Dear friends and neighbors,
Washington state is experiencing an increase in cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including several deaths. It is anticipated that the virus will continue to spread. As your legislator, and someone who’s spent my career in public health, I want to make sure you have the facts and understand the basics on how to stay healthy.
First, health officials are working rapidly to identify and test people who may have been exposed. Public health officials in our state have experience responding to pandemics and are working with state and county health officials to share information, deploy resources, and respond at maximum capacity. I know our local Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is mobilized to respond to this evolving situation.
Second, currently the risk to the general public is low due to the unlikelihood of exposure to the virus. Risk of exposure is elevated for healthcare workers, people who have had close contact with persons with COVID-19, and travelers returning from affected international locations (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Hong Kong).
Third, understand how to best protect yourself and your family, and what to do if you think you may have been exposed. The graphic below is from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and I find it simple and helpful:
You can also call the Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
Stay up to date through the DOH website and social media channels below:
What the Legislature is doing to respond to COVID-19:
In the House, Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Schmick, Chair and Ranking Member of the Health Care & Wellness Committee respectively, have offered a bipartisan bill to transfer $50 million to get state agencies and local governments the necessary funding to respond to COVID-19. It will also give the Department of Social and Health Services funding to increase nursing staff to help address this growing need. We’ll continue to work with DOH, DSHS, and other state agencies to identify what the Legislature can do to ensure the necessary resources are available to respond to this outbreak.
We are all in this together. Please make sure to follow the health department recommendations to keep yourself healthy and stay informed of what’s happening in our community. I’ll keep you updated on the status of our efforts in the Legislature to respond.
Cutoff week and town hall reminder
Dear friends and neighbors,
It’s a busy week at the state capitol! Yesterday, February 19, was “House of Origin cutoff.” That’s the final date for bills to be voted out of their chamber of origin if they are continuing to move forward this session. There is one exception to this cutoff: any legislation necessary to implement the state budget.
We’ve passed a lot of great bills here in the House, addressing housing and homelessness, health care, climate change, and more. This newsletter features a couple of great bills that made it through cutoff, and you can find out about many more at the town hall meeting I’m hosting this coming Saturday, February 22, with Rep. Jake Fey and Sen. Jeannie Darneille. Join us from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Eastside Community Center, 1721 E. 56th Street, Tacoma. (Sign-in begins at 9:30 a.m.)
Your ideas and feedback are always welcome. Please reach out anytime. It’s an honor to serve as your representative.
Honoring our promise to Washington’s students
Last year, the Legislature passed the Workforce Education Investment Act, which makes public college tuition-free for families making up to $50,000/year and provides partial financial aid for other low- and middle-income students. This investment fully funds the Washington College Grant (formerly the State Need Grant), meaning every student who qualifies for the grant will receive it.
But there’s more. It also funds the Guided Pathways programs at our community and technical colleges, like Tacoma Community College. Guided Pathways is a highly successful effort that helps ensure students who enroll at our state’s public two-year institutions have a clearly defined path to successfully complete a degree or certificate, preparing them for the great jobs our economy is creating.
And there’s even more! The Workforce Education Investment Act also expands enrollment in high-demand fields like nursing, engineering and computer science. Thanks to this investment, Tacoma Community College was able to increase compensation for nursing educators, enabling them to retain high-quality faculty to train students for high demand, good-paying health care jobs.
As the parent of a college student, I’m thrilled our state has expanded access to college and apprenticeships for thousands of Washingtonians in this way.
So, that was last year. What did we do this year?
The Workforce Education Investment is working so well across the state that we have more students wanting to go to school or go back to school than we expected. That’s why the House and Senate passed a bill to simplify and improve the way we collect the funding for these programs, making it easier for businesses to comply, and keeping our promise to Washington’s students.
The governor signed the bill into law on February 10.
Connecting students with environmental education
In my opening day speech, I called on my fellow lawmakers to be the leaders our state, our country, and our planet need to protect our future before it’s too late.
Children and students are particularly worried about the challenges facing our planet, feeling lost and unsure about what they can do to secure their future in the face of unsustainable practices and climate change. These young leaders are imploring politicians to do more, and it’s time we listen.
