Food, workforce, and a page spotlight

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Friday was Fiscal Committee Cutoff, which means that bills needed to advance out of one of the fiscal committees (Appropriations, Capital, Transportation, or Finance) to be eligible for a floor vote. Today, we’ll start voting on the floor on those bills that passed cutoff. Our next big deadline is March 8, when all bills must pass their “house of origin” and be sent over to the Senate for their consideration.

Free school meals and food assistance programs

Food is health, and getting all school children access to free, nutritious breakfast and lunch is one of the most important things I can do as a legislator and every step forward we take toward that goal is a victory. This year, I introduced the Washington Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HB 1238) which would get us all the way to the finish line.

Unfortunately, the bill was amended in committee. The cost of the program is significant and budget writers wanted to keep the bill alive and moving forward, so the compromise was made to reduce the scope and instead limit the funding to adding elementary schools that do not already offer free meals and 30 percent or more of their students at the free and reduced lunch percentage. That would mean 90,000 additional elementary students  would get free meals by 2024, a significant step forward that will help many families struggling with food insecurity.

I do have some good news on other food insecurity news. My fellow “food fighter” Rep. Mia Gregerson introduced a bill I am cosponsoring that will help make up a shortfall in federal funding for emergency SNAP allotments. Because those federal dollars will no longer be available, families will be left with reduced access to food. We can’t let this happen, and HB 1784 will make up part of that shortfall by providing $28 million into our food assistance programs. My colleagues agreed, and the bill is moving forward and could be eligible for a floor vote within the next week. With the increase to the cost of food, our seniors, people with disabilities, and struggling families can’t afford to lose this benefit.

An update to my apprenticeship bill

Last time I wrote you, I shared information about my apprenticeship utilization bill that will make sure that skilled trade worker apprenticeships are earning a fair wage while getting the training they need for their credentials. I’m happy to report that HB 1050 passed out of the Capital Budget Committee before today’s deadline and is waiting for a chance to be pulled to the floor for a vote. The committee amended the bill, so now it would require public work contracts at a subcontract price of at least $350,000 must include apprentices to perform at least 15 percent of the labor hours. The other major requirement is for public works contracts over $1 million also use apprentices for 15 percent of the labor hours. A similar policy was enacted by the City of Spokane and members of our community asked me to consider developing a statewide policy to increase the pipeline of needed workers and connecting them to good paying jobs. I hope to see this bill head to the floor in the coming weeks.

Meet this week’s page, Claire

I was happy to sponsor Claire Poulsen as a page this week.  I sat down in our podcast studio and grabbed the mic so I could conduct an interview with Claire and find out how she enjoyed her experience this week. Listen by clicking the link below and sign up for the Capitol Ideas podcast (available on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud) to find out what we’re doing in the House of Representatives every session.

It is my honor to serve you!





Rep. Marcus Riccelli