Dear friends and neighbors,
On Friday, January 8, I attended a short, but still moving, virtual swearing-in ceremony, along with several of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I was honored to take my oath of office to uphold the constitution and serve the people of Washington to the best of my abilities. Click on the image below to watch the TVW footage.
Legislative session began the second Monday of January and we convened in Olympia that day like we do every year. Unlike every year, however, we only went to the state Capitol (following all precautions, keeping our distance and wearing masks) to adopt temporary rules allowing for remote proceedings for the 104 remaining days.
In a normal session, it gets very busy with House and Senate members, and their staff, moving to Olympia. Many stakeholders and lobbyists also set up shop in town, and large groups visit the state Capitol daily. Adding everybody up, you could have up to 10,000 people on campus every day from January to April!
Clearly, hosting that kind of bustling activity in the time of COVD-19 would have been unwise and irresponsible, and that’s why the 2021 legislative session is virtual.
But we made the decision to legislate remotely only after making sure that you could also participate remotely, just as you would in person. And we actually made it better by expanding the ways you can connect with us, which will enable more people than ever before to participate in the process. For starters, every committee hearing, work session, debate, and vote on the floor of each chamber will be televised and archived by TVW.org.
But there’s more, click here for a site where you’ll find a larger version of the graphic, a Q&A slideshow, a short video by Speaker Laurie Jinkins and Senator Andy Billig, and more information on how to become engaged in your democracy this session.
Be sure to visit my official Facebook page!
And contact my legislative Assistant, Megan Walsh, with questions, comments or to schedule meetings.
A Fair Start for Kids
The childcare crisis costs Washington businesses $2.08 billion a year. Working parents in our state forgo $14 billion annually in lost wages due to the lack of access to childcare services.
In the wake of the pandemic the problem has worsened, forcing many parents to reduce work hours or leave the workforce entirely in order to care for their kids. These stories provide a glimpse of the urgency with which this issue must be addressed.
I am supporting the Fair Start for Kids Act, a multi-faceted approach to solving the childcare crisis, addressing racial equity, and helping the economy. The bill aims to make childcare more affordable for families, stabilize and expand the diverse childcare workforce, support the expansion of services, and strengthen prevention and intervention services.
Learn more about the Fair Start for Kids Act.
The 988 Lifeline
Over the past decade, deaths by suicide have increased by 36 percent in our state. It is the single leading cause of death for Washingtonians ages 10 through 24, and suicide rates are higher than the general population among veterans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, LGBTQ youth, and people living in rural areas.
I am supporting House Bill 1182 to help ensure suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis services are accessible to everyone statewide by implementing the new federal law designating 988 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline number. HB 1182 also calls for investments to create a high tech crisis call center system, mobile rapid response crisis teams and crisis stabilization units, short-term respite facilities, peer-operated respite services, and behavioral health urgent care walk-in centers across the state and in collaboration with the tribes. Click here to learn more about this legislation.
Addressing food insecurity
The Washington State Food Security Survey, aimed at understanding the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on economic security and food access, was carried out over the summer and included 2,621 residents across the state. It found that 30 percent of households were food insecure, almost 60 percent of them included children, and 33 percent received some kind of food assistance. It also found that people of color are 1.5 times more likely than white people to be food insecure.
While the pandemic may not have created the issues of hunger, poverty and racial inequality in our state, it has only made these realities starker and more urgent. We also know many people are experiencing crises of hunger for the first time.
This session I will support measures to secure food access, a keystone to building a healthier, more equitable Washington. We will look at any and all ways to support existing programs that are already getting food to those in need and will also explore new approaches and ideas. Any policy changes we make will unfortunately not happen overnight and many Washington families are hurting and need help right now. If yours is among them, or if you know someone who is struggling, please visit the Washington Coronavirus Response food assistance web page.
Interstate Bridge website
As a legislator from the Vancouver area, one of the co-chairs of the Oregon-Washington Joint Legislative Action Committee, and 1st vice chair of the House Transportation Committee, I have been one of the leaders on a plan to replace the I-5 Bridge over the past few years. This week, the website for that work is finally up. Created by the transportation departments of both states, this online resource will provide information on the project, and encourage input from members of the community as the work progresses.
Keep in touch
Thank you for reading my first newsletter of 2021. I hope you found it worthwhile and I also hope you will use the tools provided here to participate in your democracy without leaving your home.
In these difficult and uncertain times, it is important to be kind, care for one another and follow current guidelines from health experts. Wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing, limit your exposure to others and, above all, wear a mask whenever you are out and about.
Please contact me with any questions or concerns, or if you’d like to meet with me, albeit virtually, on a specific issue.