Dear friends and neighbors,
Sen. Annette Cleveland, Rep. Monica Stonier and I will be hosting a telephone town hall next Wednesday evening to give you an update on the 2020 session and take your questions.
At 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26, calls will go out to thousands of homes (landlines) throughout the 49th Legislative District. If you do not receive the call, there are two ways for you to participate:
- Over the phone: Dial 877-229-8493 and enter ID Code 116294 to be connected to the call.
- Online: Go to our Vekeo channel and sign up to be called when the event begins. (You can also use that link to sign up for future telephone town halls, and to listen to past events.) Or if you’d rather livestream the event, go to the Vekeo page at 6:00 p.m. next Wednesday to listen in and submit written questions.
Four of my bills in the Senate!
We’ve been voting on legislation on the House Floor pretty much nonstop since last Wednesday. I am happy to report that four of my bills have been sent to the Senate:
ESHB 1332 , which passed the House on January 27 on an 87-10 vote, will update and streamline Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) operations. The EFSEC coordinates all evaluation and licensing steps for siting certain proposed energy facilities. This bill takes a deep, comprehensive look at the enabling authority of the EFSEC and streamlines the site certification application process without sacrificing environmental protections. It expands representation of tribal communities and creates a stronger ongoing partnership with local governments.
HB 2242 determines that the maximum overall length of a travel trailer is 46 feet. That’s up from the 40 feet limit currently in statute. Now, if you’re thinking that you’ve certainly seen travel trailers longer than 40 feet on our highways, you’re correct. Travel trailers over 40 feet long have been produced, sold, and registered for decades in Washington. Manufacturers submit plans to the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for approval. Without the L&I seal of approval the manufacturer cannot sell to the dealer, and the dealer cannot sell to the consumer. But last summer, L&I notified the industry that they would stop approving these plans because of the maximum length statute. If that were to happen, local dealers would be at a significant disadvantage and customers would buy out of state. My bill, which passed the House unanimously on February 12, brings the state into line with the everyday practice of manufacturers, dealers, and consumers.
HB 2508 simplifies the process for donating low-value surplus property owned by a city-owned utility. This bill, which passed the House on February 12 on a 97-0 vote, allows surplus personal property or equipment with an estimated value of $50,000 or less, that was originally acquired for public utility purposes and is not required for continued public utility service, to be disposed of without a resolution or public hearing.
HB 2723 passed the House on a 94-4 vote just a couple of hours ago. This legislation closes a loophole created by the reciprocity provision in state law, which basically states that a resident of another state is allowed to use an off-road vehicle (ORV) in Washington without registering it. So what’s happened is that people buy their ORVs in Oregon, they get a sticker that looks like the vehicles are registered in Oregon, and then use them in Washington, escaping the taxes and registration fees. The amount of lost sales to Washington dealers is staggering. The data we received from the Department of Licensing indicates that approximately $30 million in sales is lost to Oregon—this is enough to support four additional dealerships, employing about 100 people, which would boost our local economy.
House passes Nikki’s Bill
Nikki Kuhnhausen, a transgender Vancouver teen, vanished last summer and her remains were found in December. She was one of at least 24 known transgender or gender non-conforming persons killed across the nation in 2019.
Police reports indicate that transphobia could be behind Nikki’s murder, which is an unquestionable reminder that passage of House Bill 1687 is necessary.
The legislation, which was introduced last year by my good friend, Derek Stanford, who is now serving in the Senate, would ban the use of what is known as the gay and transgender panic defense in our state.
We passed the bill out of the House a week ago on a 90-5 vote.
I unfortunately never met Nikki, but I am grateful to have learned so much about the beautiful person that she was from her family and friends, and would like to share my Floor speech when we passed the bill. Click on the video below to watch it.
Gay and transgender panic defenses have been used in criminal trials throughout the U.S. for decades. These are cases where defendants have argued that their violent behavior was a rational response to discovering that the victim was LGBTQIA. When successful, these defenses have resulted in murder charges being reduced to manslaughter or another lesser offense.
This is not OK. It is never OK to hurt—much less murder—someone because of their gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
If Nikki’s Bill makes it to the governor’s desk, Washington will become the tenth state to ban gay and transgender panic defenses, joining California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
For more information on the case, you can read these news stories:
Honoring our promise
There will be more than 750,000 job openings in Washington in the next few years, and there aren’t enough qualified applicants in the state to fill those jobs.
That’s why last year we passed the Workforce Education Investment Act to grant free tuition or financial aid to people who would otherwise not be able to get a higher education. It has been very successful, in fact, the demand for going to school or going back to school has increased.
On February 10, the governor signed a bill to simplify and improve the way we collect the funding for these programs and making it easier for businesses to comply.
People want to get the education they need to land good-paying jobs and we offered them a solution, a promise.
With this year’s bill, we can continue honoring that promise.
Improving rail safety
On December 18, 2017, a train derailed near DuPont, resulting in three deaths and multiple injuries. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided. This session I am supporting two measures to improve rail safety:
House Bill 2287 was sent to the Senate on a 92-4 House vote on February 12. This legislation will result in best practices in rail safety governance to be provided to the Legislature’s transportation committees. Those practices could include some of the findings from the National Transportation Safety Board, which found there was an absence of clearly defined roles and responsibilities. When it comes to the complexity of rail safety between state, local, and federal agencies, we all need to be on the same page.
House Bill 1841, which passed the House on a 65-30 vote back in January, makes public safety a priority by establishing minimum crew size requirements for freight and passenger trains, as well as trains carrying hazardous materials, to effectively respond to emergencies.
I received several emails about this bill and addressed the issue in this Ask Sharon video:
You can also read this Everett Herald opinion piece on the rail safety issue by Rep. Mike Sells and Sen. Derek Stanford.
Thank you for reading my newsletter. If you need more information on any of the issues discussed here, or on any other legislative matter, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.