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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As we approach another legislative session, a lot has happened this interim that affects us all. There are so many important issues we must address as a state Legislature, including police reform and public safety, deregulation of drugs, the homelessness crisis, and much more.

Republican lawmakers have been calling for emergency powers reform and a special session since May. However, our pleas continue to be ignored. Now, as we move closer to the 2022 legislative session, it appears that most of our work will again be done remotely. We are still waiting to learn what the House's operation plan will be for this session, but we know things will not be back to normal.

However, I feel strongly the Legislature should be allowed to go back the state Capitol to do the work of the people in-person. With the proper safety protocols in place, we can safely conduct the business of the people of Washington. Although remote meetings and floor sessions went better than expected during the 2021 session, so much is missed when lawmakers can't meet in-person.

I sincerely hope legislators will be able to return to the Capitol in 2022 to resolve the many pressing issues facing our great state this session. It's time to get back to work in Olympia.

Public Safety and Police

One of the biggest problems we are facing is the assault on public safety and policing. During the 2021 session, majority party Democrats passed numerous police-reform bills that have put our law enforcement officers and our communities at greater risk. We can all make improvements at our individual workplaces, but these changes have created some dangerous consequences, and as a result, our communities are less safe. We need more balanced reform.

House Republicans have offered several ideas and solutions, but most of our policies and amendments have been rejected. I have great respect for our law enforcement community, and I believe most of our officers live up to the high standards to which they are held, as they put their lives on the line to protect us, every day.

While some improvement is necessary, we need balanced solutions that protect individuals, communities, and our law enforcement officers. House Republicans will continue to work on more balanced reforms this session to help correct these confusing new policing laws.

Deregulation of Drugs

Another issue that has made our communities less safe this year is the deregulation of drugs, thanks to the Washington Supreme Court ruling (State v. Blake) on Feb. 25 that deemed the state's simple possession drug law unconstitutional. This opened a giant can of worms for law enforcement officers and put several convicted drug offenders back on the street.

House Republicans introduced several bills and amendments to fix this issue, but the majority party rejected most of our proposals. This problem is only going to get worse. Drug use is growing every day and law enforcement officers have very little power to stop it. We need to help people who are suffering from substance abuse disorder. Sometimes, the only way to protect people addicted to drugs, and others who live in their communities, is to arrest them. We aren't doing them any favors by allowing them to continue to harm themselves.

This is another huge problem we need to work on during the upcoming session to make sure the proper measures are in place to protect our communities and provide real help to those experiencing substance abuse disorder.

Homeless Encampments

Homelessness is another ongoing crisis affecting the entire state of Washington. This issue has recently touched me in a personal way. I received a letter addressed to the mayor of Vancouver from the Fred Meyer Company regarding the ongoing public safety issues related to a homeless camp near the company's Mill Plain store in Vancouver.

I was very troubled to receive this letter, and it hits very close to home. The encampment in question is literally right next door to my office. I have watched in frustration as this camp continues to grow and the city has done nothing about it. I have received numerous complaints and emails from concerned citizens as well as a patron who stayed at a nearby hotel.

I understand there are many sides to this complex issue, and I do feel compassion for individuals experiencing homelessness. However, I don't feel enough is being done by local or state government leaders to address these problems, including the many safety issues for citizens and businesses that pay their property taxes.

There are things that can be done, including opening city-run camps, offering mental health services and substance use treatment to those in need, and providing job training and employment assistance. But the bottom line is something must be done. We cannot expect this situation to get better by doing nothing.

I will continue to examine this issue closely and push for real change and reform to help improve the homelessness crisis in the 17th District and throughout the entire state.

Parent Involvement in Schools 

Another issue I'm concerned about is parent involvement in schools. I feel strongly that parents and school boards should be involved in their children's education. And there needs to be local control in our school districts. However, we need to come together with level-heads and work to find the best solutions for our kids to ensure they get the best education possible.

School board members need to listen to parents' input and implement those ideas when they are effective. Parents need to be willing to bring their ideas to the table, but they must be willing to listen to other ideas and be willing to compromise. We can't forget the reason for all of this: our kids. We need to do what's best for them and their education, and we need to do it civilly with their needs in mind.

Keeping Up with Your State Government in Olympia

Much of the 2022 legislative session will be done remotely. However, I still want to hear from you, and I want you to stay on top of everything going on in the Legislature. Here are some links that will help:

My legislative website | You can find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, videos, opinion pieces, bills, and other information about me here. 
The Capitol Buzz | Stay on top of the news with this daily roundup of online news stories. Click on the link to subscribe. 
The Current | This is an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans. Click on the link to subscribe.
TVW | Watch all the committee and “floor” action live or recorded on the state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW.
The Ledger| A legislative news aggregator.
Legislature's website | Find bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature here.
State agencies | A list of all the state agencies, boards, and commissions is located here.
Tracking a bill?|Click the link to find information on specific bills. In addition, when you visit my website, you can easily view the legislation I'm sponsoring or co-sponsoring by clicking “Sponsored Bills.”

Please Stay in Touch!

Your feedback is extremely important as we move forward with the upcoming session and tackle the many issues impacting our communities and state. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me. Just reference the contact info below. I'm always here to listen, and if we can't meet in-person, you can also set up a personal meeting with me via Zoom, by clicking here.

It's an honor to serve you!

Sincerely,


Paul Harris

State Representative Paul Harris, 17th Legislative District
RepresentativePaulHarris.com
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
paul.harris@leg.wa.gov
(564) 888-2393 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000