. It is a $69.5 billion biennial budget that is both responsible and sustainable. The plan maintains critical investments made over the last few years and increases support for K-12 and special education, workforce development and poverty reduction. We also continue funding the programs expanded during the pandemic to protect the most vulnerable Washingtonians, while strategically maintaining high priority investments despite reduced federal financial support.

You can watch the House operating budget press conference here. The capital and transportation budgets for the state were also released yesterday.

Sine die on April 23 is now less than a month away and there’s still a lot to get done!

The Fair Repair Act is Advancing Through the Senate

For several years, fellow members, important stakeholders and I have been working on right to repair legislation. This year, the bill I sponsored, HB 1392, passed through the House on March 4 and is scheduled for executive session in the Senate today.

This bill is important for all of us—not just small mom-and-pop repair shop owners, but kids and families, too! An op-ed I recently wrote with two other supporters of this bill was recently published in the Seattle Times. Click here to read it.

Celebrating Spring and Celebrating Our Diversity

Spring is such a joyful time of year with all the colorful blossoms on the trees and so many flowers in bloom. It’s also a time of many religious celebrations.

On March 21, my fellow member, Rep. Darya Farivar, wished everyone a Happy Nowruz. Nowruz marks the new year in the Persian calendar and the first day of spring for many people from Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other countries and regions.

A day later, at sundown on March 22, Rep. Farivar wished everyone Ramadan Mubarak (or Happy Ramadan)! Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. This year, Ramadan ends on April 20.

Tomorrow, I’ll be joining my fellow members of the HDC at a Legislative Seder meal. Fellow member, Rep. Tana Senn, organizes this biannual event as a way for Jewish and non-Jewish people to come together to learn about the book of Exodus, engage in discussion and eat good food. Seder is typically celebrated during Passover, so the legislative seder is celebrated early as Passover begins at sundown on April 5 and ends on April 13.

Christians around the world will also be celebrating Easter on April 9 (April 16 for Orthodox Christians).

A Word on Hate Crimes

Last week,  SB 5623, a bill about hate crimes and the abuse of a symbol, was heard on the House floor and passed with a vote of 89-9 and is one step closer to being signed by the Governor and becoming law. Sen. Manka Dhingra is the prime sponsor of this bill, and I was happy to vote in favor of it.

Earlier this session, after Dhingra introduced the bill, she received an email from the Hindu-American Federation asking that the word swastika be replaced with Hakenkreuz, which is what the Nazi symbol is more appropriately called. The answer to prejudice and hate lies in education and sharing this information with you is meant to foster a more inclusive and tolerant society for all.

The swastika is a Sanskrit word that means “that which makes all well” and has been a sacred, auspicious symbol to many faith communities—Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains— for more than 4,000 years.

Dhingra is an Indian American and shared with me that she always felt conflicted about the swastika. During Diwali, the Indian celebration of light over darkness (or good over evil), Hindus post swastikas on their windows and doorways as a symbol of good fortune and peace. Sadly, this has led to hate crimes in her community due to a lack of knowledge and tolerance of cultural identity.

Wording is important, and this small change in SB 5623 was a critical step in correcting the abuse of a centuries-old sacred symbol. Once signed into law, SB 5623 means that Washington will join California in passing legislation to decriminalize the sacred swastika for Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists to educate the public and law enforcement about the important distinction between the swastika and the hateful Nazi Hakenkreuz.

Still curious to learn more? Click here to listen to this episode of Code Switch that aired on NPR’s All Things Considered a few years ago: “Diwali Dilemma: My Complicated Relationship with the Swastika.”

Best wishes,