Week 14 | Bill Signings, Vaccine Eligibility, & the Blake Decision
Happy Fantastic Friday!
My bill honoring Billy Frank Jr. was signed by Governor Inslee!
On Wednesday, Governor Inslee signed into law my bill to honor Billy Frank Jr. by placing a statue of him in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C., House Bill 1372. The bill signing ceremony was held at the Wa-He-Lut Indian School at Franks Landing on the Nisqually River, and was a wonderful celebration of Billy Frank Jr. and his legacy both in Washington state and around the world. I, along with the governor, Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, and Councilman Willie Frank of the Nisqually Tribe, Billy Frank Jr.’s son, paid tribute to Billy by sharing a few words.
When asked how to make a difference and bring about change, Billy was known to tell people to ‘tell your story. Through Billy’s story, and decades of activism, we learn about the story of Washington state, not just the easy narrative, but the parts that are hard and challenging. We learn about the importance of standing up for what is right and just even when facing persecution. A statue among other national heroes is the right way to honor his legacy, elevate his story, and inspire future generations to tell their own.
“Billy Frank Jr.’s legacy should inspire Washingtonians to have open discussions about our place in the world, both what we take from the earth and what we give back. And it reaffirms certain truths as old as the Nisqually Tribe itself: That the environment is not just a resource; it is our home, and we must protect it. When Billy spoke, people listened. His presence in the National Statuary Hall will keep more people listening for generations to come.”
– Governor Jay Inslee
“Billy went from being a self-described ‘getting arrested guy’ when he was protesting on behalf of treaty fishing rights to being perhaps the greatest consensus builder and peacemaker ever around issues of cool, clean water, healthy salmon runs and natural resources. Every single time any person from Washington visits our nation’s Capitol, they will stop, they will look up, and they will stand tall and proud, because Billy Frank was a great man.” – Lt. Governor Denny Heck
“This is a tremendous honor for the Nisqually Tribe and our family. I think this will be the biggest accomplishment for my dad’s legacy. We will be able to educate folks about Billy Frank Jr. and why he was honored and recognized. Sharing his story will be vital to the future of all our tribes and continuing to bring us all here in the state of Washington together in our commitment to bring our salmon home for future generations. My dad was only 5’7” but he always felt 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I hope that when people walk by his statue in Washington, D.C., they feel some of that ‘Billy Magic.’” – Councilman Willie Frank III, of the Nisqually Tribe and Billy Frank Jr.’s son
Along with House Bill 1372, another of my bills was scheduled to be signed by Governor Inslee this week. In fact, he is scheduled sign it into law today!
- House Bill 1072 eliminates a provision in current law that restricts undocumented immigrants from accessing state-funded civil legal aid, denying them equity under the law and access to justice.
Two more of my bills were considered on the floor of the People’s House for concurrence. For both bills, the House concurred on the Senate amendments and they are now headed to the governor’s desk for his signature!
Vaccine eligibility now includes all adults 16+
Find a vaccine near you!
Everyone 16 and older in Washington is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday, April 15th! Use the Vaccine Locator to find out where you can get the vaccine near you at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov or call 1-800-525-0127.
¡Encuentre una vacuna cerca de usted!
¡Toda la gente de 16 años o más en Washington ya califica para recibir la vacuna contra el COVID-19 a partir del 15 de abril! Visite VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov o llame al 1-800-525-0127 para encontrar un sitio cerca de usted donde pueda vacunarse.
Uprooting institutional racism in our schools
Over the weekend, I voted to pass Senate Bill 5044 to ensure school staff have access to anti-racism and DEI training. We must acknowledge the lived experiences of our students of color, because all our children deserve to be safe, seen, and valued in their classrooms.
Floor debate included an amendment that denied and minimized the experiences many students of color encounter every day. This amendment would have upheld the harms of institutional racism in schools by invalidating its long history in our nation and making us complicit in systems that once banned students of color from sitting next to their white classmates.
As a parent and as an education advocate, I’m glad we voted down the amendment and passed SB 5044. By training our school staff to swiftly and sensitively respond to acts of hate, we’re giving them the tools to help each student thrive—because you can only respond to racism if you’re taught what to look for and how to stop it. It’s long past time we did better for all our students.
If you have a few extra minutes, I encourage you to listen to some of the debate on this amendment. Many of my colleagues explained why it’s important that educators have anti-racism training, and they shared deeply personal stories expressing how this amendment stands in the way of meeting every student’s needs.
Responding to the State v. Blake Decision
On February 25, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in State v. Blake that Washington’s law criminalizing simple possession of drugs was unconstitutional because it has a “strict-liability” standard which means that you can be prosecuted for possession even if you aren’t aware you possess drugs. The Court found this was a violation of due process. As a result, Washington no longer has a statute criminalizing simple possession of controlled substances.
In response, House Public Safety Chair Roger Goodman has been leading a group of lawmakers to craft a thoughtful and deliberate new law related to drug possession that takes into account the history of racially discriminatory practices that have targeted communities of color, provides relief and support for people struggling with substance use disorder, strengthens public health, and enhances public safety. The group went into discussions knowing that what we are doing now just does not work. Too many loved ones and neighbors are struggling with substance use disorder and we have people living on the streets or in their cars, rising property crime, needles in parks and in gutters, and not enough treatment and care options to address the problem.
While, several proposals have been introduced by members of both parties, I am supporting a bill sponsored by Rep. Goodman, House Bill 1578, which seeks to build a new system that treats substance use disorder as the public health problem that it is, provides protections for youth, and reflects a desire to move toward therapeutic care and away from criminal sanctions.
Decades of putting people in jail is not working and we are failing our loved ones, neighbors, and communities that are struggling with the impacts of substance use disorder. Black people and people of color are the most impacted by this broken system. Even if someone is able to get treatment through the criminal legal system (which only 3% of people arrested for simple possession do), felony convictions create lifelong barriers to getting a job, securing housing, getting financial aid for college, and more.
It is time to try something different. The House bill ends the practice of putting people behind bars and not treating them, abolishes the felony for possession model, limits the criminal impact to someone’s life, and incentivizes them to pursue a substance use disorder evaluation to avoid fines. The House bill focuses on creating the necessary behavioral health infrastructure to address substance use disorder effectively and compassionately. You should not have to hurt people to help them.
Washington’s newest Poet Laureate
In conjunction with National Poetry Month 2021, poet Rena Priest was appointed Washington State Poet Laureate by Governor Inslee. A member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, Rena is the first Indigenous poet to be the state’s Poet Laureate. Her literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was honored with the 2018 American Book Award, and her most recent work is Sublime Subliminal. Rena’s two-year term officially began yesterday, and I was honored to be a part of the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday evening.
Thank you all for taking to the time to read this week’s Fantastic Friday, and for taking an interest in our progress at the House of Representatives. I will be sending out a Fantastic Friday letter each week throughout the legislative session.
Please feel free to reach out to me using the information below, with any questions, inquiries, or concerns you may have.
I am here for you!
All best wishes,
Rep. Debra Lekanoff