Dear friends and neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session began on Monday as we convened at the state capitol, in person, in order to ironically adopt rules to allow us to meet remotely. We met under the cloud of COVID, with all attendees wearing masks and social distancing. However, given the violent insurrection in Washington D.C. last Wednesday and the ongoing threat of armed protesters, we also met under the protective eye of National Guard soldiers.
Thankfully, all went well on Monday, but I hope that we never have to start a session in this manner ever again. I plan to help protect our institutions of democracy and ensure the safety of those participating in their government by sponsoring legislation to ban weapons on the capitol campus and local government meeting places. More details to come on that in future emails.
A Fair Start for Kids: Addressing the child care crisis and economic recovery
My signature bill of the session is the Fair Start for Kids Act! Child care was in crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now it’s on the brink of collapse. The child care crisis already costs Washington businesses $2.08 billion a year. Working parents in Washington forgo $14 billion a year in lost wages due to the lack of child care access. In the wake of the pandemic, the problem has become even worse, with huge numbers of parents leaving the workforce or reducing hours and take-home pay, because of the reduced access to child care.
Washington’s child care market is broken and too many children and families are bearing the consequences. But we know how to fix it! That’s why I just introduced the Fair Start for Kids Act, in partnership with Senator Claire Wilson in the Senate, a multi-faceted approach to solving the child care crisis, addressing racial equity and helping the economy recover. The bill aims to make child care more affordable for families, stabilize and expand the diverse child care workforce, support the expansion of child care, and strengthen prevention and intervention services. The Fair Start for Kids Act will aid in getting parents back to work, our economy up and running, and more kids a fair start in life.
Ways to participate in your democracy during the 2021 session
The 2021 legislative session is all remote this year to protect the health and wellbeing of colleagues, the public, our staff, and families. Although lawmakers will not physically be in Olympia, you can still stay in contact and up-to-date. In fact, in some ways, working remotely will present more opportunities for people in our district to safely participate in the legislative process.
LEARN—The whole legislative process from start to finish.
WATCH—Go to TVW for broadcasts of committee hearings, work sessions and Floor action. If you’re interested in a particular event, but were not able to watch it live, TVW has you covered with its extensive and easy to search archives.
TESTIFY—Holding a remote session does not mean you don’t get to have your say. We have a brand new system for you to submit testimony on any bill.
GET IN TOUCH — You can reach my office by telephone at (360) 786-7894 or email at Tana.Senn@leg.wa.gov. To schedule a virtual meeting, please contact my Legislative Assistant, Emma Palumbo, at Emma.Palumbo@leg.wa.gov.
A more focused session
This year, given the complexities of a virtual, online session, the legislature needs to focus in and will only consider urgent issues that cannot wait until the following session. To help us prioritize our work, before introducing legislation, we will ask ourselves if our bills:
- Advance racial equity?
- Address response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Advance economic recovery?
- Address the global climate crisis?
- Save money or increase the efficacy of state spending?
- Help other levels of government do their job to respond to the pandemic or advance economic recovery?
While there is always more to do, I hope this focus will help address the most critical needs to help our struggling neighbors, businesses, kids and communities—and ensure we don’t miss anymore time in addressing the climate change crisis.
Washington’s COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline: Find Your Phase!
Recently, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced a phased plan for vaccine distribution in our state. Their work to get vaccines to frontline workers and vulnerable populations is monumental. As we consider vaccination phases, we must reach those most disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and prioritize their health as central to recovering together. Unfortunately, that list is longer than we have vaccine supply for at this point. Over the coming weeks, as we get more vaccine doses to distribute and our distribution processes improve, we must speed up vaccination and reach more of those at risk sooner. In the meantime, please continue to wear a mask and social distance.
As always, whether in person or online, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me this session with your questions, concerns, or comments. We will get through these hardest of times together.
Rep. Tana Senn