Fantastic Friday – Summer Update!

Happy Fantastic Friday!

Dear friends and neighbors,  

As the days grow longer and warmer and the Pacific Northwest buzzes with outdoor activity, I wanted to take a moment to update you on some important pieces of legislation and investments that are shaping our community during this tourism and summer season.  

Collaborating for Change: Economic Development and International Relations 

I wanted to take a moment to update you on a recent event that I had the privilege of attending: the Lt. Governor’s Economic Development and International Relations Meeting in Bellingham. This meeting provided a valuable opportunity for collaboration and discussion on important issues affecting our communities. 

The primary focuses of the meeting were housing and homelessness. I have been working closely with my fellow 40th and 10th legislators, as well as various cities, counties, and housing and homeless organizations, to hold oversight hearings on the legislative actions taken this year. Lt. Governor Heck strongly recommended that our committee conduct these hearings to ensure that we understand how these actions will be implemented and to identify any gaps or challenges that need to be addressed. We are committed to finding effective solutions for future housing and homeless legislative actions. 

During the meeting, we also had the opportunity to engage in a productive discussion with representatives from the British Columbia Provincial governments. We shared ideas and experiences regarding common housing and homelessness legislative tools. It was truly inspiring to witness the power of collaboration and the potential for positive change that arises when we work together. 

As we move forward, I want to assure you that your voices and input remain essential. Your perspectives as constituents and community members are invaluable in shaping effective policies. I encourage you to stay engaged and share your thoughts, ideas, and concerns with me and my team. Together, we can continue to make progress and create a better future for all. 


Rep. Lekanoff (not pictured) with Sen. Bob Hasegawa, Rep. Liz Berry and Rep. Alicia Rule (pictured, right to left), along with Sen. Sharon Shewmake and Sen. Lisa Wellman (not pictured), joined the Lt. Governor for meetings in Bellingham and Blaine with officials from British Columbia for the Legislative Committee on Economic Development & international Relations (LCEDIR)

Advancing Tribal Energy Initiatives  

I am thrilled to share with you an exciting event that took place recently, bringing together Tribal leaders, citizens, staff, youth, and collaborators: the 2023 Northwest Tribal Clean Energy Summit. This summit served as a platform for Tribes to come together, exchange knowledge, and advance clean energy initiatives in the Pacific Northwest. The primary focus was on navigating the cultural, economic, and social challenges of implementing clean energy projects. Our collective goals were ambitious and purposeful: 

  1. Ensuring that Tribes have the necessary information, support, capacity, and resources to plan for and implement Tribal Energy Projects. 
  2. Increasing Tribal awareness of opportunities and challenges faced by other Tribes in developing energy projects and fostering partnerships with external entities for planning, policy development, and project implementation. 
  3. Improving the success rate of clean energy projects by appropriately engaging and consulting with Tribes. 
  4. Assessing Tribal needs, interests, and priorities related to Energy sovereignty and creating opportunities for intertribal collaboration to advance those priorities. 

A major theme throughout the summit was Energy Sovereignty—a fundamental concept that empowers Tribes to make decisions regarding their energy sources and infrastructure. I am proud to share that Tribes are actively investing in renewable energy initiatives, embodying their commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. 

During the summit, I had the privilege of engaging with the Department of Commerce and key tribal leaders and energy organizations. Our discussions revolved around the potential for collaborative efforts between the state and Tribes to support tribal energy development. As a legislative action, we are exploring the establishment of a State/Tribal Energy Advisory Board. This board would play a crucial role in supporting future tribal energy projects within the state and facilitating engagement with regional energy policies. It would also provide technical support to Tribes for project development and foster opportunities for tribal energy training. 

By forging strong partnerships and embracing innovation, we have the opportunity to position our state and Tribes as leaders in clean energy transitions. Together, we can pave the way towards a sustainable future while also supporting existing energy providers in complying with the Climate Commitment Act. 


Nez Perce Chairman Shannon Wheeler illuminates the remarkable strides made in renewable energy by his tribe. As Washington state proudly embraces and supports the flourishing efforts in Indian Country, the future shines brighter with sustainable power.

Supporting Drug Taskforces for a Safer Community 

I wanted to provide you with an update on the recent meetings I convened to address the pressing issue of the fentanyl crisis in our community. These meetings were an invaluable opportunity for me to listen and learn from various stakeholders, including Skagit County Sheriff Don McDermott, Drug Skagit County Taskforce Commander Tobin Meyer, City of Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau, and other key individuals committed to combating the drug crisis. 

One of the key outcomes of these meetings is the recognition of the urgent need to strategize a plan for sustainable funding and support for our state’s Drug Taskforces. Currently, Washington State has just over sixteen Drug Taskforces, which are multi-agency task forces involving the County Sheriff’s Office, City Police Departments, Washington State Patrol, Washington Department of Corrections, County Prosecutors, tribal and federal partners. Their primary focus is on targeting mid-to-high level drug trafficking organizations and money laundering operations. By tackling the root causes and supply chains of drug distribution, they play a crucial role in curbing the substance use crisis that affects our state. 

