Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Now that the 2022 legislative session has ended it's time to reflect on what happened over the course of the last 60 days in Olympia. Like all sessions, this one had both good and bad results. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of missed opportunities to pass legislation that would have made a real difference.
As your state legislator, I understand I represent everyone from the entire political spectrum. That's why I do everything I can to work with representatives on both sides of the aisle to create and pass good policy that helps Washington. Obviously, we don't see eye-to-eye on every issue, but that doesn't mean we can't work together to make Washington a safer and better place to live for everyone.
Before I get into the session recap, I want to thank everyone who contacted me over the last nine weeks to offer your input and ideas. I truly appreciate hearing from you, and I look forward to meeting with you in-person during the interim. I also hope to hold a town hall meeting in Vancouver very soon. I will keep you posted with more details.
I introduced several bills this session, and while the majority party chose not to pass any of them, I helped some good policies advance. I co-sponsored several bills that have made it to the governor's desk, and I was able to secure funding for some important causes.
1. Smoking Cessation Money – I was able to secure a state appropriation of more than $3.2 million in the supplemental operating budget for the Youth Tobacco and Vapor Products Prevention Account. The general fund state appropriation for fiscal year 2023 is provided solely for tobacco, vapor product, and nicotine control, cessation, treatment and prevention, and other substance use prevention and education, with an emphasis on community-based strategies. These strategies must include programs that consider the disparate impacts of nicotine addiction on specific populations, including youth and racial or other disparities.
2. Drinking Water Fluoridation – I introduced House Bill 1684, which was voted out of committee, but never made it to the House floor. This bill would have required water systems serving 5,000 or more people per day that do not currently provide fluoridation to undertake an analysis of the cost of implementing and maintaining fluoridation when planning. While the bill did not advance, we did receive a combined $532,000 in a state appropriation for the next two years. This appropriation is provided solely for the Department of Health to create a program within the office of drinking water to offer engineering assistance to non-fluoridated water systems with over 5,000 connections. The program will assist water systems to plan for future community water fluoridation.
I know fluoridation of water is a controversial subject. However, this is a permissive policy, meaning local governments are not forced to participate. It simply provides grant money for counties and cities that are interested in adding fluoride the means to move forward. They must first go through a verification process and then put it to a vote of their residents. I believe oral health is important and history has shown that having fluoride in public water systems can improve oral health and prevent tooth decay.
3. Capital Budget Money for Homeless Shelter – The House also released is supplemental capital budget this week. This budget is for projects such as schools and other public buildings, behavioral and mental health facilities, parks, low-income housing, water infrastructure, and habitat.
I was able to secure $283,000 for the Winter Hospitality Overflow (WHO), a homeless shelter in Vancouver, which will go toward improving accessibility and other upgrades. For a list of our local projects, click on this link and select the 17th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button. The item listed with a $0 total was funded in last year's capital budget but is now getting funding from a different source.
No to the Transportation Spending Package
The majority party passed their transportation spending package , which will cost the state $17 billion over 16 years. Although these packages are typically a bipartisan effort, this one was not. Republicans were completely left out of the process. We did offer several good ideas to give real solutions to our state's biggest transportation issues in our own proposal (Transportation solutions: Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity (REAL) Act), but that proposal was never considered.
The “Move Ahead Washington” spending package does a lot of good things, including providing money for an I-5 bridge replacement and several other projects in the 17th District. However, the people of Washington are going to pay for it via dozens of new taxes and fees, including rising fuel prices, which are already at a record high.
Although I support funding for the bridge 100%, I don't support how they are going about paying for it. I voted no for this package for several reasons, including:
- It increases taxes and fees on Washingtonians.
- It uses fees from policies that will further increase the cost of fuel.
- It mainly focuses on the Puget Sound region but not other parts of the state.
- It does not invest enough in preservation and maintenance of existing infrastructure.
- It relies on $57 million annual transfers from the Public Works Assistance Account. Communities depend on this account for important upgrades and investments.
The Legislature also passed the state's supplemental transportation budget, with bipartisan support. However, we would've like to have seen more of our ideas considered. We offered many real solutions in our REAL Act that would have addressed our state's transportation issues, without adding any new taxes or fees, or raiding our reserve funds. That is common-sense legislation that helps the people of Washington, instead of raising their cost of living.
Public Safety Measures Fall Short
Another missed opportunity occurred when the majority chose not advance legislation to fix one of the major issues with last year's police reform laws. House Bills 1735 and 2037 did pass, but they don't resolve the ability to pursue issue that is law enforcement officers' biggest complaint.
Republicans offered House Bill 1788 that would have fixed the problem, but the majority party did not move it forward. Unfortunately, officers are still required to meet the higher standard of probable cause in order to pursue suspects, even when they know a crime has been (or likely has been) committed. This will continue to make fighting crime more difficult for our law enforcement, which means our communities will be at greater risk.
Still No Emergency Powers Reform
Emergency powers reform was another big issue when session began. Unfortunately, we are still in the exact same position as we were when session started. We are still in a state of emergency (SOE) and the governor is still operating under one-person control without input from the Legislature. House Republicans offered a logical resolution with House Bill 1772, which would increase legislative involvement in SOEs proclaimed by the governor. Unfortunately, the measure never made it to the House floor for a vote.
The Senate did pass Senate Bill 5909, which claimed to reform the governor's emergency powers, but it was a watered down bill that did almost nothing to change the current law. This bill made it to the House floor but was pulled from consideration after 20 minutes of debate. That means despite our best efforts, Washington is still under a SOE, and the governor can continue to act with no checks or balances from the Legislature.
Homelessness Issue Hits Close to Home
Another ongoing issue that we did little to resolve during this session is homelessness. This is one of the most pressing issues we face, and we are doing very little about it. At a time when we have a housing crisis, the majority party passed several pieces of legislation that will increase the cost of housing and the cost of living in general. This will only exacerbate the homelessness crisis.
I witness this issue almost daily, including right outside my legislative office in Vancouver near Mill Plain and Chkalov Drive. I understand this a complex issue but doing nothing won't solve the problem. I continue to stay in touch with the mayor of Vancouver to keep her updated on this camp and express my concerns.
Retailers and other businesses in the area share those concerns, and there are many, including increased crime, drug use, and environmental pollution. I've been working closely with the mayor, and we hope to resolve this issue soon and have a new location for these individuals to live. I will keep you posted. Without any sanitary services available, the contamination is running into the sewer system and leading to environmental pollutions and other concerns.
Please Continue to Reach Out
Now that session has ended and we enter the interim, I look forward to being able to meet with you in-person again around the 17th District. I'm always here to listen, and I truly do want to hear from you. Please use the contact info below to reach out to me or schedule an appointment by clicking here.
It's truly an honor to represent you and be your voice in the Legislature. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. My goal is to represent everyone in the 17th District the best I possibly can.