Rep. Melanie Morgan: The Life of a Freshman Legislator, part 3

Dear friends and neighbors,

We have reached the halfway mark of the 2019 session. Next Wednesday, March 13th, is known as “House of Origin” cutoff. This is the last day to get “yes” votes on bills in either the House or the Senate. What does that mean? All the bills introduced this session must pass through the Rules Committee before they are eligible to be scheduled for a vote on the House floor. Those that pass the House move on to the Senate, where the process is repeated before it goes to the Governor to be signed into law. It sounds simple, but the reality is that some bills may have amendments (revisions), which must be discussed and voted on before we even start discussing the actual bill. It is not unusual to have more than 50 bills and numerous amendments per day to discuss. (Click here for a visual on how a bill becomes a law.)

When the House is in session, I must also balance a variety of meetings with constituents, lobbyists, and agencies; give interviews, write correspondence, conduct research for bills, AND remember to eat, sleep, and send love to my children. This can mean long days and nights, that I gladly undertake for those that don’t have a voice in the “People’s House.”

The Legislative Building, where the House and Senate chambers are located, features beautiful floors made of marble sourced from around the world. Its famous dome is 287 feet high, making it the tallest self-supporting masonry dome in the United States and fifth tallest in the world. The exterior limestone was quarried from Wilkeson Quarries in Pierce County. When visitors come to the Capitol and enter the Legislative Building, the marble is the most dominant feature. It looks gorgeous, but walking on it all day takes a toll on my old feet. I begin the day ready to slay in beautiful heels, but by the end of the day my feet are screaming and my pink Crocs show up and calm them. Just another day in the life of a new legislator!

Thus far, three of the bills I have sponsored have passed unanimously out of the House and will now be heard in the Senate for consideration. I am excited to work with my Senate colleagues to help these bills continue to advance in the process and become laws which will help all citizens throughout our great state. Read below for more information about these bills and how they help the people of the 29th District. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


A more inclusive democracy: Ballot return dates

Washington is a vote-by-mail state. Eligible voters receive a ballot in the mail from their local county elections office prior to the election, and have until the day of the election to return it, but a majority of voters are unsure of the exact day. The 29th Legislative District has one of the lowest rates of voter participation in the state, so I collaborated with other Democratic colleagues for ways to help our communities become more engaged in their democracy. I sponsored a bill requiring the date of the election to be prominently displayed on the envelope in which a voter receives their ballot. This is a small change that can make a big difference. Sweepstakes offers include the return date – shouldn’t our ballots have the same reminder? I’m pleased to say the members of the House agreed with me – voting unanimously to send HB 1520 on to the Senate.

Helping disabled veterans afford college tuition

When I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, I chose to remain in the great state of Washington to continue my education and raise my family. As a young mother, I was affected by out-of-state tuition prices, and it was a hardship. Our disabled veterans should not face that same hardship. That’s why I was proud to sponsor HB 1688, which aligns our state with changes already made at the federal level, allowing veterans eligible for federal Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Services benefits to be eligible for in-state tuition at Washington’s public universities, colleges and technical schools. I will continue to assist my fellow service members,  who have made great sacrifices for our country. Our higher education institutions benefit from the wealth of experience, knowledge and diversity veterans bring to campuses statewide. The bill passed the House unanimously.

Making harassment a violation of the state Ethics in Public Service Act


It is hard to believe our state’s Ethics in Public Service Act has no specific provisions prohibiting harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination. This was a glaring problem for staff, lawmakers, and for anyone who conducts business at the legislature. While the legislature has made big strides in improving Respectful Workplace policies, more work is needed. That’s why I sponsored a bill, HB 2018, to close this loophole by making clear distinctions in the Ethics Act that prohibit any form of harassment, sexual or otherwise.

In my speech on the House floor, I shared my own personal experiences of workplace harassment. The #MeToo movement has revealed how pervasive sexual harassment is in the workplace, including in our own legislature. EVERYONE deserves to feel safe at work, and now that HB 2018 has passed unanimously out of the House, you can bet I’ll keep pushing for it to pass the Senate and be signed into law.

Watch my floor speech on HB 2018: