Dear friends and neighbors,
Legislative session began the second Monday of January, just like every year. And we all convened in Olympia on the first day like we do every year, though, on this occasion it was to adopt temporary rules allowing for remote proceedings for the rest of the session.
On Monday, I was also sworn-in by Justice Whitener as the Speaker Pro Tempore. I am honored and humbled to serve on the House Leadership Team with such a talented and diverse group of colleagues. I am ready to work with all of them on the best policies to support our fellow Washingtonians during these challenging times.
In a normal session, it gets very busy with House and Senate members, and their staff, moving to Olympia for the duration. Many stakeholders and lobbyists also set up shop in town, and large groups visit the state Capitol daily. Adding everybody up, you could have up to 10,000 people on campus every day from January to April!
Following bipartisan discussions and input from public health experts on how best to protect the health of legislators, staff, and the public, it was clear that hosting that kind of bustling activity in the time of COVD-19 would be unwise and irresponsible. That’s why we decided to hold this session remotely. This means that every committee meeting, work session, debate, and vote on the floor of each chamber will be televised and archived by TVW.org.
As Speaker Pro Tempore, I will be in Olympia presiding over floor sessions, but all my other legislative activities will be done from home.
There is a silver lining to our current circumstances: to legislate remotely, we also had to make sure you could participate remotely just as you would in person. Except, we actually made it better by expanding the ways you can connect with us. Check out the graphic below or click here for a page that includes a Q&A slideshow, a short video by Speaker Laurie Jinkins and Senator Andy Billig, and a bulleted list with more information on how to submit testimony, follow the progress of a bill and more.
Be sure to visit my Facebook page!
Also, If you’d like to meet with me, contact my legislative Assistant, Mary Soderlind, and she will arrange a phone call or a meeting over Zoom.
The 988 Lifeline
Over the past decade, deaths by suicide have increased by 36 percent in our state. It is the single leading cause of death for Washingtonians ages 10 through 24, and suicide rates are higher than the general population among veterans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, LGBTQ youth, and people living in rural areas.
As you know, I have worked extensively on suicide prevention measures, and my fight continues this session with House Bill 1182. I introduced this legislation to help ensure suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis services are accessible to everyone statewide.
My bill will implement the bipartisan National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which designated 988 as the new national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline number, paving the way for states to develop improved crisis response systems.
My bill also calls for investments to, among other things, create a high tech crisis call center system, mobile rapid response crisis teams and crisis stabilization units, short-term respite facilities, peer-operated respite services, and behavioral health urgent care walk-in centers across the state and in collaboration with the tribes.
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of a large group of people, that includes individuals with lived experiences and family members, who are also helping to shape our new system.
Read more about this important legislation in the Kent Reporter.
Washington’s COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline: Find Your Phase!
Recently, the Washington State Department of Health announced a timeline for vaccine distribution in our state. Their extensive work to get vaccines to frontline workers and vulnerable populations is monumental. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are being distributed in Washington state after rigorous testing, authorization for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and additional approval by the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup of our Western States Pact.
This timeline shows when people will be eligible for vaccination. In addition to federal guidance and partnership with the governor’s office, it was developed with input from nearly 20,000 people around the state through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. You can find out when you might be vaccinated by taking a short survey at FindYourPhaseWA.
Click on the image below for a larger version.
Way to go, King County!
I want to give kudos and thanks to King County for creating vaccine sites, including two in our area:
Keep in touch
Thank you for reading my newsletter and for giving me the honor to continue representing your interests and your values at the state level.
I hope you will use the available tools presented here to connect with me and my colleagues this session. Don’t forget to email Mary for phone or Zoom meetings!
Rep. Tina Orwall