That’s why I’m excited about House Bill 2811, which was voted off the House floor last week. It brings climate science, global and local environmental impacts, and localized, project-based learning into the classrooms of Washington state.
This bill helps set up a new curriculum for students to learn about how the environment impacts them, their health, and what opportunities there are after high school to pursue jobs in sustainability, renewable energy, climate justice, conservation, and engineering.
Coming on the heels of our nation-leading 100 percent clean electricity bill last year, this legislation connects students directly to their environment and educates them to be part of the solution, which includes transitioning to a clean energy economy.
I’m also happy we passed House Bill 2311, which aligns our state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets with the latest climate science. These targets haven’t been updated since 2008, even though our scientific knowledge about climate change has evolved since then. This bill will help us make better environmental policy decisions based on vetted information.
Local arts organization receives state award
One of the highlights of my week is being able to present the award for Washington State Organization of the Year to Tacoma’s own Hilltop Artists in a ceremony today at the Governor’s Mansion.
This award is an annual honor chosen by the state Lieutenant Governor and the Association of Washington Generals. It recognizes an organization that “…has made a significant and sustained positive impact in the state.”
Since Hilltop Artists is based right here in the 27th Legislative District, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office has invited me to present the award to them, and I am honored to oblige.
Congratulations to Hilltop Artists, who provide arts education and support services to hundreds of at-risk youth each year in our community, including in their year-round programs at Jason Lee Middle School and Wilson High School.
One last reminder:
Civic participation: Town hall, Census, and more
Dear friends and neighbors,
It’s Week 4 of the 2020 legislative session, which means I’ve been on the job as Speaker of the House for about a month now. I’m learning new things all the time, and one of the things I have learned over the past few weeks is how to chair a meeting of the House Rules Committee.
The Rules Committee is mentioned in this comic strip that depicts how a bill becomes a law, but most people are unfamiliar with the committee, or how it operates.
Before becoming Speaker, I had never served on the Rules Committee. Now, I chair the meetings. It’s a fascinating piece of the legislative process, and I wanted to give folks a peek behind the doors of the House Rules Room to get a sense of what these bipartisan meetings are like. Last week, I made a short video about it.
I’m doing more of these behind-the-scenes videos, and posting them to my legislative Facebook page. Like or follow the page to join me as I go through my first session as Speaker of the House.
The theme of this newsletter is civic participation. Together with Rep. Jake Fey and Sen. Jeannie Darneille, I’m hosting a legislative town hall on Saturday, February 22nd. Details are below, and I hope you’ll be there to take part in the discussion.
I’m also sharing some information about the 2020 Census, which is critical to determining how billions of federal dollars get distributed to local communities like Tacoma. Be sure to help shape your future and get counted!
As always, I welcome your ideas and feedback. Please reach out anytime with your ideas and opinions on how to make Washington state an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.
Census 2020: Get counted
Every 10 years, the government counts every person living in the United States, and the implications for communities are enormous. Federal funding for schools, hospitals, roads, public works, and other vital programs is based on census counts.
That means many things that are important to people and families, like strong public schools for our kids, transportation that gets you where you need to go, and access to affordable, quality health care for your family – are impacted by the census.
Everyone in Washington deserves to be heard. For more information about the 2020 Census, click here.
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, Queer the Census Washington can help with navigating the census form and other questions.
A historic first for Washington state
Dear friends and neighbors,
On Monday, surrounded by my family, my House colleagues from both sides of the aisle, and many dear friends and mentors, I was sworn in as the next Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives (click here to watch my swearing in and opening speech).
This new role is a historic first for our state. As the first woman and first out lesbian to hold the position of Speaker in our state House, my hope is to inspire leadership in others who have historically been underrepresented at the policy making table.
In my speech to the full House, I said that while the title of my new role may be Speaker, I see my primary job as listening. And that’s what I’ve been doing over the last few months as I’ve traveled across the state, meeting with legislators in their own districts. Listening to them made it clear that even when we disagree on policy, we all share a deep, abiding commitment to making things better for the people of this state.
