Recognizing Lunar New Year and more legislative news

Greetings from Olympia! It is the beginning of Week 4 of the 2019 legislative session, and I’m excited to share some of the things I’ve been working on with you. Last week was a busy one for legislative committees, with bills advancing through the process. I’m also pleased to share another historic first for our state.

House adopts Lunar New Year resolution

Legislators can bring forward resolutions for consideration and adoption by their respective chambers. These resolutions honor or commemorate individuals, groups, organizations, or events, and are entered into the official legislative record. As an Asian-American legislator, I looked into whether there had ever been a resolution recognizing the Lunar New Year, a holiday of great importance in Asian communities. With Asians making up the largest minority racial group in our state, I was surprised to find that there had never been a Lunar New Year resolution in the Legislature. So I went ahead and sponsored it, and last week it was adopted by the House. As I said in an interview on TVW’s Inside Olympia recently, this is not a small thing. If we as lawmakers talk about diversity, if we talk about culture, if we talk about inclusion, things like Lunar New Year – a sacred holiday to many Asian Washingtonians – is something we as leaders have to recognize. I was excited to highlight this legislative milestone as the key speaker at the Vietnamese Community of Tacoma Pierce County’s Lunar New Year celebration this past weekend.

Ensuring students have access to guidance counselors

School counselors are first responders in a crisis, and that’s why I signed on as a co-sponsor of HB 1265. This bill will build the foundation for our school safety package by increasing the counselor to student ratio, opening access to a trusted adult for all students. That access to trusted adults is critical when it comes to prevention of school shootings. This week in the House Education Committee, we heard from Dr. Eric Madfis, a professor from the University of Washington Tacoma who has studied school shootings. One of his findings is that positive bystander behavior – students coming forward when they hear of a school shooting plot – is more likely to happen in positive school environments where students trust staff. I’m pleased the bill I’m co-sponsoring cleared the Education committee last week, and continues to move forward in the process.

Preventing tobacco addiction in youth

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health, and that’s why we don’t want kids getting addicted to tobacco. The younger someone is when they start using tobacco products, the greater the impact on brain development and the harder it is to quit. Research shows 90 percent of adult smokers got started when they were kids, and smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Not surprisingly, most teens get their tobacco and vapor products from friends and peers who are ages 18 to 20. That’s why I support HB 1074, which would raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21. The bill advanced out of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee last week, and I look forward to voting in favor of it if it makes it to the House floor. For me, this is about giving our kids the freedom NOT to become addicted to nicotine, and a chance at a healthier future.

A final note…

Thank you to all who have reached out to me via email, who have called my office to share their opinions and feedback, and who have tried to set up appointments with me. As a first-year legislator in my very first session who also happens to be on one of the three highest-volume committees in the House, I am still settling into this role and learning how to best accomplish everything I hope to do here. If you are waiting on a response from me, I ask that you please have patience and grant me a little grace as I work hard to catch up on all that has come in the first three weeks. Please know that you are heard, and seen, by me. Together with my wonderful legislative assistant, Alex Hamasaki, we will respond to your inquiries.

Thank you for the honor of representing you.

Rep. My-Linh Thai