It has been a pleasure serving as your State Representative in the 40th Legislative District. As your representative, I value every opportunity to learn about your legislative priorities and perspectives. I am committed to best representing you in Olympia and look forward to our continued collaborations. Below you will find information on the legislative priorities important to our district and my work in the Legislature.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
In the 40th District, housing insecurity and homelessness are a common experience. Housing is a human right and a life-sustaining necessity, and it is our responsibility as a state to step up and care for our most vulnerable populations. That is why I have been proudly working with my colleagues in both the House and Senate to promote policies that will help prevent and reduce homelessness by reforming eviction laws, preserving existing affordable housing, supporting affordable home ownership, and reversing the history of racial and economic injustice.
We must focus on creating partnerships to build across the housing spectrum and decreasing barriers to reduce cost, increase access, and improve efficiency. We must work with our cities and counties, our businesses and industries, our affordable housing advocates, and our service providers so that everyone has access to a place they can call home no matter their background, income, identity, or situation. I am especially concerned about our youth who live unsheltered and will continue to advocate for funding and programs that help our state’s youth get housed.
During the 2020 session, the Legislature transferred $100 million from the state’s General Fund to the Housing Trust Fund, which will go toward new affordable housing projects, homeless shelters, and programs that maintain affordable housing stock and provide housing stability for those most at risk. In short, these investments will put and keep roofs over people’s heads. I was also proud to support a capital budget that included funding for housing and homelessness projects, including several local projects I worked with my colleagues in the 40th District to bring home.
Housing is the number one issue I hear about from local governments, non-profit organizations, businesses, and constituents. It’s one of my top priorities, and I will continue to advocate for funding and policy solutions until everyone, especially our youth, has access to the housing they need.
Agriculture is key to the culture and rural economy throughout Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan counties. I understand and appreciate the complexity and the seriousness of the land, water, and habitat issues at play. It’s a privilege to learn from the farming community throughout the district and to witness their history and ties to the land. Their hope and dreams keep them rooted to the land, seeds, and way of life. Farmers continue to invest in relationships, technology and innovative ways to grow their industry, adapt to the impacts changing climates have on the soil and water, face new market pressures, and implement regulations and programs. Farmers and farmworkers are incredibly hard-working people, and we must work together to support them and the industry that provides us local and nutritious foods.
I have witnessed firsthand the good work of conservation districts in their education, farm planning, water quality, and habitat enhancement efforts; the good work of dike and drainage districts and Skagit PUD to ensure irrigators have the water they need for their crops to thrive; and the inspiring work of the Port of Skagit, WSU and other partners to support research and promote the value-added agriculture economy throughout our region.
I continue to work collaboratively with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Ecology to ensure our farmers and agriculture stakeholders are receiving the resources they need. I look forward to working with my colleagues, our state agencies, farmers, farmworkers and other stakeholders to develop legislation that will provide additional support and relief for our agricultural industry. Many in our district and around the state rely on the federal Farm Bill, which sometimes doesn’t go far enough. That’s why I intend to work on a 2021 Washington State Farm Bill that will complement federal policy and expand programs supporting conservation, nutrition, rural development, research, energy, crop insurance, and farmworker protections.
EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
Access to education and training opportunities, from early learning to continuing education, are among the greatest investments we can make for the future of our state. By reducing barriers to high-quality and affordable education, we can help close the opportunity gap and develop a workforce to meet the needs of our 21st century economy.
Every child should have access to quality childcare and early learning opportunities. Research shows kindergarten readiness is an indicator of academic achievement and attainment throughout the rest of one’s life. Our state’s K-12 education system has been chronically underfunded. While the new funding the Legislature has continually put into public schools is a positive step for our state’s students, we still have a long way to go to ensure our schools are well funded and we are taking care of our educators.
Our economy and workforce demands are changing, and we must act today to ensure we are prepared for the future. We must adequately fund postsecondary education through our universities, community and technical colleges, and apprenticeship programs. Career connected learning, worker retraining, modernized curricula, and state of the art technology and broadband is necessary for a thriving workforce and economy. I was pleased to work with my colleagues in 2019 to pass the Workforce Education Investment Act, which expands the Washington College Grant (formerly the State Need Grant), allowing for students from Washington families making up to $50K/year to receive free public college tuition. It also invests in programs that connect students with degrees, certificates, and apprenticeships, leading to high-demand jobs in fields like nursing, engineering, and computer science.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen the potential and pitfalls of distance learning. We know education is changing, and this crisis provides us with a unique opportunity to envision how distance learning can help build the future of education. As we move forward towards a new normal, I will advocate for the inclusion of this new tool to help our state’s education system to meet the needs of all our state’s students.