This will undoubtedly be the hardest job I’ll ever have, but also the most fulfilling. We have work to do to address affordable housing and homelessness, take action on climate change, lower the cost of health care, and make child care more accessible and affordable for all families, among other pressing issues.
Together with my colleagues, I’m ready to get to work.
A legislative preview
Last week, I participated in the Associated Press Legislative Preview, an hour-long Q&A with members of the capitol press corps and the leadership of the House and Senate. It was my first time taking part in this annual event. Some of the topics covered included the homelessness crisis in our state, transportation and the impacts of I-976, gun violence prevention, and climate legislation. The full forum can be viewed by clicking here.
January 20, 2020: Honoring Dr. King
This Monday, January 20th, is a state holiday honoring slain civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the House, we honor Dr. King’s legacy with a resolution on the House floor, accompanied by speeches from lawmakers about Dr. King and his work.
At the state capitol, MLK Jr. Day is traditionally a big day for citizen advocates to come to the capitol to attend rallies and meet with their legislators. If you plan to visit the capitol that day, here is some great visitor information including links to campus maps, parking, and tours.
If you can’t be there in person, you can watch the House floor activities that day on TVW.
Pierce County Happenings, Legislative Page Program, and Constituent Office Hours
Exciting Happenings in Pierce County
Washington state continues to be among one of the top states for quality of life. There’s a lot that goes into making a state a great place to live and work – good public schools, safe communities, and access to quality health care to name a few.
Investing in our communities is another key ingredient that contributes to Tacoma’s and Pierce County’s growing population and popularity. I was thrilled when I learned that KNKX was going to move their studios to the heart of our legislative district and was glad to attend their grand opening back in September.
Bates Technical College recently held a groundbreaking for their new Center for Allied Health Education. This new facility will host 11 health education programs like Administrative Medical Assistant, Certified Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant, and Hearing Aid Specialist to name a few.
And just recently I had the opportunity to speak at the grand opening for the new Tacoma Community House. In these dark times in our nation, Tacoma Community House provides a light and a beacon of hope for our community’s immigrants and refugees. It’s truly amazing they’ve been providing vital immigrant and refugee services in Pierce County for 110 years.
These are just a few of the many examples that show when we support each other and invest in our communities, we make our city a stronger place to live and work!
Now accepting Legislative Page applications!
With the Legislature gearing up for the 2020 session, it’s that time again to put out a call for legislative pages.
The Legislative page program is a great opportunity for a young teen to get a close-up look at government in action, having fun, and earning money ($35 per day!) while spending a week delivering documents and helping out House members in the Washington state Legislature. Here’s a video that provides more insight into the Page Program.
A few things to remember about the application process:
- The 2020 legislative session begins in mid-January and ends in mid-March. Legislative pages serve for one week during the legislative session.
- Pages should be sure to check their school and family calendars and indicate weeks when they are unable to page (family vacation or school testing, for example). They are permitted to request specific weeks to be assigned, but there’s no guarantee that special requests will be accommodated.
- Pages need to have the signature/recommendation section in the application completed by their principal and one teacher.
Don’t delay – spots fill up quickly!
Please join me for Constituent Office Hours
I was recently elected to be the next speaker of the House. This new position will undoubtedly take up more of my time than when I was a committee chair.
But I could not be speaker without first being YOUR state representative in Olympia. Your thoughts and opinions have always been important to me and they will continue to be important even as I take on this new role.
That is why I will continue to host events and gatherings that allow 27th district constituents like you to let me know what’s on your mind.
Mark your calendars! I’ll be hosting a Constituent Office Hours this week at the Red Elm Café. I want to hear your concerns and answer any questions you may have about legislative topics and issues important to you.
Office Hours with 27th LD Constituents
Thursday, November 7
10:15 – 11:45 a.m.
Red Elm Café
1114 M.L.K. Jr Way
Tacoma, WA 98405
My Road Trip Across Our Great State; Net Neutrality; National Coming Out Day
My Road Trip Across Our Great State
One of my goals after my election to speaker is to visit all 49 legislative districts and all member of the House in Washington state. So far, I’ve met with just over 30 members. Earlier this month I spent over a week in Eastern Washington visiting with my fellow lawmakers in Leavenworth, Chelan, Wenatchee, Spokane, Colfax, Yakima, Pomeroy, Colville, Wauconda, and several other communities across the Cascades.
