Budget Updates for Spokane, Stopping Catalytic Converter Theft, and School Meals Update

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last week the House and Senate released their 2022 Supplemental Operating, Transportation, and Capital budgets. Please watch my video update below for more information on how they benefit Spokane.

House Democrats release supplemental budget proposal to move Washington past the pandemic

K-12 Budget

Last week, the House Democratic budget team offered up a proposal that is all about moving past the pandemic and getting back to normal, but still prioritizing recovery for families that are struggling. When COVID-19 struck our state, we worked on a budget that was equitable, inclusive, and tried to help everyone recover. That included business and rental assistance, food and utility support, and major funding investments in health care, public health, and housing. It was clear that some communities were hit harder than others and this uneven recovery isn’t working for all of us. A year later, we’re still seeing some communities struggling to get back on their feet, and problems that existed prior to 2020 still exist today. Some are even worse than before.

Even with these challenges, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Masks are coming off, vaccines and boosters are available to everyone, and people are going back out into their communities and workplaces. With that sense of normalcy returning, everyone deserves to come out of this pandemic better than they went into it. It’s time for smart, strategic investments in what families and workers in Washington need. If we invest now, every family benefits from the better future we’ll be building for Washington. That’s what you deserve.

One of the most important issues we can address today is education. We’ve seen proposals that would defund schools: cutting education funding sources or taking money directly from schools. That’s simply the wrong thing to do and makes absolutely no sense, especially after the last two years of remote learning and quarantined classmates that our students have had to deal with. Defunding schools is not an option – we need to invest more, not less, and this budget makes sure our schools can be open and ready for our kids come September.

I am particularly happy that this budget funds HB 1878, my bill to expand the Community Eligibility Program (CEP). CEP allows schools with a certain percent of students whose households receive assistance from programs like SNAP or Medicaid, are in foster care placements, or who struggle with housing stability, to apply for community eligibility which provides funding to serve free meals to all of the students at that school. Removing lunch co-pays and the stigma of free and reduced lunch can more effectively provide students with the nutrition they need to succeed. This budget will expand free school meals to 626 schools and over 92,000 children without passing the costs on to local school districts.

Our progress prior to the pandemic wasn’t good enough, and now we have a chance to make better, smarter choices. Things won’t change overnight, and problems won’t go away without hard work. But we made it through two years of lockdowns, restrictions, masks, remote learning, remote work, crowded hospitals, and missed holidays. We’ve proven that by working together, we move forward together. We deserve a better Washington. So, let’s build it together. I’m excited to vote for this budget and I hope you’ll join me in supporting the House Democratic Supplemental Budget as we move toward a final budget in our negotiations with the Senate.

Taking action to stop catalytic converter thefts

catalytic converter

Catalytic converter thefts had been on the rise for years. Then, the pandemic hit, and thefts started skyrocketing. Nationwide, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported nearly two thousand thefts in 2018, over three thousand in 2019, and a whopping 14,433 in 2020, leading to over $33.7 million in insurance payouts to customers. Additionally, data from State Farm showed Washington state holding the dubious title of fourth worst state in the nation for catalytic converter thefts in the first half of 2021.

Rising prices for precious metals and the devastating economic effects of the two-year global pandemic have created a perfect storm of crisis:  limited resources and supply chain disruptions that make catalytic converters enticing targets for thieves.

That’s why I’m supporting HB 1815 this year. This legislation presents a real opportunity to stem the sharp rise in catalytic converter thefts by requiring a scrap metal business engaging in a transaction involving a catalytic converter removed from a vehicle to record documentation indicating that it came from a vehicle registered in the seller’s name. This will immediately help law enforcement crack down on organized crime and enforce laws related to theft of private metal property. The legislation also facilitates a stakeholder process to get cops, prosecutors, judges, and business leaders together to share experiences and strategies to further drive down thefts.

I was proud to pass the bill off the House floor recently, and I hope it will receive swift consideration in the state Senate. While another bill related to catalytic converter thefts was also introduced earlier this session, HB 1815 is the only bill still under consideration following recent legislative deadlines.

Feeding Kids Can’t Wait: Update

Everyone agrees. Feeding Kids Can’t Wait!
Last Friday, the Senate passed HB 1878 to expand nutritious, free school meals to over 92,000 kids with a vote of 45-4! It is now on its way to the Governor’s desk!
Food is health. Consistent access to nutritious food is a part of how we protect kids from getting sick while ensuring they have the fuel they need to learn, grow, and play. And free school meals are the most effective way to ensure that all of our kids are getting the food they need to thrive.
As always, it’s an honor to serve our community.
Best Regards,

Representative Marcus Riccelli