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
I strongly support protecting our environment and natural resources in the Salish Sea and beyond. I have forged collaborative partnerships and stewardship initiatives to protect our land and waters throughout Washington state, and many of my ongoing and upcoming efforts include significant policies around climate change, salmon, and water.
Climate Change: Climate change is among the most imminent threats to our local communities, our nation, and the world. Rising temperatures and sea levels, ocean acidification, unpredictable weather patterns, droughts, wildfires, air and water pollution, wildlife endangerment, and resource and food scarcity are all impacts of climate change that threaten our communities and the future of our state.
But climate change is not just an environmental issue. We need to start thinking about it holistically, considering the interdisciplinary impacts to our health, education, housing, transportation, infrastructure, economy, and commerce. It is past time to dedicate resources and commit to changing our behavior in ways to help mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change. Not to mention addressing the injustice of these consequences disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable populations.
Salmon: Salmon are an indicator species, intertwined with the economy, cultures, and values of Washington state. The Legislature is a co-decision maker with Washington Treaty Tribes when it comes to salmon. Therefore, we must work together to ensure we make seven generations of decision making for this precious and historical resource. The health of our salmon indicates the health of our being and our state. I have been working alongside several partners to enact the following policies:
- Creating a Joint Legislative Committee on Salmon to guide the Legislature in making informed laws, policies, and funding decisions. I support the state joint agency model to collaborate across chambers and parties to better address the implementation of laws, policies, and funding.
- Modernizing the Growth Management Act to include salmon recovery efforts.
- Focusing our efforts and resources to working with tribal, state, and local governments, as well as private landowners on a watershed approach to replacing culverts and improving fish passage. While the Legislature invested in addressing fish passage culverts in the 2020 legislative session, there is much more to do to meet the requirements of the court order to replace state injunction culverts and restore critical salmon habitat.
- Implementing a net ecological gain standard for land development. Our current standard of “no net loss” means decisions on land development are balanced with environmental impacts, leaving it no worse, but no better. By switching to a net ecological gain standard, or a “leave it better than you found it” standard, development projects would contribute to habitat restoration and help achieve a healthier environment for current and future generations.
Water: Water is a priority here in Washington state. Across this great nation we are witnessing states build their capacity to address water quality and quantity. Moving forward, I will continue my work as Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Water Supply, which serves as a place for legislators to be informed on the current status of water so we may make informed decisions on the future of water in our state. This year, we’ll learn the outcomes and recommendations of two joint task forces on water, as well as the Department of Ecology’s report on state adjudication. I plan to continue advocating for the development of a permanent joint legislative task force as a place for legislators to be informed on the current status of water so we may make informed decisions on laws, policies, and the budget on the future of water. Furthermore, we should address matters of water quality and quantity by developing a statewide water management plan and water court system. Both models have been successful in other states, and I hope to implement something similar here in Washington to increase statewide coordination and collaboration.
Wildlife Management: The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a duty to preserve, protect, perpetuate, and manage the wildlife of the state, including elk. United States treaties with sovereign nations are the supreme law of the land and certain tribal hunting rights are reserved by treaties between several tribes and the United States government. Along with these hunting rights come responsibilities to manage wildlife for abundance and to maintain hunting opportunities for future generations for all Washingtonians. I look forward to working with the State and Tribes to co-manage wildlife management.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL WELL-BEING
Health care access is a right. I am proud to partner with my colleagues to bring stability and consistency to the health care market to get everyone the care they need. I believe our health care should be transparent, accessible, and affordable. I’ve supported legislation for hospital oversight, cost reporting, prescription drug affordability, expanding access and affordability of care to all, and finally, I was pleased to support Washington’s effort to establish a public option for health insurance.
Behavioral Health, Addiction and Recovery
Integrating behavioral health care with physical health services results in better and more comprehensive care. We must provide complete care for our most vulnerable populations, including those struggling with substance use disorders and behavioral health issues. While we’ve made progress, Washington needs to continue making investments in our behavioral health system, particularly in services for our youth. By reaching children and their families early on, we can reduce longer-term needs and make a significant difference in the overall mental health picture for our state.
