OLYMPIA – As the 2020 legislative session gets underway in Olympia State Representative Sharon Shewmake’s (D-Whatcom) is outlining her goals for the year.
“My goals this session are to increase access to rural child care, reduce incarceration rates through improved data collection, green our transportation, and find ways to boost affordable housing” said Shewmake.
Shewmake started the session strong with the introduction of the Rural Childcare Access Act (HB 2619), aimed at ensuring all areas of the state have access to child care. “At the time in their lives when kids need care the most, families in rural areas are met with rising prices and a lack of options” said Shewmake. “My bill, HB 2619, will lower costs by expanding the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) to make sure it reaches all corners of our state.” In addition to increasing support for child care and family home providers, HB 2619 tasks the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) with developing a comprehensive plan to expand child care options to all rural areas in Washington State.
Another priority bill of Shewmake’s aims to achieve a safer and more efficient natural gas distribution system. Historically, natural gas companies have covered the costs incurred by pipeline leaks by passing the charge along to consumers. HB 2518 reforms the incentives for utilities by asking them to complete a cost-based analysis on any leaks. If the safety risks and environmental costs are high, the utility is required to fix the leak. “My goal is to save consumers money and help the environment at the same time.”
Shewmake is currently drafting a bill aimed at reducing incarceration through streamlined data collection. “We can’t fix what we don’t measure,” said Shewmake. “Whatcom County has been working to pioneer a better approach to collecting data on who is in our jails, which led me to ask how other counties do it. Turns out, it’s a totally dysfunctional patchwork across the state.” Shewmake saw this local work being done to address the issue and, in partnership with law enforcement groups and the ACLU, came up with an ambitious fix on a larger scale. “I hate bad data, so this has inspired me to try to tackle this issue in a much bigger way and, so far, law enforcement and criminal justice reform advocates have been receptive in the conversations we’ve had.” Shewmake intends to introduce the bill to the Legislature in coming days.
Last year, Shewmake passed three bills, all of which had bipartisan cosponsors and two of which were passed with unanimous, bipartisan votes. Speaking to the coming days of session, Shewmake thanked her constituents for their input. “As you know, my staff and I have been busy since the last session, drafting bills and setting priorities based on feedback from our fourteen listening sessions, numerous meetings, and online survey. I was excited to make the trek down to Olympia to finally put your ideas into action.”
In addition to the legislation above, Representative Shewmake has introduced measures on pesticide safety for farmworkers, solar panel recycling, and supporting Whatcom County small businesses. Click here for a full list of Representative Shewmake’s legislation.
Shewmake serves as vice chair of the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources and on the House Transportation Committee and the Environment & Energy Committee.