From the capitol: Update on legislation, housing reforms, and an invitation to coffee (or cocoa!)

Friends and neighbors,

As the 2019 Legislative Session is winding down, I wanted to share an update on some of the legislation I sponsored and voted for, as well as an invitation to join a small group discussion in May.

First of several “Coffee & Conversations” on Saturday, May 4

With the scheduled end to this year’s Legislative Session over on April 28, I am delighted to announce that Rep. Christine Kilduff and I will host several “Coffee (or Cocoa!) & Conversations” throughout the district this summer. These community conversations are smaller than your traditional town hall meetings, giving us all a chance to chat one-on-one and have meaningful discussions about issues affecting your family and the community.

The first event takes place on Saturday, May 4, from 8:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Anthem Coffee & Tea (3609 Market Place W. #101, University Place). If you are in University Place, I hope you can attend. Next month, I will announce the date and locations for upcoming “Coffee & Conversations” events. Stay tuned!

Sponsored legislation that passed both the House and Senate

Rep. Leavitt with (from left to right) Lt. Colonel Arthur Paine, Colonel Kevin McMahan, Brigadier General Bryan Grenon
Rep. Leavitt with (from left to right) Lt. Colonel Arthur Paine, Colonel Kevin McMahan, Brigadier General Bryan Grenon

The House and Senate have reached the second-to-last deadline of the year, when all legislation passed by the opposite chamber must be approved or rejected. Wednesday was that deadline and I am happy to report that several key pieces of legislation I sponsored have been approved and will become law, pending the governor’s approval. Others that ran out of time will move through next session.

  • Increasing National Guard wildland fire response compensation: My legislation, HB 1137, to increase National Guard compensation when called in to state service for wildland fire response passed the Senate. This is a desperately needed increase. The compensation rates have not been updated in decades and now are less than the state minimum wage.
  • Addressing workplace violence in health care settings: Our communities understand how important it is to have safety in health care workplaces. Health care professionals need strong standards to address and avoid workplace violence in the health care setting. HB 1931 is another bill I sponsored that requires more frequent reviews of incidents and creating frequent violence prevention plans. This bill passed the Senate and is heading to the governor.
  • Providing more information regarding discharges from Western State Hospital to communities: I introduced HB 1826 to provide more information and transparency regarding the discharge process at Western State Hospital. The legislation passed the House, and passed out of the Senate committees and unfortunately ran out of time for a vote on the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon. I am continuing to advocate to ensure there is more information available to the community in the discharge process. I am glad that a bill passed that I spoke on the Floor about relating to importance of resident safety is critical to safe neighborhoods.
  • Safer communities through faster storm cleanup: The companion legislation to my bill, HB 1359, cleared the House this week. That means that local governments will have more flexibility to contract for safety work after major storms, like the recent snow and wind storms that affected our communities.
  • Tax exemptions to build more affordable housing: HB 1168 is a sales and use tax exemption to non-profits who build affordable housing. Many people in our communities, and in communities all across the state, are struggling to find affordable housing and we need every tool available to alleviate this problem. I am happy that this bill is still working through the Senate.
  • Getting a jump-start on college credit: As vice chair of the College & Workforce Development Committee, I am always looking for ways to improve the pathways to and through higher education. I introduced HB 1734 to ensure that all College in the High School (CIHS) courses (commonly known as dual enrollment or dual credit courses) have the same high standards that help students prepare for their chosen college, profession and trade, or technical classes. I am glad the Senate approved this bill and look forward to it becoming law.

Condominium reform and other housing legislation

Much of this year’s work is focused on ways to improve the housing affordability crisis in our state. To address one part of the needs, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5334, a condo reform bill that updates liability laws that have hampered development in the past. The state needs more condos, as they are one of the most affordable options for people looking to buy, despite increased prices in recent years.

Other legislation tackling housing issues includes help for college students who are homeless and giving local governments more authorities and tools to expand affordable housing. There is also a major push by both the House and Senate to include more funding in the Capital Budget for housing projects all across the state.

These are good starts, but are not enough to solve our problems. I will continue to work in the coming sessions to address issues that lead to homelessness or housing insecurity.

Thank you for reading this update. Please reach out if you have any thoughts or questions on these bills. It is my honor to serve you!