Dear friends and neighbors,
This is Committee Assembly week in Olympia, which is when House and Senate committees meet to discuss priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
The House Judiciary committee, which I chair, is holding a work session tomorrow on three topics:
- A review of firearms types and Washington firearms laws. As we consider legislation related to gun violence, It’s important that lawmakers understand both the difference between pistols, rifles, semi-automatic guns and other types of firearms, and the difference in the way each are currently regulated in the state of Washington.
- A discussion on civil property forfeiture, which is the seizure of private property (including cash, cars, homes, etc.) by law enforcement when it is believed the property is involved in a crime. Sometimes, law enforcement does not end up filing charges even though it has seized the property. The burden is then on the property owner to go before a judge to get the property back. This is difficult to do without hiring an attorney, but the fees for hiring an attorney can sometimes exceed the value of the property.
- A discussion of how we might move legal disputes relating to the release of public records in a way that is less costly, less complex, and less time-consuming.
Meanwhile, the outcome of the recent election put Democrats in control of the state Senate. With the House also under Democratic control, this opens up the possibility to pass previously stalled legislation. I will be meeting soon with the new chairs of Senate committees that share jurisdiction with the Judiciary committee to discuss priorities for the 2018 legislative session.
Speaking of the upcoming session, if you know someone ages 14-16 who would be interested in being a legislative page, read below for information on how to apply. There is also a new scholarship available this year to help students and their families afford the incidental expenses of paging in Olympia.
Finally, I will be holding a few more drop-in office hours in neighborhoods around Tacoma this year, as well as one more Community Conversation event with my seatmates, Rep. Fey and Sen. Darneille. See below for dates and times. I hope to see you at one of these events.
Sexual harassment in the legislature: Women say “enough”
A couple of weeks ago, I helped spearhead a letter to legislative leadership and members about the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in our state capitol. This problem affects women from both sides of the aisle and from all four caucuses, as well as staff and lobbyists. Innuendo, inappropriate jokes, unwelcome advances, groping, and assault have occurred on both sides of the aisle and within all four caucuses, as well as to staff and lobbyists, for too long. It is time for us to stand together and demand a change in the culture that has not been successful in at ending sexual harassment in this workplace.
Over 170 women signed the letter initially, and more continue to add their names. As someone who helped collect signatures, I admit I was astounded by the number of women who wanted to sign on. So far, I have learned that we cannot end sexual harassment with just a change to policy. It will take policy change, culture change, involvement of both women and men, and listening to victims if we are going to end this pervasive problem, as we all want to do. The problem of sexual harassment is complex, and so are the solutions.
I am committed to both changing our culture and to building a safe process for reporting harassment and inappropriate behavior. This is an area where we must lead the way, not look the other way.
New scholarship makes legislative page program accessible to all
The legislative page program allows students ages 14 -16 the opportunity to participate in state government by becoming an employee for one 40-hour workweek. Pages earn a stipend of $35/day and for many, it’s their first job. Applications are selected by senators and representatives from their home districts. Page school supplements the hands-on learning experience with a classroom component geared toward understanding the mechanics of lawmaking and civic involvement.
Every student should have the opportunity to apply to the program, but unfortunately for students from low-income households, financial barriers to participation exist. These barriers include the cost of travel to and from Olympia, and incidental expenses related to staying in Olympia for a full week such as housing, food, and attire. To provide more access to students, the Gina Grant Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship was created in the 2017 legislative session. This scholarship honors the late Gina Grant Bull, who was a former page director for the House, and a longtime dedicated member of the legislative community. Gina valued every student in the page program and believed all youth should have the opportunity to serve. I believe this as well, and that’s why I’m pleased there is now a scholarship program to help those who would otherwise be unable to afford this unique educational experience.
If you know of a student who would be interested in applying for the Page Program, please share the application and scholarship form with them. Applications are being accepted now, and I invite you to send your application directly to me if you’re interested in serving this year.
Meet with me in your neighborhood
My final drop-in office hours for 2017 are scheduled for the following dates and times. Come meet with me in your neighborhood, no appointment necessary!
- Tuesday, 11/21 from noon to 2:00 p.m. at Dolce Si, 5005 Main Street, Suite 105, Ruston
- Tuesday, 12/5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Olive Branch Cafe, 2501 East D Street (in Freighthouse Square)
- Tuesday, 12/19, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Savor, 1916 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma
There is also one final “Community Conversation” scheduled. This is your chance to sit down with Rep. Fey, Sen. Darneille and me and talk about issues of importance to our district. All are welcome. Mark your calendars for:
- Tuesday, 12/12 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Salishan (International Place Common Room), 1701 East 44th Street, Tacoma