Dear friends and neighbors:
On this very windy Sunday, the 77th day of this 105-day legislative session, we were passing bills on the House Floor.
Last week we released our three budget proposals. Click on the links below for the press releases, where you can check out overviews of what’s included in them. For the Capital and Transportation budgets, I will provide you with specific lists of projects in our area in my next newsletter.
Our “Washington Recovery” operating budget proposal is built around supporting people hit hardest by the pandemic.
Click on the image on the right for a short video on why we need this budget.
Critical workers in grocery stores, food banks, public transit, agriculture and more are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, along with people over the age of 16 who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high risk. You may have also heard that vaccine eligibility will be expanded on March 31 to include anyone with two or more comorbidities, those between the ages of 60 and 64, workers in restaurants, food service, manufacturing and construction, people experiencing homelessness and others. This means that by the end of this month, 5 million Washingtonians will be eligible for a shot. For help finding a vaccine appointment, visit the new vaccine locator or dial 1-800-525-0127.
According to the Department of Health Data Dashboard, slightly more than 1 in 4 people in King County have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Click here or on the image below to check out the Data Dashboard, where you can look up information for every county on demographics, testing, vaccine doses given, hospitalizations, confirmed cases and more.
The fact that so many people are getting vaccinated is great news, no doubt, but we are not out of the woods yet. It is really important that we all continue following the guidelines: keeping our distance, washing our hands thoroughly and frequently, and wearing masks. Our collective success relies on everyone’s commitment to beat this virus. We will only get to the other side if we all head in that direction together.
Update on my bills
I am happy to report that two of my bills passed the House with bipartisan support and are now in the Senate. I discuss both of these measures in my March 18 Video Update.
- HB 1127, Protecting COVID-19 health data, was already heard in the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee, and the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Ways & Means this coming Wednesday. This legislation increases protections and privacy for COVID-19 health data collected by third parties that are not health care facilities, agencies, or providers. Read the press release on House passage for more information, or watch my Floor remarks below:
- HB 1472, Adding a graduate student to the Washington Student Achievement Council. Graduate students are drivers of our future workforce, economy and innovation, so it’s important that they have a voice at the state’s higher education agency. The measure is in the Senate Rules Committee, which is just one step away from the Senate Floor vote.
988—A new lifeline for crisis response and suicide prevention
When facing an emergency, most people will dial 911, which is the best number for police or the fire department. When the emergency is related to substance use, a mental health crisis, or a person at immediate risk of suicide, having a law enforcement officer arrive at their door may not be the appropriate emergency response.
Without a comprehensive crisis response system, people in crisis can find themselves in standoffs with law enforcement when they should be in the care of a counselor. People with severe mental illness are far more likely to end up arrested and are more likely to be involved in fatal police encounters.
An improved crisis response system would reduce reliance on emergency room services and the use of law enforcement response to crises. Last year, the bipartisan National Suicide Hotline Designation Act designated 988 as the new national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline number, paving the way for states to develop improved crisis response systems. The federal law requires the line be operational by the summer of 2022.
HB 1477 will implement the 988 system in Washington state by creating robust call centers to support people in crisis and ensure they receive the care they need, when they need it. These enhanced 988 services will coordinate with 911, EMT and law enforcement, and behavioral health systems to create a seamless system of care for those in crisis.
Condemning anti-Asian violence
I join my colleagues in the Legislature, and people around our state and country, in condemning the alarming rise in anti-Asian hate and violence. These words from Rep. My-Linh Thai continue to resonate with me:
Preserving the only home we have
This year we’re doing some really important work to preserve our environment and fight climate change. Below are a few of the measures that are still going through the legislative process:
HB 1091 Clean Fuel Standard
Transportation is Washington’s primary cause of pollution. To improve our state’s overall air quality, we have to set environmental quality standards, converting to clean fuel in our local markets. This measure directs the Washington State Department of Ecology to adopt a rule establishing a Clean Fuels Program that would phase-in limits in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035.
It’s time to join our neighbors in Oregon, California and British Columbia and finally adopt a low carbon fuel standard. This bill is not only about a healthy environment, it’s also about transitioning to a clean economy and the many jobs that will come with it.
Read the press release here and watch my Floor remarks here.
HB 1099 Climate Change Mitigation as a goal of GMA
The Growth Management Act (GMA) is Washington’s comprehensive land use planning framework. It requires cities and counties to consider a range of elements including transportation, land use, and capital facilities in their plans, and these plans must be revised and updated every eight years. This bill adds climate change mitigation as a goal of the GMA and requires a climate change and resiliency element of the plan that results in reductions in overall greenhouse gas emissions. It also requires the land use element of the plan to consider environmental justice and avoid creating or worsening environmental health disparities.
HB 1287 Zero emissions transportation future.
Automobile manufacturers and dealers are committed to an electric vehicle future. The transportation system needs to transition in order to support widespread electric vehicle adoption. This legislation will create a detailed plan to help utilities and the State Building Code Council plan for energy and infrastructure needs as more and more electric vehicles are reaching the roads.
SB 5022 Supporting recycling & reducing waste
This bill requires increased recycled content in plastic beverage containers, trash bags and bottles for household products; bans expanded polystyrene food ware, recreational coolers and packing peanuts; and requires that utensils, straws, cup lids and condiments only be provided to customers on request. This measure builds on a 2020 bill that banned thin plastic carry-out bags and required that thicker plastic bags consist of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content.
I was a guest on Live with Liias!
Last week, Senator Marko Liias invited me to join him for an episode of “Live with Liias” where he interviews lawmakers on a wide array of issues. It was great and a lot of fun, watch it below:
Thank you for your interest in what we are working on in virtual Olympia. Please feel free to contact my office if you need additional information on any of the bills discussed here or on any other legislative issue.
Please visit my official Facebook page for frequent updates.