The “East/West Divide” is something that’s talked about quite a bit. Certainly, there are characteristics unique to both regions, although, as someone who grew up in rural America, I’ve found the differences to be more related to urban and rural living versus some sort of geographic divide.
There are occasions that we find ourselves on opposite ends of the spectrum on certain policy ideas. But ultimately, I firmly believe that there’s far more we have in common than what separates us.
Our communities want strong public schools, access to quality health care services, good-paying jobs, a healthy environment, and more opportunities than we had for our kids to lead fulfilling and successful lives.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. This idea is reflected in the work that we do in the Legislature. The vast majority of bills enacted into law are done so with overwhelming bipartisan support.
State lawmakers in both parties work together to solve problems on a routine basis.
Democrats and Republicans will once again come together in January to solve problems facing our communities. We’ve done that time and time again for years, and I’m looking forward to getting started on that work here again soon.
Protecting Net Neutrality in Washington State
The current federal Administration wasted no time pushing forward an anti-consumer agenda after the president’s inauguration in 2017. This list of his efforts to roll back civil and human rights and consumer protections is quite extensive.
Those include rolling back banking regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, firing the entire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advisory council, and repealing worker safety rules.
Which means now more than ever it is incumbent upon state legislatures to enact consumer protections stripped away at the federal level.
Last year, in anticipation of Trump’s Federal Communications Commission efforts to repeal net neutrality rules, Washington state became the first in the nation to enact state-level net neutrality protections. (What is net neutrality? Here’s a great 90-second explainer video from ABC News.)
Thanks to my colleague Rep. Drew Hansen of Bainbridge Island, we passed a strong bipartisan bill in 2018 to protect net neutrality for Washington consumers. Other states like California enacted similar protections, which the Trump Administration tried to block in the courts.
Those efforts failed earlier this month when a federal appeals court affirmed states’ rights to enact their own protections. Washington consumers will continue to enjoy a free and open internet. This is just one of the many efforts we’re pursuing to ensure Washington residents remain projected from harmful business practices despite what happens at the federal level.
National Coming Out Day
Last week we celebrated the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day. When I came out in the 80s, I never imagined the possibility of getting married to my wife, Laura. This country looked a lot different back then and still had a long journey ahead for LGBTQ rights.
Washington state took a major step in the wrong direction 21 years ago when we enacted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) officially banning same-sex marriages. Since then, the fight for LGBTQ rights has gone into overdrive.
Within a decade, the state enacted domestic partnership laws that legally recognized same sex partnerships. And 14 years after DOMA was first enacted, it was overturned in 2012 when the Legislature enacted marriage equality, a decision upheld by voters later that year.
I’m proud to live in a progressive state like Washington that values equality for all. In large part due to our majorities in the House for the last two decades, we’ve been able to enact sexual orientation and gender identity protections for foster care youth, workplace discrimination, hate crimes, housing, and education. We also banned the dangerous and harmful practice of conversion therapy.
We’ve come a long way on protecting LGBTQ rights in the last twenty years. But there’s still more work to do. And as the first lesbian speaker of the House for Washington state, I’m eager to start writing the new chapter in our state’s history not just for LGBTQ people but for all of those who’ve been affected by discrimination, disenfranchisement, and legalized generational trauma.
Historic firsts; back-to-school update; acting on climate
State legislators aren’t supposed to be celebrities. By design, our state lawmaking body is made up of citizen legislators – teachers, small business owners, first responders, farmers, lawyers, health care providers, etc. We meet for a few months every year to work on public policy, then go back home to our everyday lives for the rest of the year.
So in my nearly ten years of public service, I generally do not expect to be recognized out in public. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised and humbled a few weeks ago when I went into Metropolitan Market to pick up dinner ingredients and a round of applause ensued. I naturally assumed it was for someone else. But I quickly realized it was a group of women applauding for me. (I shared this story with Ed Ronco at KNKX. You can listen to that interview here.)