In 2001, the Indian Health Service, a federal agency, established a dental health aid program to address the shortage of licensed dentists in rural Alaska communities, and later expanded these community health programs across the country. In 2017, Governor Inslee signed into law a bill that allows federally recognized tribes to fund dental health aid therapists (DHAT) with federal dollars. Since then, seven tribes in Washington have successfully integrated this model. DHATs can provide a range of preventative oral care services including cleanings, fillings, exams, and some extractions. In 2019, House Bill 1317 was introduced, which would create a license and regulatory framework for a mid-level dental provider called a dental therapist.
Establishing dental therapy can help improve oral health care. Dental health is key to whole body health, and there are many children and adults on Medicaid and vulnerable populations that do not have access to dental care. Authorizing dental therapy can modernize our dental care delivery system, improve access, and help meet high demands, especially in low-income and rural areas. I have heard from dentists who have serious concerns, as well as a broad coalition of labor unions, tribal governments, health care professionals and patient advocates who support this bill. I am committed to working with my colleagues to find a solution.
Reproductive Rights and Comprehensive Sexual Health Education
My body, my choice. I am a firm believer that no matter where you live, people of all identities need a safe, inclusive, accessible, and affordable place to seek healthcare. I also support comprehensive sexual health education in our schools that is medically and scientifically accurate, age appropriate, and appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, or sexual orientation.
I was proud to vote for legislation that requires comprehensive sexual health education with an affirmative consent curriculum in all public schools by the 2022-23 school year in accordance with the recommendations of the sexual health education work group. This legislation is so important for Washington students. Comprehensive sexual health education will teach them the skills to identify and prevent sexual assault, in addition to teaching the skills to engage in healthy, consensual relationships. For young K-3rd grade students, this means teaching social and emotional learning. “Bad touch” and “be a good friend” are foundational building blocks for later education.
This new law doesn’t take away local control, and school districts can select the curriculum that works best for their community or can even design their own curriculum in partnership with OSPI. In addition, parents or guardians can request to view the curriculum and schools must let them opt their child out if they so choose. Our state always has and always will prioritize parents’ involvement in their children’s education.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I believe comprehensive education is key to preparing our younger generation for tomorrow. By preparing them with knowledge, we can ensure that Washington students are equipped to be safe, healthy, and mature.
JOBS, LABOR AND THE ECONOMY
As technology advances and markets evolve, we must make sure our workers and businesses have the resources they need to succeed. In order to accomplish this, first, we must protect workers’ rights, promote living wages, and ensure safe workplace conditions. Second, we must support cutting edge job training and workforce development tools to ensure our workers and businesses are meeting the demands of the 21st century economy. As some industries phase out, and new industries emerge, we must prioritize a just transition for our workers and provide opportunities for job retraining. We must also promote equity and inclusion in our workforce because America thrives when we embrace our diversity, unique backgrounds and skill sets.
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Transportation and infrastructure affect all our families, communities, and businesses. Washington state must invest in a modern transportation system that’s cleaner and more sustainable, while giving people more options to get where they need to go. This includes electric vehicles, ferries, buses, trains, and safe bicycle and pedestrian pathways. Green transportation technologies are a smart way to reduce air pollution and fight climate change. It’s more than just thinking about a personal investment in an electric vehicle for your household, electrifying our ferries, buses, and trucks makes good ecological and financial sense for all of us.
To promote green jobs and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I sponsored House Bill 2486, which extends the sales and use tax exemption for electric marine batteries. This will provide predictability for the growing industry and incentivize more vessel owners to purchase battery-powered marine propulsion systems.
In order to achieve a transportation system that fits our 21st century demands, federal, state, local, and tribal governments, along with private partners, must invest billions of dollars. This cannot be accomplished unless we have a progressive, predictable and sustainable revenue source. The gas tax and car tabs models are outdated, they are regressive, and have proven to be insufficient and unsustainable. That is why I support efforts to modernize our tax system and dedicate funding to transportation and infrastructure to meet our current and future needs. I look forward to working with my colleagues to explore our options.
Climate Resilient Infrastructure
There are three main considerations when thinking about infrastructure through a climate lens: 1) how will climate change physically affect our infrastructure network, 2) how can we modernize, enhance existing, or build new infrastructure to limit ecological harm, and 3) prioritize infrastructure projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Culverts: One example of climate resilient infrastructure would be removing fish passage barrier culverts and replacing them with bridges or other ecologically-sound alternatives. Washington has begun addressing our legal responsibility to replace state injunction culverts so that we can better work towards our shared salmon recovery goals. We are also engaging cities, counties, and private landowners, as they too will need to eventually replace their culverts.
