Speaker Laurie Jinkins
Opening Day Speech
2020 Legislative Session
Thank you, Pat.
Thank you, Kim, for your beautiful rendition of the national anthem. You always move me.
Connie, there is no other person in the world I hoped would give the blessing on this day. Thank you.
Justice Fairhurst, you hired both Laura and I to our first jobs. You married us. And I’m incredibly honored that this would be your last official act.
I want to thank the good member from the 44th for his uplifting words.
There is no other member of this body more able to call on our better angels as we struggle with tough policy issues.
And the good member is right. Barriers do not come down by themselves.
I stand here today on the shoulders of many who came before me…
…a legacy of hard-working, determined people who – to quote from the Broadway musical Hamilton – planted seeds in a garden they never got to see. To my friends Jan, Judie, Gloria, Bill and LaVonne, I know that you are here in spirit.
Many lawmakers in this chamber are honoring that history by wearing white as a tribute to the suffragettes who marched, organized and got arrested until it was possible for a woman to vote, run for office—or to become Speaker of the House.
This year is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, a movement that – while pivotal to giving women opportunities in public and civic life – was not as inclusive as it should have been.
A century later, we are still dismantling barriers.
Many have asked me what it’s like to be the first woman and the first out lesbian Speaker of the House. Well, I’m about to find out.
Another barrier is broken, but it won’t be the last. Today represents another step toward inclusion, toward more seats at the table.
I want to take a moment to thank my own family for their love and support.
My wife, Laura, and our son Wulf, who teach me every day about everything from the finer details of employment law, to the struggles of college students, to how to be present and loving for friends and family.
My parents, Donna and Jack Jinkins, who flew out from rural Wisconsin and remain quite perplexed by a daughter who is this interested in politics.
My sisters, Julie and Karri. My sister-in-law, Tobey, niece Sasha and her new husband Dan. My sister-in-law Glenda and her husband Jim, my backpacking buddy.
I’m the oldest of five siblings and my sister Julie told me when I was elected to this position by my caucus, “Congratulations, but you’ve always been the speaker of our house.”
I’m honored that my family, my friends and many of my mentors are here today as I move into the hardest, and most fulfilling, job I’ll ever have.
The most important people of my legislative career are also here: my current and former legislative assistants. Jessica, Lynda, Cinthia, and Ann, you have been such effective partners, and guided me wisely. Goodness knows I’ve needed it. Thank you.
I also want to thank the good member from the 2nd District, my counterpart from across the aisle.
We were elected in the same year—2011—and have already had a lot of opportunities to work together as colleagues. Both of us call Pierce County our home, and we both come from rural upbringings that shape our views of the world. JT, I appreciate your commitment to making Washington state a better place, and look forward to continuing our work together in these roles.
And I want to extend a warm welcome to the new members of this body.
Please join me in welcoming our colleagues from the 1st and 40th Districts – Rep. Duerr and Rep. Ramel. Please stand.
Thank you for stepping up to take on this important work.
You may notice another new face on the House floor. One that most of us are used to seeing on this side of the rostrum.
Frank, thank you for your decades of service and commitment to the people of Washington. Your leadership, spirit of cooperation and creativity has transformed this place and our state, and I feel lucky that you remain here.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to see a lot of this state.
I made the goal – perhaps a tad ambitious – to visit each member in their district before session. It was worth every single minute and every single mile.
I shared breakfast with the member from the 19th District in Aberdeen, and with the member from the 29th District in south Tacoma. Both of their servers knew what to bring them without placing an order.
I visited the Pataha Flour Mill with the good member from the 9th District and her faith community.
The good member from the 15th District took me on a hike of the Selah Ridge, where we walked in the footsteps of Justice William O. Douglass. Quite an experience for two lawyers.
Laura and I ate the best spaghetti dinner ever at the new home of the good member from the 29th District, in the middle of her remodel.
I spent Veterans Day at the very wet Vancouver Veterans Day parade with the good member from the 18th District, and I visited with the good member from the 22nd as she was recovering from back surgery. I’m glad you’re here and healthy, Representative Dolan.
Visiting every district took me to 51 coffee shops and restaurants across Washington, but by far the best cup of coffee was the one I had with my wife just outside of Wauconda, made by the good member from the 7th District.
These visits made me optimistic about what we can accomplish together.
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.
We’re going to have differences on policy. We’ll express those differences right here in this chamber. Yet our passion comes from the same source: a deep, abiding commitment to make things better for the people of this state.
That commitment has helped us do big things together.
We created a first-in-the-nation long-term care insurance program AND the nation’s first public option health care plan.
We provided free or reduced college tuition and apprenticeships to families earning up to 100 percent of the median family income.
We moved forward on creating a first-in-the-nation behavioral health teaching hospital.
We provided our military families and veterans access to college education, and support services to cope with PTSD and address suicide prevention.
And in 2020, right now, paid family leave is in effect here in Washington!
Every Washingtonian now has up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new baby or an ailing family member.
Thank you to the good members from the 38th and 14th Districts for bringing this to Washington.
These policies will make a real difference for families in our state.
That’s why I ran for Speaker.
My family is a living example of how the laws passed here have helped people.
