Rep. Melanie Morgan: My first month in office

The Life of a Freshman Legislator

Photo of women legislators of color
There are more women of color in the Washington State Legislature than ever before. Photo: LSS


Dear friends and neighbors,

These first few weeks in Olympia have been overwhelming, exhausting, and exhilarating….and I am loving it. I am vigilantly challenging every piece of legislation and proposal to ensure each one incorporates a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens and benefits our community. It’s a very large task and it is something that I will do over and over again in order to represent ALL of the 29th District.

I am also working hard to advocate and ensure that the 29th receives the resources we need for a strong and healthy community. This e-newsletter describes some of what I’ve been working on these first few weeks.


Priority number one: Cleaning up our own House

The Washington State House of Representatives took its first vote of the year on January 24, which aimed at ensuring that our legislative community is a respectful and safe working environment. Harassment and bullying in the Legislature festered for decades until more than 250 women in the legislative community came together to sign a “Stand With Us” letter. Since then, significant steps have been taken to end this culture of harassment, including creating the House Workgroup on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment. Recommendations from the Workgroup resulted in passage of House Concurrent Resolution 4401 establishing the Legislature’s Code of Conduct.

From now on, all members of the legislative community — legislators, staff, and people who conduct business with the legislature — are expected to:

  • Conduct themselves with self-awareness, self-respect, and professionalism;
  • Treat all others with respect, dignity and civility, regardless of status or position;
  • Refrain from engaging in hostile, intimidating, offensive, or unlawful activities or behaviors that may amount to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, or bullying.

Truthfully, I’m saddened it took some high-profile and very public events to finally spur the legislature to take this action, but together with my colleagues I am committed to changing the culture that has for too long failed too many victims. I am hopeful this code of conduct will be a living, breathing document, and I’m proud to be a part of it. Read my official statement after passage of HCR 4401 here.

Black Caucus formed in House on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo from Minnesota Historical Society via Wikipedia

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the five black members of the House of Representatives established the Black Caucus, recognizing black leadership within the state legislature.

I joined fellow freshman Debra Entenman (D-Kent) and returning Reps. Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way), Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle) and John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) in forming the largest cohort of black legislators to serve at one time in the House.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Black Caucus.

Fact: Throughout Washington’s history, only 19 black members – including the most recent class of legislators – have served in the House.

February is Black History Month

Shirley Chisholm, one of my great inspirations. Photo from Library of Congress via Wikipedia

The formation of the Black Caucus in the state House is timely, since February is Black History Month. The origins of this annual monthly celebration go all the way back to 1915 and the persistence of Carter G. Woodson. You can read more about Woodson and the story behind Black History Month here. I’m inspired by leaders like Carter G. Woodson and others who fought to ensure black history is preserved. That’s why I’m sponsoring a Black History Month resolution in the Washington State House. It’s an honor to bring forward this resolution to be adopted and officially entered into the legislative record.

Standing up for tenant protections

Rep. Cindy Ryu and I serve as Chair and Vice Chair of the Housing, Community Development and Veterans committee in the House. Photo: LSS

I’ve been a housing advocate since 1997, and one of my legislative priorities is being a strong voice for those experiencing housing insecurity. That’s why I’m sponsoring a bill that would allow a tenant to make installment payments for certain deposits, fees and last month’s rent. The Tacoma City Council passed a Rental Housing Code last year with this exact protection for tenants. This happened because affordable housing advocates and people concerned about the crisis of homelessness in our community were outraged about what happened last year in Tacoma with the Tiki Apartments. That situation shone a bright light on the enormous struggles people face when they are suddenly displaced, and while I am grateful for that bright light, those of us who have been advocating for years know these struggles happen to people all the time, and they don’t usually make the front page of the local paper.

Tacoma passed the Rental Housing Code unanimously, and now I’m pushing for renters across the state to have the same protections renters in Tacoma now have when it comes to installment payments. Here’s a video of my testimony in support of my bill.

We cannot keep quiet when it comes to the affordable housing and homelessness crisis. You can bet I’ll be speaking up. Here’s a clip of me in a recent public hearing of the Housing, Community Development and Veterans committee, making sure people remember to refrain from making assumptions, stereotypes, and judgments when talking about people facing homelessness.

Students from the 29th LD represent!

Photo courtesy PLU

The flag of Pacific Lutheran University flew proudly in the Flag Circle here at the state capitol last month.  PLU was the winner of the Governor’s Student Voter Registration Challenge in their school’s category for 2018 – way to go Lutes!

Last year the Legislature passed a package of bills to help eliminate barriers to voting and simplifying the voting process, so that ALL eligible voters have better access to THEIR democracy. This year, I’m sponsoring a bill to make a simple yet meaningful change that supports better access to democracy and encourages transparency and accessibility in our election process. My bill would require the election date to be clearly marked on the ballot return envelope, a clear way to reduce confusion and communicate the ballot submission deadline for all voters.