Dear friends and neighbors,
May this newsletter find you and your loved ones well and in high spirits, and may the new year come with blessings for all of us.
As you know, this is the short session, which means we only have 60 days to get everything done, including the three supplemental budgets, so things will happen very quickly. I’ll do my best to keep you updated and please know your input is always welcome.
We’re Making History
The 2020 session began with a new face at the House rostrum: Speaker Laurie Jinkins! With this year marking the 100th anniversary of women achieving the right to vote, I was particularly proud to vote yes on the House floor last Monday for Washington’s first-ever woman and first lesbian Speaker of the House. It is the first time in nearly two decades that a new Speaker takes the gavel.
In her opening day speech, Speaker Jinkins said that while her title may be Speaker, she sees her primary job as listening. She also made clear her commitment to equity and inclusion, and to expanding opportunity for all people in our state.
This is an exciting new chapter for the legislature and for our state. I look forward to working with Speaker Jinkins to pass good policies that put people first and help communities across Washington thrive.
Watch my first Legislative Video Update of 2020
In this first video, I talk about three of my priority bills. One got stuck in the Senate last year, so I reintroduced it this session and I have great news: it passed the House unanimously last week! This legislation, HB 1264, makes it clear that teachers matter, as it will provide them with trainings on available resources to help them deal with the stresses of working in school, particularly in our current environment. I hope it reaches the governor’s desk this time around.
Families also matter, and I have two bills aimed at empowering families. The first one, HB 2631, will create a family engagement framework that will guide us to include parents in every step of the education journey of their children, from early learning until high school graduation.
The other measure, HB 2725, replaces the term “foster parent” with “foster resource parent” to highlight that these foster resource parents are critical in the reunification process of their foster children with their biological parents.
What’s next for transportation after the car tabs initiative?
The passage of Initiative 976 means a loss of more than $450 million in revenue for the state transportation budget.
It’s true that the initiative is being challenged in court. However, that trial hasn’t started yet, and whoever loses the trial will appeal it all the way to the state Supreme Court. We probably won’t know the initiative’s final fate until this summer, long after lawmakers finish work during this short 60-day session.
Changing an initiative would require a supermajority vote, which is unlikely, and It’s also a myth—despite what you may have seen in the 2019 voter’s guide—that we can simply tap the state rainy day fund to replace the missing funds.
The rainy day fund is meant for the operating budget, which pays for public schools, colleges, parks and non-transportation costs. There are also protections in the state constitution that prevent lawmakers from spending the rainy day fund without a supermajority vote and certain conditions, like an economic recession.
All of that means that the transportation budget has to be balanced, however painful the cuts or project delays might be.
It’s not pleasant, and it’s not what any of us want. We need more investments—not less—in highways, transit, ferries and trains to reduce traffic gridlock on our highways and get people where they need to be.
After the fate of I-976 is decided by the state Supreme Court, we need to talk about how to work together and find innovative ways to keep Washington moving.
Ending Youth Solitary Confinement
Solitary confinement is detrimental to youth. Across the country, states are taking action to limit or end the practice. Studies show that it is emotionally harmful, psychologically damaging and counterproductive. That’s why I’m co-sponsoring my seatmate Rep. Strom Peterson’s HB 2277 to prohibit the use of solitary confinement for juveniles and dramatically limit the use of room confinement or isolation, ensuring a focus on evidence-based and effective forms of rehabilitation.
As I start my seventh session, I am honored and humbled that you continue putting your trust in me. Over these years I have met with many of you and read all your emails and letters, please keep them coming. I cannot thank you enough for your valuable feedback and ideas because they really make a difference and help guide my decisions.
Thank you for reading my newsletter. If you need more information on any of the issues discussed here, or on any other legislative matter, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.