Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Tomorrow at 5:00 pm marks a major deadline in our 60-day legislative session – House of Origin Cut Off, the time by which all non-budget bills must be passed from their House of Origin to the other Chamber. Since the beginning of the legislative biennium in 2021, over 2,000 bills have been introduced in the House and 1,000 more in the Senate. There’s never a shortage of work for the Legislature to do, but we also want to make sure that any bills we pass are given the attention and careful consideration they deserve—that’s where legislative cutoffs come into play.
Bills that don’t pass off the House or Senate floors by tomorrow — or that didn’t receive a vote in policy committees by February 3, or by February 7 for fiscal committees — likely won’t continue advancing through the legislative process this year.
Keep reading for updates on a few key bills that will make a difference in our communities.
Thanks for taking the time to read this update,
Speaking out against antisemitism and all forms of hate speech
I want to take a moment to acknowledge the recent hateful graffiti vandalism at Jewish Family Services in the 43rd District. Each of us has a responsibility to strongly condemn antisemitic attacks—and all acts of hate—whenever and wherever they occur. In a civil society, we must actively protect each other and stand up against hate and violence if we ever want it to stop. The legislature has taken steps in recent years to address the sharp rise in hate crimes in our state, yet it is clear that we have more work to do.
Virtual Town Hall Saturday, February 19 at 1:00 pm
I hope you will join your 43rd Legislative District delegation—Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Rep. Frank Chopp, and me—for a virtual town hall this Saturday, February 19 at 1:00 pm. This is an important chance for us to hear about the issues that are important to you, and to answer your questions and concerns about the legislative session. RSVP and participate here!
More housing options and protections from excessive rent hikes
While our neighborhoods in central Seattle certainly are seeing a lot of housing construction, nearly all of it is luxury rentals. With recent investment from State, City and County governments, we’ve seen increased construction of long-term affordable housing, although we are very far from providing enough stable housing options to the many low income people who need them, including people who are unhoused. In addition to the need for more low-income housing, we have seen the gap in the middle growing at a disturbingly quick rate. It’s that lack of “middle housing” that keeps many working families stuck in overpriced apartments and prices most people out of any options for homeownership.
Determining what is allowed to be built and where is necessary for solving the housing crisis. If we allow a bit more housing in our communities, like duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes, we can keep our neighborhoods vibrant, allow more people to buy homes close to work, and chip away at the severe housing shortage in our state—a shortfall of 225,000 homes by one estimate. I’m supporting two bills this legislative session to allow more opportunities for middle housing. Read an update about the legislation here.
I’ve also been deeply involved in supporting legislation to protect renters from excessive rent and related fees by providing at least six months’ notice for excessive rent increases and allowing tenants the right to terminate a tenancy. Renters across the state and across the nation are seeing rents rapidly rise — 20.1% statewide and 17.8% nationally in 2021! This is not a problem unique to Washington State, but the legislature should act to help Washingtonians retain their homes by providing renters time to plan for large increases or to try to find a more affordable housing option. Read more about this bill here.
I’m working hard to keep each of these bills moving through the legislative process to make sure they pass before the end of our session.
Police accountability implementation and clarification
Last year the Legislature passed a package of bills designed to improve trust between law enforcement and community and to uphold the policing profession. These laws work together to establish clear expectations for the behavior of police officers: to define what is acceptable use of force; what tactics and equipment are permitted; and to make sure that misconduct is held accountable.
Since this legislation went into effect a few months ago, we have heard concerns and confusion from police, from mental health professionals and from the public that these new laws might be restricting what police can do, especially in trying to help people suffering from mental health crisis. I’ve also heard from frustrated constituents who feel like Seattle police have stopped responding to calls for help.
We’re responding to these concerns with new legislation to clarify portions of the new laws. HB 1735 clarifies that officers can use force, subject to the newly established reasonable care standard, in behavioral health circumstances, for involuntary treatment commitments, in instances of child welfare, and other related circumstances.
While the new use of force standard never made any changes to these statutes, some law enforcement agencies contend that it prevents them from assisting designated crisis responders and mental and behavioral health specialists with involuntary treatments and other community caretaking functions. HB 1735 ensures that officers have the certainty they need to respond to community caretaking calls.
The bill has already passed the House, and is under consideration in the Senate.
Supporting children’s mental health
Children and youth in our state are suffering. Young people are experiencing isolation, fear, school and social disruptions, and far too many are dealing with the grief and trauma of losing a family member. It’s clear that we need to double down our efforts as the pandemic drags on.
Here are some of the bills House Democrats introduced to do just that:
- HB 1905: Helps ensure young people aren’t released into homelessness from foster care, juvenile rehabilitation or in-patient behavioral health treatment. You can hear more about this legislation on Capitol Ideas, the state House Democratic Caucus’ podcast. Tune in here!
- HB 1890: Creates the framework for building a statewide plan to provide behavioral health services when and where children, youth and families need them.
- HB 1834: Allows students to take excused absences from school to take care of their mental health in the same way they would for their physical health.
- HB 1723: Too many kids are struggling to access their online classes. The Digital Equity Act helps close the digital divide by boosting access to the internet for students and others.
- HB 1659: Creates $1,000 grants for low-income students and increases the funding most students would get from the Washington College Grant, our state’s largest financial aid program.
- HB 1835: Makes it easier for students to fill out the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and the WAFSA, Washington Application for State Financial Aid.
Keep reading: For more on the variety of approaches we’re taking to address youth mental health (and the mental health system more broadly), check out this Seattle Times article.
Additionally, families can access referral services and information about youth behavioral health here.