Local projects, budget highlights, and a bill update

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2023 Legislative Session is nearly over, with less than 3 weeks before we adjourn. It has been a busy year, with a lot of work done on priorities in health care, housing, and food security. Next Wednesday is our deadline for passing policy bills out of the House and Senate, and several of my bills are awaiting votes, while others have made it out of the Senate and are awaiting final steps before landing on the governor’s desk. We also passed budget proposals and are currently negotiating the final details of a compromise for those budgets. I look forward to updating you on those when we wrap up on April 23.

Local Budget Projects

I filmed a video highlighting some of the budget highlights that directly impact Spokane. There are some great projects funded in the House budgets, so watch the video by clicking below.

House Operating Budget Highlights

At the beginning of the year, I mentioned that I have heard from many of you about priorities to focus on, including health care, behavioral health, and housing. The House proposed operating budget invested in those areas and more, including some of my priorities in food security.

Health Care and Public Health: $991 million

The pandemic showed us just how precarious our health care system can be when it is not adequately funded. Over the last few years, the Legislature has dramatically increased our public health investments and this year is no different, with $100 million more in foundational public health funding. We’re also increasing rates for health care workers, expanding Cascade Care subsidies, and providing funding for reproductive health service grants for security and to cover costs for those who need it.


Behavioral Health: $1.2 billion

Using federal funds, we were able to jumpstart Washington’s behavioral health systems, something that was sorely needed. Every community in the state is facing behavioral health challenges and we needed to make sure our investments met those needs. The proposed budget provides a rate to behavioral health providers, so that they can afford to stay in their jobs, as well as funding for more beds for people in need. There’s also funding for substance use disorder prevention and treatment, as well as funding for crisis, outreach, and diversion programs. It’s a significant investment that should go a long way to getting Spokane and other communities in Washington the support they need to help those in crisis.

Housing & Homelessness: $528 million

We all know that homelessness and the cost of housing is a problem in Spokane and in the rest of the state. Investing in those areas means changing policies to increase density and increase supply and investing in the supportive housing options available to keep families in homes and off the street. I voted for the proposal budget that continues to fund emergency housing and rental assistance, provides more funding to respond to encampments on right-of-way and public lands, increasing funding to homeless service providers, and helps governments plan for expanding their housing supply.

Update on Priority Bills

With the deadline to pass bills coming on Wednesday, I wanted to give you a brief update on the status of my bills that have been working their way through the Legislature.

HB 1340 – Protecting reproductive care providers: The Senate passed my bill to protect health care providers from disciplinary action for providing legal health care services, like reproductive and gender-affirming care, in Washington state. With Idaho now attempting to go after anyone involved in an abortion, even if the care is not administered in Idaho, it’s more important than ever we protect Washington rights. I will not back down, and we will continue to protect your right to choose. Here is a brief video I shot after the bill passed the Senate.

HB 1238 – Expanding free school meals: We’re still waiting for a vote on this bill to expand free breakfast and lunch in K-12 schools for 90,000 students. This bill is an important step on our path to universal meal access, so I’m pushing hard for it to make it across the finish line this year.

HB 1678 – Dental Therapy: All health starts with oral health, which is why I am pleased that my bill to expand dental therapy in limited settings is still moving through the Senate. The final step is a vote on the Senate floor, which I hope will happen soon.

HB 1466 – Credential dental auxiliaries: This simple bill simply allows hygienists who move here with a valid license to practice from another state more time to get their Washington license. It will keep more hygienists in their jobs and ensure we aren’t losing access to dental care over red tape. It hasn’t passed the Senate yet, but I’m hopeful it will before Wednesday’s deadline.

HB 1503 – Health care professional data: This simple bill is about collecting basic demographic data on our health professionals. It will help us determine if we’re meeting our goals on equitable treatment and acceptance of providers and it passed the Senate 47-1.

HB 1050 – Apprenticeship utilization: My proposal to ensure that skilled trade worker apprenticeships get more on-the-job training to speed up opportunities to get workers into the pipeline passed the Senate (vote 30-18). It’s been amended so it returns to the House, where we’ll review changes before deciding whether to accept or ask for additional changes.

Also I wanted to provide a quick update on our transportation budget and the North Spokane Corridor. I sent a clear message that I would not support any proposal that would pause a safer, quicker, and less congested north-south route that connects to I-90. It simply does not make sense to halt a project that will not only pay for itself in economic impact, but also benefit our state with significantly reduced travel time and emissions. A pause in construction would cost taxpayers significantly more money in the long-run and delay the positive benefits of this project for our region. I am pleased to share that the message I relayed along with my colleagues from the region was received.

Both the House and Senate Transportation Budgets have included full funding to keep the project on track. You can watch more on this TV interview I took part in here.

It is my honor to serve you!





Rep. Marcus Riccelli