OLYMPIA – History was made in Washington’s legislature today with the swearing in of the first new Speaker of the House in nearly 20 years. Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), is the state’s first woman Speaker and first out lesbian Speaker.
“Another barrier is broken, but it won’t be the last. Today represents another step toward inclusion, toward more seats at the table,” Jinkins said in her speech to the full House moments after being sworn in during today’s opening day ceremonies of the 2020 legislative session.
“The title of my new role may be Speaker—but I see my primary job as listening, and I promise to listen to all of you, even when we disagree,” Jinkins said.
In his nominating speech on the House floor, Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington), said, “What impresses me is how seriously [Jinkins] took on the job of listening…to everyone she’ll be leading as Speaker of the House. I find that wise and inspiring.”
Acting Speaker John Lovick (D-Mill Creek), who handed over the gavel to Jinkins, said, “For the first time, a woman will hold the gavel here in the People’s House. History like this isn’t made accidentally. Barriers that have stood for more than a century do not fall on their own. They are taken down, piece by piece, through sweat and sacrifice.”
Last July, Jinkins was elected Speaker-designate by her peers in the House Democratic Caucus. She succeeds Rep. Frank Chopp (D-Seattle), who resigned as Speaker in May, but continues to serve in the House.
Following her election as Speaker-designate, Jinkins spent the next few months traveling to every corner of the state to meet with House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in their own districts. The journey, she said today, “…was worth every single minute and every single mile.”
Those visits made her optimistic about the possibilities for bipartisan collaboration to solve some of the state’s most pressing issues, she said.
For the 60-day session, lawmakers will be tackling issues like the statewide affordable housing and homelessness crisis, child care accessibility and affordability, bringing down health care costs, and next steps on climate action. Addressing the impacts of I-976 on Washington’s transportation system will also be a high priority.
Core responsibilities of the Speaker include serving as the presiding officer of the House of Representatives, chair of Executive Rules (House administrative committee), and chair of the House Rules committee. The Speaker appoints other elected members to standing and statutory committees, signs all bills in open session, and oversees all employees of the House.
An attorney with a background in public health, Jinkins began her career protecting Washington’s children from abuse and neglect. She has been active in advancing Washington’s anti-discrimination laws both prior to and during her time in the House. Her full bio can be read here.