A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld a lower court’s order requiring Washington state to fix or replace state-owned barriers that block fish passage in specified areas. I am proud to work alongside my colleagues, the Governor’s office, state agencies, tribes, and other stakeholders to support funding to develop a comprehensive statewide culvert remediation plan through a watershed approach that fully satisfies the requirements of the US v. Washington Permanent Injunction. In 2020, we took a good first step by proposing a $275 million investment for fish passage culverts in the transportation budget.
The 40th District has many rural communities that don’t have access to quality broadband services. Broadband internet service has become as important as water or power. It is vital to our local economies, businesses, schools, and healthcare systems that Washington state expand access to broadband into more communities.
The Statewide Broadband Office, which was established by the Legislature in 2019, is working with Washington’s Public Works Board and Utility and Transportation Commission to meet the goal of providing access to affordable broadband to all Washingtonians.
Responsibilities of the Statewide Broadband Office include:
- Functioning as the central broadband planning body for the state and is responsible for the overarching policy vision;
- Working to develop strategies and plans for the deployment of broadband infrastructure and greater broadband access;
- Collaborating with the public and broadband providers;
- Developing, recommending, and implementing a statewide plan to encourage cost-effective broadband access – the current plan is to be updated by 2021; and
- Troubleshooting barriers to effective collaboration around broadband service delivery.
COMMUNITY AND PUBLIC SAFETY
Protecting our communities and ensuring their safety is a top priority for our state. We must also ensure that we are allowing those who have made a mistake to reenter our society and succeed. I believe in protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to work for a better life. This year, I was proud to support policies to increase protections for those affected by gun violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment; provide more support for law enforcement; and support re-entry for those who have paid their debt to society.
In addition, I successfully passed legislation in the 2020 session that will help make our communities safer for us all. House Bill 2785 requires two additional private citizens, at least one from a federally recognized tribe, serve on the Criminal Justice Training Commission, which develops and provides training for law enforcement. Communities have been working with law enforcement to improve interactions between police and the communities they serve, and this new law represents a commitment that the collaborative work will continue.
Finally, I look forward to working with our local governments to ensure our first responders have the communication equipment necessary to keep our communities safe during natural disasters and other emergencies. Currently, many of our local law enforcement agencies and fire departments have outdated technologies and upgrading or replacing equipment could cost millions. Cities and counties alone cannot afford this, yet we need to make these investments. I will continue to advocate for the state to take part in securing the emergency communication technologies our cities and counties need to keep us all safe.
Washington state’s tax structure, developed at the turn of the 20th century, is not performing well for the people of Washington state. It’s no longer equitable, adequate, stable, or transparent, and needs to be modernized to reflect our 21st century economy, our rapid population growth, and expanding community needs. The COVID-19 crisis further highlighted these vulnerabilities.
We have THE MOST regressive tax structure in the nation. Meaning, we ask low- and middle-income households to bear a heavier burden than wealthier households for funding the investments we collectively make in our communities. That’s because our tax structure relies on sales, property, and other excise taxes.
It’s not just low- and middle-income households that suffer. The Business & Occupation tax is a gross receipts tax, penalizing small, start-up and low-margin businesses because it does not allow deductions for the costs of doing business. In addition, large businesses and industries have secured many of the more than 748 tax preferences in our code that give breaks to a small number of taxpayers and result in more than $68 billion in foregone state revenue each biennium. These exemptions shift the burden of funding community needs to the remaining taxpayers and creating real winners and losers within the code.
In 2018, the Tax Structure Work Group began facilitating public discussions to garner feedback about Washington’s tax structure and how it affects small business owners, workers, and families. In 2019, the bipartisan, bicameral Tax Structure Work Group was reauthorized and expanded, allowing that work to continue. The aim is to conduct a holistic review of the tax code and develop alternatives, with small, start-up, and low-margin businesses, as well as low- and middle-income taxpayers at the table guiding that work.
The Work Group is currently in the stage in which the Department of Revenue is conducting a robust analysis of Washington’s tax code and modeling alternative structures. The next steps will be to engage the public in discussions on the tax structure, provide feedback to the Legislature, and formulate policy proposals. This work will be ongoing for the next few years, and I look forward to continuing to engage in these conversations and helping to develop alternatives to our current tax structure and recommend policies that reduce the tax burden on low- and middle-income families, as well as start-up, small, and low-margin businesses.
Learn more about the Tax Structure Work Group, sign up to receive email updates, and find information on past and upcoming meetings on the Department of Revenue dedicated website: dor.wa.gov/about/taxstructure-work-group.