23rd LD Update: An Update on the Judicial Discretion Act + Giving Renters a Helping Hand

Dear friends and neighbors,   

It’s been a couple weeks since my last newsletter to you. We’re now in week 4 of this year’s legislative session. In a week’s time, my fellow legislators and I will be debating bills on the House floor long into the night.  

 Today, I’d like to focus this newsletter on one of my bills still moving through the legislative process, as well as a bill I’m co-sponsoring that focuses on rent stabilization. 

An Update on the Judicial Discretion Act

I’m happy to provide an update on House Bill 2001, the Judicial Discretion Act: Most of you know my own personal history with incarceration and know that I’ve been working tirelessly since I’ve been in the legislature to help other formerly incarcerated people re-integrate into society. HB 2001 would provide judicial discretion to modify sentences in the interests of justice. Long-term incarceration disproportionately impacts poor communities and communities of color, and lengthy sentences can also be a hindrance in reducing recidivism, as well as being costly to the state. I got to know a man who has been in a prison near Olympia for more than a decade. KUOW reported on this man late last year; click here to read it.  

I found his story fascinating as he’s spent the past several years changing his life for the better wants to help other incarcerated people do the same. He even began initial work on drafting this bill in its early stages, with a call-to-action for judges to review long or life prison sentences for those who’ve worked hard to rehabilitate themselves and to shorten their sentences.   

Currently, only prosecutors can bring forward these motions for rehabilitated prisoners to make their case for an earlier release, even if they were given a sentence under laws that are no longer on the books. HB 2001 would change that by allowing defense counsel to also get the case before a judge to determine whether the sentence still serves the interests of justice under certain circumstances. This bill passed out of committee yesterday and will also now move through the budget committee before it’s up for debate on the House floor.

Giving a Helping Hand to Renters

As of 2019, nearly half of Washington renters spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing and more than 20 percent spend half or more of their income on housing. Rental costs are sky rocketing, renters face unpredictable cost increases and impossible choices. In fact, for every $100 that rent increases, homelessness rates increase by 9 percent. This disproportionately harms families with low incomes, people with fixed incomes and seniors, and communities of color.   

Last year, the legislature took significant steps to increase housing supply, which will help prevent this crisis from worsening. But we must take action that will help renters now. Renters today won’t benefit from any real relief for years, maybe decades, unless we stabilize rent increases.    

This year, House (and Senate) Democrats are working to pass rent stabilization. Renters deserve the predictability that homeowners experience and stability that this certainty brings. Sadly, when the rental market is escalating at the pace it has been in recent years, Washington residents with low incomes can’t budget their way out of homelessness.   

That’s why I am proud to be a co-sponsor of House Bill 2114, a piece of legislation that will stabilize renters by stopping excessive rent increases, lowering the costs and fees associated with getting new housing, and provide greater predictability for millions of renters in our district and throughout the state. 

Visiting with You in Olympia

It’s been wonderful to see so many of you making the trip to Olympia to advocate for bills that matter to you. This week, I was fortunate to meet with folks from the Bainbridge Island School District and the Kitsap Black Student Union. My time in Olympia is more than one-third complete for the year before I’m back home and working on issues in district. I encourage more of you to come to Olympia—and please pop in and say hello if you do!  


Rep. Tarra Simmons