I’m proud to call Washington state my home. This is an amazing place to live, work, raise a family, and run a business. And the fact that Democrats have controlled the state House of Representatives has played a significant role in our state’s success. While we’re making progress on electing more women to the Legislature (we’re currently at 42% – 4th in the nation!), we’ve never had a woman speaker of the House. Until now.
And that’s why those women were applauding in the market. We were long overdue for a woman speaker, but we finally got there. I am proud to be the first woman speaker. I know this will be the most challenging job I’ll ever have. But I’m excited for the opportunities ahead and am looking forward to leading the next chapter of policymaking that helps families and puts people first.
Back to School
With kids back to school, I thought I’d share a quick note about what lawmakers did last session to improve student outcomes and share what might be on the horizon for next year.
Eliminated high-stakes testing
The idea of linking the statewide high school assessment to graduation seemed like a good idea at the time. But in practice, it not only wasn’t achieving the desired outcome, but it was also crushing the hopes of far too many bright students with big dreams after high school. These tests were originally implemented to measure effectiveness of the education system as a whole, not individual student proficiency in a given subject area at a single point in time. Last session lawmakers delinked the statewide assessment from the high school graduation requirements. Students will still take the test, but passing it is not needed to receive a diploma.
Improving student safety & well-being
Students need more than just academics in school. Kids need to be safe in school and they need to feel safe in school. We passed HB 1216, which adds resources and improves coordination to support communities in their school safety efforts. I was a cosponsor of this bill. These improvements will help every school be safe, but especially those schools in rural areas where resources are more geographically dispersed.
Addressing the teacher shortage crisis
Nearly all of Washington state school principals recently surveyed said they are struggling or in “crisis mode” to find qualified teachers to fill their classrooms. And nearly three quarters said it was harder to find qualified certificated teachers and substitutes compared to the previous school year.
Last year, we passed a comprehensive bill to boost teacher recruitment, with a particular focus on recruiting teachers of color, create more financial incentive programs, and expand professional development opportunities for teachers. Hopefully with these and other new tools, we can reach our goal of having a high-quality teacher in every classroom across the state.
Other education highlights
- Increased special education funding.
- Created more pathways for paraeducators to enter into the teaching profession.
- Created a workgroup to look at language access in public schools.
- Allowed military families to pre-enroll their kids in their new schools when they get their transfer orders. I co-sponsored this bill.
- Expanded ethnic studies curriculum to more schools.
As for the 2020 legislative session, I expect the Legislature to look at issues related to improving outcomes for special education students, expanding sexual health education, increasing school counselor access, and expanding bilingual instruction to name just a few.
Acting on climate
The 2019 legislative session was by far the most productive session we’ve had for climate policy in decades. Lawmakers took much needed action on clean energy, orca protection, and waste reduction.
100% clean electricity
Washington is one of the country’s leaders in transitioning away from harmful fossil-fuels and moving toward clean energy. We are now on a clear path toward a “clean grid” with firm requirements in place to use 100-percent clean energy by 2045. This will reduce our reliance on energy sources like coal while making significant investments in renewable and zero-emission energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower. I cosponsored the House companion bill.
Phasing out HFCs
Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are used as commercial and industrial refrigerants and foam-blowing agents. There are safer and more cost-effective alternatives on the market than super-polluting HFCs. HB 1112 will phase them out over the next few years. I co-sponsored this bill.
Other climate highlights
- Increasing building efficiency standards. I co-sponsored this bill.
- Protecting our orca population through oil spill prevention, increased Chinook salmon abundance, and reduced noise disturbances from nearby vessels. I co-sponsored all of these bills.
While these were great steps in the right direction for protecting our environment, there’s still more work to do. Next session we’ll be taking a look at other proposals related to harmful pollutants that exist in the transportation sector and single-use plastics.
As always, I welcome your ideas and feedback. Please reach out anytime with your ideas and opinions on how to make Washington state an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.
A new chapter
Dear friends and neighbors,
As the back-to-school season approaches, families across Washington are getting ready for the new school year and the changes it brings. One big change in my family is that our son is off to college soon – in fact, I’m taking him to his orientation this weekend. I’m excited for what the future holds for him, and being an empty nester also feels somewhat bittersweet. As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.”
