Week 15 | The final week of session!

Dear friends and neighbors, 

Happy Fantastic Friday!

It’s hard to believe we are in the last week of the legislative session! As we near Sine Die, I want to take a moment to thank you for your engagement and advocacy. Your input and feedback have been invaluable in shaping the policies that will impact our communities for years to come. 

Here’s an update on some recent legislative developments from the last few weeks:  

Addressing the Impact of Sentencing on Indigenous Youth  

Indigenous youth and young adults in Washington state are disproportionately impacted by the current sentencing laws. Indigenous youth are 30% more likely than Caucasian youth to enter the prison pipeline through referral into the juvenile justice system.  

This year, House Bill 1324 aims to eliminate juvenile sentencing points from being included in the calculation of adult offender scores. This is a critical step towards addressing the issue of mass incarceration and unfair sentencing in the state, which disproportionately affects Indigenous youth and youth of color. 

Juveniles and adults are developmentally different, and offenses committed by juveniles and adults should be treated differently when calculating a sentence. This bill recognizes that youth are resilient and responsive to maturation, treatment, and therapeutic support. The inclusion of juvenile offenses in adult offender scores contributes to mass incarceration and unfair sentencing. 

Historic, intergenerational trauma suffered by Indigenous communities can negatively impact youth. In the current system, when youth make mistakes, they are often caught up in the state criminal justice system and pushed towards the prison pipeline, rather than being given the support and resources they need to heal and rehabilitate. This bill is a step towards reversing this destructive, intergenerational pattern of Indigenous youth incarceration and bringing certain youth home so they, their families, and communities can heal. 

Supporting Student Basic Needs in Washington State: Addressing Hunger and Housing Insecurity in Higher Education  

In 2020, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) reported that six out of 10 community or technical college students in Washington State experienced hunger or housing insecurity in the previous year, despite being employed. This issue affects students of all backgrounds, but Indigenous students, students of color, students identifying as LGBTQ, and students with histories of foster care and incarceration are disproportionately represented in the study. 

This year, I am proud to support House Bill 1559, sponsored by Rep. Entenman. This bill, titled the Student Basic Needs Act, aims to remove barriers to educational opportunity for students in Washington by ensuring that their basic needs are met. 

The Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness (SSEH) Pilot in Washington is a program that provides grants to colleges to identify and support students who are experiencing homelessness or have aged out of the foster care system. Unfortunately, many students attending pilot institutions reported high levels of unmet basic needs. 48% of students experienced housing insecurity, 19% experienced homelessness, and 38% experienced food insecurity. In its third year, the program found that 45% of all served students were people of color, 82% had low food security, and nearly two-thirds identified as female. 

To address these issues, pilot institutions have improved campus coordination, student awareness of the program, and referral systems, which have increased requests for program assistance. However, the need for housing support and case management services continues to increase. Washington State is working on increasing affordable housing options, increasing funding for student support programs, and expanding the SSEH pilot program. By doing so, the state can help provide vital support to students who are experiencing homelessness or have aged out of the foster care system, and ensure they have the resources they need to succeed. 

Students need access to basic needs such as food, water, nutrition, shelter, clothing, physical healthcare, and mental healthcare. These needs should not create barriers to education for anyone in Washington. I believe that expanding educational opportunity and breaking down prohibitive barriers for our students is a critical step towards a more equitable and just society. 

A Collaborative Approach to Salmon Restoration for a Sustainable Future in Washington State


I firmly believe in the power of collaboration and the importance of considering different perspectives when making decisions that impact our land, waterways, and wildlife. 

Tribal groups have a deep connection to the land and rely on natural resources for their cultural, economic, and spiritual well-being. Rural communities also depend on these resources for their livelihoods. It is essential to involve these groups in decision-making processes that impact these resources. 

This year, bipartisan leaders have recognized the importance of a collaborative approach to protect the environment and support the agricultural industry. I am pleased to announce that I have worked alongside Rep. Chapman and Rep. Dent to secure significant funding in the budget for salmon restoration.   

Salmon restoration is crucial for Washington State’s ecological and economic health. Every river in the state is supported by hatcheries, but the wild salmon population has depleted, threatening the health of both human populations and habitats. Glaciers provide the cool water that salmon need to survive, but with global temperature increases, this water source has been insufficient. 

To address this crisis, we’ve established a voluntary, regionally focused riparian grant program designed to improve the ecological functions of critical riparian management zones. The Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) will develop and implement the riparian grant program to fund protection and restoration of the critical riparian management zones. The Recreational Conservation Office will also receive funding to implement salmon recovery riparian buffer projects. 

To ensure watershed salmon recovery, bipartisan leadership has supported an additional $100 million for the WA State Conservation Commission and another $100 million for the Recreational Conservation Office, Salmon Recovery Foundation Program. This investment will focus on salmon recovery through volunteer riparian buffers and other salmon recovery projects, bringing together agriculture and salmon industries for holistic recovery on watersheds. 

Environmental policy must represent all Washingtonians and all people. This bill marks a significant step towards protecting and restoring Washington State’s critical salmon habitat, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come. 


My MMIWP Bill was Signed into Law!

Celebrating a major milestone as Governor Inslee signs into law the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and People bill, a significant step towards addressing the crisis of violence against Indigenous communities. 


I am thrilled to see the passage of so many bills this session that will improve the lives of Washingtonians and make our communities safer, greener, and more equitable.

As we move forward, I encourage you to stay involved, stay informed, and continue advocating for the issues that matter to you. There is no doubt that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure public safety and a healthy future for everyone. As we move forward, it’s crucial that we work together as a community to address these challenges and find solutions that are equitable and inclusive for all.

Over the coming months, I plan to engage with law enforcement, Tribes, and different communities across the district to continue this important work collaboratively. I believe that by working together, we can create safer and more resilient communities for everyone.

Lastly, stay tuned for an upcoming in-person town hall where we can come together to discuss these issues further and share our ideas for building a better future. I look forward to the opportunity to meet with all of you and to continue working together towards a brighter tomorrow.

Thank you for your continued support and engagement.

All best wishes,

Lekanoff sig

Rep. Debra Lekanoff