Happy New Year friends and neighbors,
I last sent out a newsletter in the month of December. Since then, the 2017 legislative session has begun. Last Monday, I was sworn in to my fourth term as a State Representative in the 27th Legislative District. I am as excited about the work we can do to move Washington forward today as I was seven years ago.
We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, the most pressing of which is fully funding our children’s K-12 public education. We need to do this while making sure we don’t negatively impact our social safety net. After all, a hungry, homeless child who is dealing with family domestic violence or mental illness issues will not be able to learn. Our schools, social safety net and beautiful environment all interact to make Washington the wonderful place it is to live, work and play. No more excuses. It’s time address these issues now.
As always, if you have questions, concerns or have an issue you’d like addressed in this newsletter, please feel free to contact my office. You can email me here or call my Olympia office at 360-786-7930.
Let’s fund education. No excuses.
In addition to health care access, this upcoming session one of my primary focus areas will be to work with my colleagues to ensure we are fulfilling our paramount duty of fully funding K-12 public education. Our students, especially low-income students of color, are bearing the brunt of inadequate classroom space, teacher shortages, and insufficient money to fund early learning programs and other developmental programs.
In past sessions, the Legislature has made significant progress in increasing education funding- almost $5 billion in new investments since 2011. However, there is still much more work to be done to ensure we fully fund public schools for the 1.1 million public school students in our state.
One of the first bills likely to be passed out of on the House floor will be HB 1059. It addresses temporary measures known as the “Levy Cliff” that allows local school districts to make up for state funding shortfalls due to the Great Recession. These measures are set to expire this legislative session.
This means that unless the Legislature passes HB 1059, districts are going to be forced to make drastic cuts. It is estimated that schools across Washington will lose nearly $500 million. This bill is necessary to make sure schools can plan their budget accurately for this upcoming school year.
In addition, I will continue working with our caucus to ensure that the recommendations put forth by the Education Funding Task Force, found here, are implemented. I am hopeful that my colleagues across the aisle and chamber will come together to support fully funded schools and put our children first. No more delays.
Select Committee sends bi-partisan mental health recommendations to Gov. Inslee
I’ve been working with seven other state legislators and staff from the Governor’s Office as co-chair of the bi-partisan Select Committee for Quality Improve in State Hospitals (SCQISH). Over the interim we heard from various experts in mental health, State Hospital staff, and community leaders. The data and stories we heard reinforced the urgent need to address the many safety and capacity issues our state mental hospitals (Western and Eastern State Hospital).
This past week, the legislators on the committee unanimously signed a letter to the Governor’s Office with initial recommendations. I hope that the strong bipartisan support for action will help us move together to improve the care and increase the safety for patients, staff, and community members.
Some of our key recommendations include:
- Prioritizing capacity at state hospitals for forensic rather than civil commitments
- Create capacity for inpatient psychiatric care in community settings for most civil commitments
- Exploring diversion strategies that reduce the need for inpatient treatment
You can follow this link to review the entire letter.
I remain committed to continue working with my colleagues, community leaders, and mental health professionals this upcoming legislative session. There is still much to be done to insure that everyone in our community is receiving the care that they need and deserve, and we will use the recommendations as a framework for future policy and budget proposals.
Keeping Quality Healthcare
As a public health professional, and a member of the Healthcare and Wellness Committee, ensuring Washingtonians have adequate access to the care they need and deserve is one of my priorities. While we still have much work to do to assure access, 780,000 have received health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
You may already be aware, there could be drastic changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). All Washingtonians will ultimately be affected if the ACA is repealed, especially the 780,000 who have gained access to health insurance and the 180,000 who receive services through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Currently, those who are able to get free preventative care, and the ability to cover children up to age 26 are likely to lose these protections. Excluding insurance for those with pre-existing conditions may also come to pass. This affects our most vulnerable, especially our elderly, people with disabilities, women, and children.
The state Office of Financial Management has compiled a fact sheet detailing the impact of the ACA in Washington.
Stay tuned as we begin working to ensure Washington remains a place where people can always get the care that they need.
Last Call To Apply for the House Page Program
As the 2017 legislative session begins we are excited to offer young people the opportunity to become House pages. My office can still sponsor a few more pages, so please submit an application as soon as possible. An application found here.
Every year we invite dozens of 14, 15, and 16 year-olds to come to Olympia for one week to be a part of the House Page Program. These students get the unique opportunity to experience our State Legislature through hands on learning and have the opportunity to perform critical legislative tasks. Feel free to watch this video to see Pages in action.
If you know of other community and organizational leaders who work with high school students, please feel free to forward them this opportunity. I am particularly interested in engaging more young women, youth of color, and others who may not historically have had access to our Page Program. This is a great opportunity to learn about our legislative system!