Dear friends and neighbors,
Sine Die is Olympia-speak for the last day of our regular, constitutionally-mandated legislative session. When we adjourn sine die, that means our bills and budgets are wrapped up and we don’t need to meet again before we start up the next year or if for some reason we need to call a special session. In my head, Sine Die means both “work hard so you can make the deadline” but also “soon you will have time to rest.”
We had Sine Die on Sunday, April 25 and since then I’ve been reading books, riding bikes with the kids, growing tulips and taking the time to breathe, reflect on the session and think about future legislative projects. Let’s share!
Everyone was worried about a remote session, and while it wasn’t always easy, I think we rose to the challenge and made incredible gains on important legislation without causing a single COVID outbreak. I was proud to help pass bills that:
- Help people hit hardest by the pandemic
- Cut taxes for working families
- Address climate change
- Build more affordable broadband
- Make child care more accessible and affordable
- Invest in preventing and fighting wildfires
- Build trust with law enforcement including funding for new training
- Invest in Whatcom, including The Way Station, a new facility that will fill in a number of gaps in our homeless services including medical respite, a place to shower or do laundry, and assistance finding permanent housing
- Address the Blake Decision to take the first step in ending the failed War on Drugs by treating the root cause of substance use disorder while still holding people accountable (if it sounds like a mouthful, that’s because it’s a hard problem)
There’s a lot more work ahead. Not just to make sure that the bills are implemented and the funds get out to community, but to determine how we continue to build upon this year’s successes.
Legislative session is our busiest time of year but we do a lot of prep work between sessions to talk with constituents, learn about community needs, explore policy ideas, and start gathering momentum for the next session. I already have several projects in mind, many of which are ideas from constituents like you. Not all of them will make it, but this is the “short” list that I’ll be pursuing to see if they pan out to be bills:
- More support for Point Roberts: The closing of the Canadian border has made the pandemic harder for many of us and especially for people in Point Roberts. Rep. Rule and I have been advocating for relaxed traveling restrictions between Point Roberts and the rest of Whatcom County. We also need to be strategic about Point Roberts and its business sector which is reliant on tourists from Canada. State grants can help keep businesses alive, but can we find ways to build back better? Rep. Rule’s bill to expand the Main Street program means Point Roberts could form a non-profit similar to the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and take advantage of the Main Street Tax Incentive program to figure out what the community wants and how it can thrive. We’ll continue to reach out to Point Roberts residents to find ways forward together.
- Shipping and biofuels: When Green Apple pulled out of their plans to build a renewable fuels facility in Whatcom County they cited permitting uncertainties. A big part of that decision was how to mitigate shipping traffic. I think that means the state needs to create a little more certainty so the next business that wants to build a new biofuel or green energy project can be a little more confident that the money spent permitting is a good investment. Addressing climate change means we will need new green energy projects.
- Farm fuel usage and climate solutions: Farmers have tight margins and compete in global markets. They’re also on the frontlines of climate change. In our climate bill, I included an amendment to exempt on farm fuel usage, as well as the first five years of fuel for transporting agricultural products. Greener fuels are coming, and once they’re broadly available for shipping it’ll make sense for agriculture to use them too. But we want to ensure the viability of agriculture during that transition time since we want farmers to produce food, steward our water and land resources, as well as sequester carbon in the soil. I’ll continue working with agriculture on green energy solutions and how farmers, ranchers, forest owners and the food sector can implement successful climate solutions.
- Cost of medical record copies: The cost of healthcare is way too high. It’s even more egregious that the cost of medical records can pile on top of everything else. One of you e-mailed me about this issue and I’ll be looking into what we can do about it.
- Right to repair farm equipment: Instead of having to go through big companies that take a long time and charge high rates, owners of equipment should have the right to repair. A bill was introduced this year to guarantee this right with home electronics and it failed, largely because of the opposition of large tech firms. Other states have seen success in gaining the right to repair for automobiles and farm equipment. I’ll be looking specifically at whether Washington state needs right to repair legislation for farm equipment.
- Meat processing: USDA rules on slaughtering cows and pig are stringent and require expensive facilities. Local companies are innovating by making those systems modular and bringing down the cost. We had a bill to get some marketing assistance which unfortunately did not make it past the finish line, but I did get a budget proviso to help people looking for work learn about job opportunities in meat processing. I’ll be continuing that work, as well as hearing creative solution from local leaders in this industry.
- Right to dry clothes outside: Policy issues come in all shapes and sizes, and it just so happens that drying clothes outside is a small policy with potentially big outcomes for some. One of you e-mailed about municipals laws that made it hard to dry clothes outside (and save on energy waste and bills). I’ll be looking into solutions that don’t hang anyone out to dry.
Those are just a start for this interim. They’ll likely change as people bring up more issues that need solutions. That includes you! What bills do you want to see for session 2022?