Dear friends and neighbors,
On April 25, I closed my laptop at 8pm and realized that the session was actually over. We’d done it. As legislators, community members, advocates and journalists – we had risen to the challenge of a pandemic to ensure that the Legislature operated smoothly, the public could participate, and lawmakers could pass bills that centered the needs of everyday people.
I voted for bills to help those hit hardest the pandemic, lower taxes for working families, boost public health, support economic recovery, rebuild trust and accountability with police, tackle systemic racism, make child care more affordable, and invest in each other.
My colleagues and news outlets are calling this one of the most productive sessions in the last 25 years. I don’t have much to compare it to since this is my first year, but I know that when I woke up on Monday morning to share the news with community members – I was proud to have fought for our shared values as your state representative.
There’s a lot to cover in this recap, so I’ll stick to the highlights. But I look forward to hearing from you as I share what we accomplished together.
This session, I prioritized responding to the pandemic, advancing racial equity, and supporting economic recovery. Here’s an overview of the major wins in those categories and how I championed bills to advance those causes.
COVID response: Utilizing the state budget and the Biden/Harris American Rescue Plan Act, we dramatically expanded our public health response to COVID-19 and set us up for long-term public health success with close to $2 billion invested in vaccines, testing, and public health. We also passed bills to make care more affordable and accessible in the pandemic, including my bill to help provide more respiratory care in Washington state (HB 1383).
Advance racial equity: To better ensure that ALL members of our community are treated with respect and fairness, regardless of where they come from, what they look like or the color of their skin, we passed polices to increase transparency and accountability with the police; reduce racial disparities in the healthcare system; make Juneteenth a state holiday; ban private prisons; prohibit the use of Native American mascots; advance digital equity; expand resources to small businesses owned by people of color, women and veterans; increase equity trainings for educators; improve protections for tenants; and confront the failed war on drugs.
Support economic recovery: In order help small businesses stay afloat we invested hundreds of millions in small business grants, unemployment insurance tax rate cuts, exemptions from paying state taxes on relief funds and property taxes, building more affordable broadband and expanding the Main Street program to revitalize rural towns. My budget requests to bolster the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce and El Centro de la Raza will help to ensure economic recovery is community-driven and my bill (HB 1514) will expand access to the state rideshare program so more people can find safe, affordable ways to get work. Additionally, my bill (HB 1425) to expand the Career and Technical Scholarship program will support training opportunities for people interested in changing careers or pursuing healthcare or STEM careers.
Leading in Olympia
When I first came to Olympia, I was determined to not only represent you, but to step up to the plate in our Legislature and lead. And I quickly found out that life, while working from home, doesn’t stop. Just a few days into the legislative session, a tree fell on my home. Thankfully, no one was harmed, and I was able to quickly re-engage in the people’s work. I hit the ground running and was tapped to serve in three key leadership roles.
As Vice Chair of the Housing, Human Services and Veterans Committee I helped shepherd a suite of bills that will address our housing crisis. They include historic investments in renter relief to help tenants stay in their homes and landlords recoup losses, dramatic increases to the Housing Trust Fund, sustainable sources of funding for affordable housing and mitigating evictions, and ensuring a more fair and just cause if evictions can’t be avoided.
As chair of the Black Members Caucus, I organized with my colleagues for a slate of bills and budget provisos that will make strides in improving police accountability and transparency, ensuring equitable economic recovery, and encouraging inclusion into every part of our state. The total list of our victories is long and intersectional so make sure to sign up for the BMC e-newsletter for more updates.
Finally, I served as a member of the Leadership team that developed a response to the State v. Blake decision by our state Supreme Court. In just two short months we found a viable and bipartisan solution that move us in the right direction on drug possession and substance use disorder. SB 5476 sets us on a two-year path to confront our past, address the present challenges of substance use disorder and prepare for a future full of hope where loved ones and neighbors get access to treatment.
As a first-year legislator, there was plenty to keep me busy – and I was able to handle the unexpected crises (including fallen trees) while using my voice for projects that will serve us here at home and still impact the entire state. I’ll continue to represent you and step up to lead us all.
Construction projects and jobs for our community
This year, your 30th District team worked hard to secure funding in the capital budget for our community – on top of all the operating and transportation budget investments! I’m proud to share that we got over $5 million for projects in all parts of our community, including:
- $3 million for 262 units of workforce housing in Redondo Heights
- Just over $1 million for Camp Kilworth
- $75,000 for Healthcare kiosk deployment
- $200,000 for Little League field improvements
- $900,000 for the Redondo Fishing Pier
- $82,000 for a youth resource center in Federal Way
- $75,000 for Milton community park courts
Regardless of our successes this session, we know that families are still struggling. The strides we made will need to be properly implemented, resources will need to get out to communities quickly, and legislation will need to be built upon so that everyone can recover together. In the interim I’ll continue to meet with constituents, connect people with services to help during the pandemic, and develop legislation for next session. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone in-person again, so please sign up to get vaccinated soon!