It’s why my wife and I were able to legally marry in 2013, the year of our 25th anniversary.
It’s why we were able to have our son, who had a great public-school education in Tacoma, and now attends one of our state’s incredible public universities.
It’s why we can afford to pay for his college education.
And why as a lesbian, I can serve openly and proudly here in the Legislature.
Our work here is about helping ALL families.
Those who are experiencing homelessness or injustices in our criminal justice system.
Those who can’t access health care due to geography or cost.
Those grappling with opioid addiction or another substance use disorder.
Those falling behind in an economy that isn’t working for everyone.
There are emergencies all across this state, and one felt in every community I visited this year was housing and homelessness.
I heard about it from the good member from the 39th in Sultan, and the good member from the 3rd in Spokane, and the good member from the 19th – who drove me through a homeless encampment in Aberdeen – and many others.
We must focus our time in this 60-day session working to ensure greater stability for families and communities by getting people inside and out of the cold with a roof over their heads and somewhere to build a life.
Washington has housing shortages across the board. There are not enough shelters for those facing homelessness, but there’s also not enough transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, low income housing, affordable housing or housing for working families.
Our approach must be comprehensive, creative and strategic.
Another issue that touches all of us is the lack of affordable child care, which hurts working families and businesses.
Last year, the Association of Washington Business reported nearly 50 percent of Washington parents found it difficult to find and keep affordable child care. This not only hurts families but it’s costing our businesses over 2 billion dollars a year.
Over the holidays, my wife and I had two couples with one-year-old kids over for breakfast. It was troubling to hear them talk about how difficult it was to find child care, and how much it costs.
Lynda and Yasmin – we’re going to do things to help you, Shoshana, Rumi and your families this year.
We’re also going to help our families, farms and businesses that are threatened by the effects of climate change.
My brother Todd was going to be here to see my swearing in. He’s in charge of the Bureau of Land Management Smokejumper station in Boise, Idaho. His team of specially trained wildland firefighters actually parachute into remote and rugged terrain.
But Todd isn’t here today because he’s in Australia helping to fight the massive, catastrophic wildfires. He’s one of my heroes.
Australia is the latest striking example of our climate crisis. Our own Department of Natural Resources fought a record 1,850 wildfires in our state in 2018.
We took a big step on climate last year by passing our first in the nation 100 percent clean electricity and energy efficiency standard for Washington’s buildings bills, and a bill to advance green transportation in our state.
Now we have to take more steps. I’m calling on you, on us, to be the leaders our state, our country, and our planet need to protect our future before it’s too late.
I’m also hoping we can be leaders this year by bringing down the high cost of health care.
My wife is a cancer survivor, and I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic since childhood. Thanks to the great health care we’ve been able to access here in Washington state, our family is healthy and I can afford the insulin that helps keep me alive. That’s not the case for everyone.
The good member from the 9th and I have spent a lot of time talking about her child’s new diagnosis with diabetes, and the challenges their family has in finding insurance coverage for pediatric insulin.
And, this spring, I was invited to speak at Camp Panther, a week-long day camp for kids who are Type 1 diabetics.
After I finished speaking, a five-year-old girl raised her hand and asked if I could help make her insulin less expensive, because it was hard for her family to pay for it.
No kid should have to worry about this.
If there’s one thing we should get done this year, it’s ensuring that no one has to worry about affording lifesaving prescription drugs, like insulin.
And there are other policies we can pass to protect our children, our families, and our communities.
We can take further steps to reduce gun violence, invest in our K-12 education system, strengthen consumer protections, and safeguard data privacy.
In 60 days, in a supplemental budget year, it might not be possible to accomplish all of this.
Sometimes success is measured in increments. In fact, in the legislature this is often how we measure things. What’s important is that we keep moving forward.
And it’s not always easy.
This session, we’re going to be grappling with the effects of Initiative 976 on our transportation system.
I’m not going to sugar coat it – the impacts of this initiative are devastating to transportation in our state, particularly for seniors, people with disabilities, and people with low-incomes—many of whom rely on our buses, ferries, trains and other public transportation.
We will fight to protect our most vulnerable communities. I’m grateful to my seatmate, the good member from the 27th, who is working with the good member from the 2nd, Rep. Barkis to do this. We’ll work with our colleagues across the Rotunda and the Governor to keep Washington moving. It’s going to be hard. But we will do this hard work together.
Since my election as Speaker-designate, the number one question I’ve gotten from folks outside the legislature is, How do you deal with all that partisanship?
I get why they ask the question – we’re often confused with the other Washington. But I know from my travels around the state, and from meeting with all of you, that in THIS Washington, there’s much that unites us.
I’ve had the privilege of working with so many of you, from both sides of the aisle, on great legislation. First as a new member, later as a committee chair, and now as Speaker of the House.
This body is the most diverse it has ever been!
And that is our strength.
The poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Here in Washington, we celebrate those differences.
That’s why I am standing here today.
It’s why I’m so committed to equity and inclusion, to expanding justice and opportunity for everyone in our great state.
It’s why I’m confident the diversity of this body will bring even better solutions for the people of Washington.
Now is the time to plant seeds in gardens we may never see grow.
This session, let’s start planting those seeds.