Rep. Melanie Morgan: The Life of a Freshman Legislator, Part 2

Photo: LSS

Dear friends and neighbors,

February marks my second month in office, and it also happens to be Black History Month. I was proud to sponsor a resolution in the House this year celebrating Black History Month, which was adopted yesterday, February 18th. You can read the entire resolution here.

Photo of young woman with microphone on House floor
It was a proud Mom moment for me when my daughter sang the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” in the House chambers to celebrate Children’s Day and Black History Month. Photo: LSS

My days here at the legislature are scheduled in 15-minute increments, and most days don’t end until 6 or 8 p.m. Each morning Leslie, my legislative assistant, hands me a “blue card” which has my entire schedule for the day. It tells me where I need to be, and when. Committee meetings are usually two hours, but most other meetings are squeezed in one after the other in 15-minute slots. It makes for very full days, but it’s truly an honor to work hard on behalf of the people of the 29th District. This newsletter highlights some of what I’ve been working on over the past couple of weeks.


Affordable housing and stable communities for all

Our state has an affordable housing and homelessness crisis, and no community is immune. Despite recent efforts, we simply do not have adequate housing to keep Washingtonians of all income levels housed. As someone who has been an affordable housing advocate for over 20 years, I can tell you this crisis doesn’t impact everyone equally. Renters and people of color are more likely to be overburdened by housing costs, and at greater risk for facing eviction.

That’s why I’m glad the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee is moving three bills forward aimed at protecting renters and reforming our broken eviction system:

  • HB 1453 extends the 3-day notice to pay or vacate to 21 days, and provides judges with discretion to act in the interest of justice. 90% of evictions are for nonpayment of rent, so this bill is needed to end the cycle of evictions leading to homelessness. I am a co-sponsor of this bill.
  • HB 1656 requires that landlords cite a legitimate business reason for terminating a tenancy (nonpayment of rent, waste or nuisance and rule violation). Under current law, a landlord may decide that they no longer want to continue renting to a tenant and simply issue a 20-day notice to terminate the tenancy without citing any reason whatsoever. Once the notice has been delivered, the tenant has no legal recourse to remain in their home. This is a glaring loophole for discrimination and retaliation against renters who assert their rights, and it is being used that way. I am a co-sponsor of this bill.
  • HB 1694 permits tenants to pay deposits, nonrefundable fees, and last month’s rent in installments, with certain exceptions. I am the sponsor of this bill.

Survey: Should Washington state #DitchTheSwitch?

Twice a year, we “spring ahead” and “fall back” when we shift between Pacific Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time. Not everyone is a fan of this change, and that’s why I’m keeping an eye on House Bill 1196, which would put Washington state on year-round Daylight Savings Time. It’s scheduled to move out of the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations this week.

A health impact review by the state Department of Health found there’s a spike in heart attacks, strokes, and even car accidents each year when we “spring forward.” Since we’re already on Daylight Savings Time eight months of the year, it isn’t much of a stretch to keep it year round. This bill gives voters a chance to weigh in on the idea at the ballot box, but in order to ditch the switch Washington state must also get permission from the federal government. A vote of the people in favor would send a strong message to our congressional delegation to push for this in the other Washington. So, what do YOU think? Should our state #DitchTheSwitch? Click here to let me know!

Measles update

Photo: LSS

In response to the measles outbreak in Clark County, the governor declared a state of emergency. Although our area is not yet affected, there was one confirmed case in King County and measles could easily spread our way. If you have questions, the Tacoma/Pierce County Health Department is a great resource and source of information for keeping ourselves healthy.

For most people, getting immunized against measles is a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of the disease. However, children under the age of one and people with certain medical conditions cannot get the vaccine.

There is currently legislation making its way through the House to remove the personal or philosophical exemption from the measles vaccination for school attendance. Exemptions would still exist for medical and religious reasons.

Did you know our district – the 29th Legislative District – has twice the average statewide rate of preventable hospitalizations? Last year, the state budget included funding for programs that help increase immunization rates and implement more health screenings, interventions and referrals by providers in our community. I recently met with health care providers from the Tacoma area who came to Olympia to make a case for this year’s budget to once again help fund these important programs. The last couple of days I have been working with the medical community and Health Department to address the lack of community clinics and therefore access to medical care in our community.