Dear friends and neighbors,
We are back in Olympia for the first week of the 60-day legislative session, where the House and Senate meet to discuss public policies that will shape our state’s future.
This session, I am tackling a wide variety of legislation that puts the people of Washington first. Read below for a brief overview of some of the issues I will be working on.
First woman speaker of the House
It’s a new day in the House. After 20 years of leadership under Rep. Frank Chopp, Speaker Laurie Jinkins was sworn in as the first woman and openly LGBTQ speaker in Washington state history. Members of the Women’s Caucus wore white in honor of the suffragettes who fought for women’s right to vote.
On the same day, I was elected as speaker pro tempore. As a member of House leadership, the speaker pro tempore’s primary duties are presiding over House debate floor sessions when the speaker of the House is unable to do so.
I look forward to working with Speaker Jinkins to help improve the lives of every person in Washington state. Read more in the Kent Reporter.
My 2020 legislative agenda
- Airport noise and pollution. Sea-Tac International Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the nation and it’s had a strong impact on our South King County community. Along with Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, I will continue work on a package of bills which will research indoor air quality and reduce air traffic noise for people living near Sea-Tac Airport, while working with community leaders across the state to identify new locations for additional airports. Read more in the Seattle Times.
- Suicide prevention and behavioral health. Our state and nation are in the middle of a behavioral health and substance use disorder crisis. We have a shortage of behavioral health workers and there are too many people experiencing homelessness across our state who are in need of treatment who aren’t getting the help they need. Often the most vulnerable – youth, students and veterans – pay the ultimate cost with deaths by suicide. Our system is failing too many, which is why I will be focusing on improving how we identify and respond to symptoms before it’s too late. Learn more about House Bill 2563 and House Bill 2411.
- Standing up for survivors of violent crimes. As a member of the Public Safety Committee, I am continuing efforts to reform the way our criminal justice system responds to survivors of assault. I am very proud of the work Washington has done to ensure that every rape kit will be tested and that our tracking system is available for survivors to know their kit’s status. This is a critical first step, but to help survivors seek and to hold predators accountable, we need to strengthen investigation practices including retention of all DNA evidence and conducting case reviews. Read more about work done by the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) Task Force.
As the session continues, let me know what you think the Legislature should be focused on in 2020.
January marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Unfortunately, Washington state, and in particular our 33rd Legislative District, has some of the highest rates of sex trafficking in the United States. This form of modern slavery touches every single community in our state, with children in the foster care system the most at risk for victimization.
To address this, I have worked with Sen. Manka Dhingra to introduce legislation (House Bill 1775/Senate Bill 5744) that would better support youth caught up in sex trafficking. This ‘Safe Harbor’ policy would:
- Prohibit charging anyone under the age of 18 with the crime of prostitution. Children cannot consent to sex, they are victims of sex crimes.
- Allow law enforcement to take youth victims into custody for their protection when the child is in danger.
- Pilot two therapeutic receiving centers, one on each side of the Cascades, where law enforcement can take sexually exploited children instead of detention. They will be able to receive intensive wrap around services to begin the process of recovery.
Rep. Tina Orwall