In addition to becoming an empty-nester, another big life change is my recent election to serve as the next speaker of the state House of Representatives. This is a tremendous honor, and I’ve included some information below about the process and what this means going forward.
Enjoy these final weeks of summer, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your comments, questions, or concerns.
Working for every family in Washington
On July 31st, my peers in the House Democratic Caucus elected me to be the next Speaker of the House. To be chosen from a slate of four incredible women candidates as Washington’s first woman speaker and the first open lesbian to serve in this role is truly an honor, and I thank my colleagues for their confidence and trust in me.
Here’s a link to my official statement released on the day of my election.
While I am still very much the state representative from the 27th Legislative District – which forever has my heart – as speaker I will work hard to make sure all families and communities in our state have the same opportunities for success, whether they live in Tacoma or Tonasket.
If you follow my official legislative Facebook page, you may have seen this Crosscut article I posted by Melissa Santos (a former TNT reporter) shortly after my election as speaker. I find it both hilarious and informative. Our hometown paper also published a feature on my election as speaker with good background info about the journey that brought me to this point.
I know this will be the most challenging job I’ll ever have, but I’m surrounded by hard-working, dedicated colleagues who care deeply about the future of this state.
Together, we’re excited about the 2020 legislative session and the work that lies ahead.
Washington leads the way with tuition-free college grants
As I prepare to send my son off to college, I feel more strongly than ever that every qualified student deserves this opportunity. Thanks to measures passed by the legislature this year, more families in our state will be able to afford higher education for their kids.
In a previous e-newsletter, I mentioned the Workforce Education and Investment Act. It provides tuition-free scholarships and apprenticeships to students whose families earn 55 percent or less of the state’s Median Family Income (about $50,000 for a family of four). Families earning up to 100 percent of the state’s Median Family Income (about $92,000 for a family of four) are eligible for partial tuition grants. For more information about it, please click here.
Lawmakers also increased capacity at our public two- and four-year colleges for high-demand degrees like computer science, engineering, and nursing. This is important in helping ensure that Washington students can train for the jobs being created right here in our own state.
Bottom line: we’ve made higher education more accessible and affordable for Washington families.
Communities standing together
Dear friends and neighbors,
In a historic first, the Pride flag was raised last week over the Tacoma Dome in celebration of Tacoma Pride – and I was one of the lucky people who helped raise it. What an exciting (and petrifying!) experience to stand on the top of the Dome and mark this milestone.
While June is officially Pride month, Tacoma Pride always takes place in July – one of the many quirky things I love about our city. This year, I am reminded more than ever that Pride isn’t just about the LGBTQ community. It’s about everyone who stands with the LGBTQ community. It’s about people standing together. Standing with me to raise the flag last week were Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan, Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello, and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. Together, we represented state, local, and tribal governments coming together in support of Pride.
When I first came to the legislature, I was the first openly lesbian lawmaker in state history. Today, I’m part of an LGBTQ caucus. Likewise, the strong partnership of the Puyallup Tribe with this year’s Tacoma Pride is also being hailed by many as a historic partnership between a Tribe and the LGBTQ community. My hope is that this kind of interconnectedness among communities continues to grow and flourish, because we’re all stronger when we stand together and support each other.
In celebration of this connection, I’m focusing this newsletter on highlighting some of the LGBTQ and Tribal bills that passed in Olympia this year. These bills impact all of us by making our state better, safer, and more inclusive.
If you have questions about the legislation featured here, or other comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, don’t forget to follow my official legislative Facebook page, where I post regularly about the work I’m doing at the state capitol and in our district.
Standing together: Safe learning environments for ALL students
Schools need to be safe learning environments, welcoming of all students in the community. Unfortunately, transgender students are disproportionately targeted for harassment in our schools. A shocking 82% of transgender youth report that they feel unsafe at school.
This year, lawmakers passed SB 5689, which sends a clear message to transgender youth that we value their safety. It implements policies in our public schools to address and prevent the bullying of trans and gender-diverse students. Click here to watch my remarks on the House floor in support of this bill.
