Legislative Update: Washington Leads the Way in Nature-Based Learning + Join Us at a Town Hall on Saturday

Dear friends and neighbors, 

We’re now in week six of this year’s legislative session. For the past week, my fellow legislators and I have been debating various bills on the House floor into the early hours of the morning. However, yesterday was “House of Origin” cut-off, which means that everything that passed off the House floor by then is sent on to the Senate for further consideration, and any bills passed in the Senate will now be considered in the House. Bills need to pass both chambers before becoming law.   

Today, I’d like to tell you about how our state leads in the way in nature-based learning, as well as encourage you to come to a town hall with my seatmates and me this Saturday—I really hope to see you there!

Washington Leads the Way in Nature-Based Learning

A year ago, I was selected as our state’s lead for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL). This position exemplifies a strong dedication to environmental policy in Washington and a demonstrated leadership role within the Caucus. I participate in ongoing national meetings that are bipartisan and meet with lawmakers around the country about how to lead in environmental education. Our state is a leader in nature-based learning, and the entire nation looks to us as a model.  

I was selected for this position based on my work on capital projects, advancing outdoor education and other policy. During the 2022 Legislative Session, my outdoor education bill (HB 2078) directed the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to create a program to award grants to support schools in offering outdoor learning, requiring OSPI to give priority to schools that have been underserved in science education, and encourages the program to work with education stakeholders to develop principles for outdoor education. It passed in March 2022 and became law that summer.

© Courtesy Washington Outdoor School


That being said, I’ve requested $8.3 million in the supplemental operating budget to provide an additional 9,000 fifth- and sixth-grade students across Washington State to attend Overnight Outdoor School in the 2024-25 school year. This supplemental request of $8,300,000 will provide an additional 125 new schools and approximately 9,000 students (a 20 percent increase over this year) for a total of 756 schools and 53,470 students accessing overnight outdoor school in 2024-25.  

Research shows that attendance at overnight Outdoor School is especially beneficial to students who face barriers to success in school. Participants stay in school longer, graduate at higher rates, and have fewer disciplinary problems than non-participants. This impact is most pronounced with children of color or from disadvantaged backgrounds. More than the academic skills, it is the creation of strong community bonds and practicing the collaboration necessary when living in close quarters with one’s peers that engages and empowers children.  

Additionally, I am requesting $50,000 in funding to support the Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District’s expansion of the park and trail system at the mouth of California Creek.  This site already delivers quality outdoor environmental education programming to the residents of Whatcom County, and I look forward to seeing our local kids prosper from this important outdoor education right here at home!

Bills of Mine that Passed the House and are now with the Senate

 Since I’ve been working for you in Olympia, I’ve taken pride in the fact that I work on a number of bipartisan issues. This year is no different. Many of the bills (with their vote tallies in parentheses below) that passed off the House floor this year received strong bipartisan support. The following bills are now under consideration in the Senate:  

  • House Bill 1717 (90-6): This bill is about jobs. Associated Development Organizations (ADOs) build the foundation for economic progress. During the COVID pandemic, ADOs worked hard to save small businesses and jobs in every corner of Washington. They’re especially important for struggling parts of the state, such as timber and farm country. This piece of legislation gives ADOs the monetary resources they need to do their job: protect jobs.  
  • House Bill 1978 (97-0): With unanimous support, this bill is about adding supports to Washington’s Intrastate Mutual Aid System that was established in 2011 to provide mutual assistance in an emergency among political subdivisions and federally recognized Indian tribes that choose to participate. Member jurisdictions may request mutual assistance for response, mitigation, or recovery activities related to an emergency; or participation in drills or exercises in preparing for an emergency.  

  • House Bill 2224 (93-4): I first mentioned this bill to you in my last newsletter. This piece of legislation would require the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to conduct a study to improve its risks, strengths, and needs assessment tool used in the risk assessment process when investigating alleged child abuse and neglect referrals. This improved assessment tool will improve safety and reduce bias. 

Join Us at a Town Hall this Saturday! 

Please join us, your lawmakers from the 42nd Legislative District, for a town hall meeting from 1-2:30 PM this Saturday, Feb. 17, at Horizon Middle School in Ferndale. This is our chance to hear from you as well as update you on our work in Olympia on your behalf.   

You are encouraged to submit your questions in advance here. You can also submit your questions via smartphone by using the QR code in the graphic above. I look forward to seeing you there!  

 Best wishes,