Legislative Update: 2023 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Dear friends and neighbors,

After a historic 105 days, we did it! As of 10:03 p.m. yesterday, the 2023 Legislative Session is a wrap! After legislating in a virtual environment for the past two years, I was thankful all of my colleagues were able to join me in person in Olympia this year. The following is a look at some of what I have accomplished for you these past several months.

Bills Passed in the House and Senate

When I was elected to the Legislature in 2020, I had a clear mission to represent the most vulnerable among us—our children, youth, and struggling young adults. Before the start of this year’s session, I made a promise to you that I would work hard in Olympia on issues encompassing law enforcement and mental health. The two really do work well in tandem, and here are two bills that reflect my commitment to you.

  • HB 1679: This bill is about helping kids in crisis. It modifies and extends requirements of a work group convened to address the needs of kids in foster care, those experiencing homelessness, or both. I introduced this bill because we see the poorest outcomes in our educational systems when kids are at risk. It’s an important bill because it adds youth involved with our juvenile rehabilitation systems to the list of those we already work with. As a mother and lifelong social worker, I truly believe that our kids are our future. We need to do right by them so that outcomes improve for the youngest of our most vulnerable.
  • SB 5352: The Senate’s version of the police pursuits bill, I championed this bill in both chambers and across the aisle to get this legislation passed. I heard from many fellow community members about your concerns about rising crime and took them seriously. After meeting with law enforcement and with so many of you, I knew I needed to work hard to see a change in our state’s pursuits laws come to fruition. I wrote an op-ed about this recently in the Cascadia Daily News. Click here or on the image below to read it.

Additionally, as the granddaughter of a dairy farmer, it was important to me to work on extending a tax break to our state’s farmers, food producers and winemakers.

  • HB 1573: This bill provides the tax break to the hardworking people who grow and produce our fruit and vegetables, dairy products, seafood, and wine until 2035. I introduced this bill to support the state’s economy, keep jobs in Washington, and allow these dairy, food, and wine producers to stay competitive in a rapidly changing and highly competitive global food market.

Please note: All three of these bills passed in both chambers and are on their way to the governor’s desk for his signature and to become law!

Resolutions to Honor our Youth Athletes

So many of our young athletes across Whatcom County did us proud this year! A number of both boys and girls high school sports teams went all the way to state championship games—and won! To honor these phenomenal kids, I introduced five resolutions—with two being heard on the House floor—this spring. Please join me in congratulating these fine young athletes!

  • HR 4641: This resolution honors the Nooksack Valley High School Girls Varsity Basketball Team that won its first state basketball championship in the WA Class 1A and Northwest District.
  • HR 4645: This resolution recognizes the Bellingham High School Boys Varsity and Diving Team which won the state championship in WIAA Class 2A.
  • HR 4647: This resolution is to honor the Squalicum High School Girls Varsity Wrestling Team, which had an outstanding season to win the state wrestling championship in the WA Class 2A.
  • HR 4648: This resolution recognizes the Lynden Christian High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team that had an outstanding season to win its second consecutive state basketball championship in the WA Class 1A. The Lyncs have won eight state basketball championships; and, for the first time ever, won back-to-back titles!
  • HR 4649: This resolution is to honor the Lynden High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team, which has had an outstanding season to win their second consecutive state basketball championship in the WIAA Class 2A. The Lions have won 12 state basketball championships, including four of the last five 2A state championships.

Investing in Our Communities

In my last newsletter, I began telling you about many good things coming to our cities and towns across Whatcom County because of the state’s operating and capital budgets, such as funding for the Masters of Social Work program at WWU, the Northwest Maritime Apprenticeship program, disaster recovery relief after the November 2021 flooding, and others. Below are several more projects I’ve been involved with that have passed through both chambers of the Legislature and will soon be receiving funding!

  • Outdoor Learning: The state has made a commitment to invest in outdoor learning, with funding available to develop and support outdoor educational experiences for students in our public schools! Students in Blaine and Mt. Baker will be among some of the first recipients of this funding, which thrills me as it’s in line with HB 2078, my bill to expand outdoor school programs, that became law nearly a year ago. I’m a firm believer in time spent outdoors being good not just for our kids’ physical health, but improving academic outcomes and test scores, too! In addition to the statewide budget allocations secured for outdoor education, I was able to secure additional funds for the Blaine and Mt. Baker school districts.
  • Culturally-Affirming Behavioral Health for Children and Families (CARE): A pilot program, CARE will include clinical training of both a lived experience workforce and licensed workforce to provide culturally responsive and evidence-informed mental health services focused on families, children, and youth. What’s exciting about this is that funding allows for custom-tailoring for local implementation and flexibility and community input.
  • Youth Development Grant Program: The Whatcom County Boys & Girls Club, as well as statewide community-based youth development nonprofit organizations statewide will run a pilot program to provide behavioral health support for youth and trauma-informed, culturally responsive staff training.

For a full look at how Whatcom County is benefitting from our state’s operating, capital and transportation budgets, check out fiscal.gov.wa.

Keeping in Touch

Washington State Capitol, April 11, 2023.

This is my last biweekly update for a while. However, the work doesn’t stop. It just shifts back to our local district. Instead of finding me in Olympia, you will find me throughout the entirety of our district. If you’ve been enjoying my email updates, I encourage you keep reading them (though the emails will hit your inbox less frequently) in the interim. My legislative Facebook page is another great place to watch for my latest news.

At the end of May, my seatmates (Rep. Joe Timmons and Sen. Sharon Shewmake) and I will be taking your questions at a town hall. We’re still sorting out the details on the day, time and venue, but watch my legislative Facebook page and your email inboxes for updates with all the relevant information.

It is my honor to be your representative. I am truly humbled to do the people’s work on your behalf. Please, do not hesitate to email me with your questions or concerns.

Best wishes,