Standing together: Native American Voting Rights Act
Native American people have experienced systematic voter suppression throughout our country’s history. Though we cannot undo these past wrongs, we can make sure our laws going forward remove barriers to the ballot box for tribal members.
That’s exactly what we did this year with passage of SB 5079, also known as the Native American Voting Rights Act. This bill ensures tribal members will now be able to use designated tribal government building addresses on reservations and tribal identification cards to register to vote, as many properties on reservations do not utilize standard mailing addresses. It also authorizes tribes to request ballot drop boxes on reservations, which is critical because in parts of our state the next closest ballot drop box can be up to 100 miles away.
Standing together: Newly formed state LGBTQ commission
Until now, the LGBTQ community has not had a formal, cabinet-level seat at the state policymaking table. Lawmakers fixed that by passing HB 2065, which creates a new Washington State LGBTQ Commission, ensuring the impacts of legislation on LGBTQ communities are proactively considered. It is only the second such cabinet-level commission in the nation.
Standing together: Ensuring tribes have a seat at the transportation planning table
Regional Transportation Planning Organizations (RTPOs) identify transportation issues and make decisions within the regions they cover, including tribal land. Yet tribes are not always guaranteed a seat at the RTPO table. Some jurisdictions include them; others do not.
With passage of HB 1584 this year, RTPOs are required to invite tribes falling within their jurisdiction to participate in decision-making if they are to receive any state funding. Bringing equal representation to our tribal communities is important for a fair planning process, and I was proud to support this bill.
Standing together: Strengthening Washington’s hate crimes statute
There’s no place for hate in our state, so it’s disturbing to read that hate crimes are on the rise in Washington. To help ensure all people feel safe, the legislature passed HB 1732, which increases the maximum civil liability for those guilty of committing hate crimes, and creates an advisory work group to take a closer look at identifying the root causes of and preventing hate crimes. It also adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected categories.
Standing together: Addressing missing and murdered Native American women
The problem of missing and murdered Native American women is a national one. Our state took a big step toward addressing the problem in 2018 when we passed legislation requiring our state patrol to study and report to the Legislature on ways to increase resources for reporting and identifying missing Native American women. We followed up this year with HB 1713, which creates two new state patrol positions that will work as liaisons between law enforcement and tribal communities to help solve these cases. With Seattle having the most cases of missing or murdered Native American women of any U.S. city, I’m glad state lawmakers are taking this problem seriously.
Join me at the groundbreaking ceremony for “Home at Last” project in Tacoma
In a previous e-newsletter, I mentioned the state capital budget’s funding for the YWCA Pierce County’s “Home at Last” project. A total of $1.5 million in state money is going to help build 54 affordable housing units for homeless families and people with disabilities or other barriers to housing. An additional $750,000 in funding is going specifically for space within the project site to expand the therapeutic counseling services offered to families, many of whom are victims of domestic violence.
I’m excited to be one of several elected officials delivering remarks at the groundbreaking for this project on July 20. The ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m. and I hope many people from our community will come celebrate this event with us.
Telephone town hall on July 2nd – please join us
Dear friends and neighbors,
Next week, I’ll be hosting a telephone town hall for constituents of the 27th Legislative District with Rep. Jake Fey and Sen. Jeannie Darneille. It will go from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
This is a great opportunity for you to ask us questions about the recent legislative session or legislative topics like education, health care, the environment, transportation, public safety, etc.
We will be calling households across the district on July 2nd, but if you want to ensure you are part of the event there are a couple of ways you can opt-in.
First, starting at 6:00 p.m. on July 2nd you can call toll-free 877-229-8493 and enter PIN number 116282. You’ll automatically be connected to the town hall.
Telephone town halls are not a replacement for live, in-person town halls like the one we do each year during the legislative session, but they provide a convenient opportunity for more people to participate in a town hall meeting without having to leave home. Each time we host one of these events, we get several thousand participants on the line.
A reminder: at any point during the call if you want to ask one of us a question, all you have to do is press *3 (STAR 3) on your phone keypad. In order to get through as many constituent questions as possible during the hour, we ask that you please try to keep your questions brief.
I look forward to our conversation next week, and hope you’ll be able to take part.