While the Legislative Blake Decision rightly emphasizes investing in healing and recovery for those impacted by the drug crisis, it is equally important to address the supply side of the equation. The Drug Taskforces serve as a preventive measure by focusing on dismantling the cartel drug supply that feeds the drug crisis in our communities. Their work complements the healing efforts and takes a comprehensive approach to tackling the issue. 

I firmly believe that we need to invest in a collaborative approach to combat the large-scale drug supply that extends from our urban centers to rural areas. That is why I am deeply committed to advocating for sustainable funding for these multi-governmental drug taskforces. 

For instance, the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit seized approximately 300,000 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl in 2022, a significant increase from the 18,000 pills seized in 2021. This unit plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of our community, and it is imperative that they receive the necessary funding and support from all levels of government. Together, we must prioritize their efforts to protect our communities from the devastating effects of the fentanyl crisis. 

Moving forward, I will continue to work tirelessly to strategize a plan for sustainable funding and support for our state’s Drug Taskforces. I firmly believe that investing in their operations is an investment in the safety, well-being, and healing of our communities. 

Honoring Our Commitment to MMIWP 

I am honored to share with you the incredible progress we have made in our efforts to address the urgent issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP) during the recently concluded legislative session. Together with the Attorney General and the MMIWP Task Force Executive Committee, we have achieved significant milestones that will bring about meaningful change for our community. 

Through our collective efforts, we successfully passed several crucial pieces of legislation that will have a lasting impact on the lives of Indigenous women, men, and families across Washington State: 

  • Establishing the first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Cold Case Unit in a State Attorney General’s Office: This groundbreaking legislation signifies a significant step forward in our commitment to seeking justice for victims and their families. By dedicating resources and expertise to these cold cases, we are actively working to bring closure and accountability to those affected by these tragic losses. 
  • Establishing a tribal advisory board to conduct a study on the history and impacts of boarding schools in Washington State: Recognizing the profound and lasting effects of boarding schools on Indigenous communities, we have taken action to promote healing, understanding, and reconciliation. Through this study, we will gain valuable insights into the historical context and systemic impacts of these institutions, informing future efforts to address the trauma inflicted upon Indigenous individuals and communities. 
  • Creating a missing person’s toolkit with special provisions regarding Indigenous communities: Our commitment to the safety and well-being of Indigenous individuals extends to ensuring their swift and efficient location in the event of a disappearance. This comprehensive toolkit, tailored specifically for Indigenous communities, will provide essential guidance and resources to law enforcement agencies, aiding them in their search efforts and ultimately saving lives. 
  • Successfully extending the work of the MMIWP Task Force through June 2025: Building upon the foundation laid by the MMIWP Task Force, we have secured the necessary time and support to continue our comprehensive approach in addressing this crisis. This extension enables us to sustain our collaborative efforts, working towards long-term solutions and systemic changes that will protect Indigenous women and people from violence and ensure their voices are heard. 

These legislative achievements would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of all those involved. I recently had the privilege of meeting with Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the members of the MMIWP Task Force Executive Committee to discuss the significance of this work and its profound impact on Washington State. The passion and resolve displayed by these individuals serve as an inspiration to us all. 

Moving forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to addressing the MMIWP crisis and advocating for the rights and well-being of Indigenous communities. We recognize that our work is far from over, and we must continue to collaborate, listen, and act in solidarity with all those affected. 


Abigail Echo-Hawk, who serves on the MMIWP Task Force, radiates strength and determination, leading the charge in raising awareness and seeking justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women. In the next frame, Asa Washines, the dedicated Tribal Liaison for the Attorney General’s office and a proud member of the Yakama Nation, stands as a steadfast advocate, working tirelessly to protect and empower Native communities.

Celebrating Women Directors 

CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival recently concluded its seventh annual event in Bellingham. This festival has been a remarkable platform for women directors from around the world to showcase their incredible talent and storytelling, and to date, has presented films by over 220 women directors to audiences from Whatcom County, the Puget Sound region, and beyond. This inclusive and diverse showcase of films has captivated audiences, fostered dialogue, and celebrated the creativity and vision of women filmmakers. 

I am particularly pleased to highlight the impact of state arts funding on CASCADIA’s mission. Thanks to a state grant, CASCADIA was able to host special screenings throughout the year, with a specific focus on underrepresented communities in our area, including Indigenous and LGBTQ populations. 

This funding enabled the presentation of thought-provoking films that sparked engaging conversations about important issues. For instance, discussions centered around the former practice of removing Indigenous children from their families and the tireless efforts of civil rights leaders to address voter suppression. These dialogues not only fulfill CASCADIA’s educational and outreach mission but also contribute to a greater awareness and understanding within our community. 

As always, I am deeply grateful for your continued support and engagement. If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. I hope you have a memorable summer! 

I am here for you!

All best wishes,

Lekanoff sig

Rep. Debra Lekanoff