Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With a few days to go before the conclusion of the 2022 session, the Legislature is finishing up its work on the state's three supplemental budgets, as well as a few other outstanding items.
Over the past week, the Legislature passed more than 100 bills, often debating well into the early hours of the morning.
Friday was the deadline to pass policy bills (as opposed to budget bills).
Most of the bills passed with strong bipartisan support – bills such as Senate Bill 5644, which helps law enforcement collaborate better with firefighters, counselors, and emergency medical personnel to assist people experiencing behavioral health or substance abuse issues.
A controversial transportation package
There were, however, sharp disagreements between the majority party and House Republicans on several bills. Senate Bill 5974, dubbed the “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package, was one such piece of legislation. The bill passed last Tuesday by a vote of 54-43.
I voted no on the bill, in part because it takes $100 million from the Public Works Trust Fund. As a former mayor, I understand how critical the fund is to local communities to assist with utilities, broadband, housing, and other important projects. Raiding the fund shifts the costs of the transportation package onto local communities. It will mean fewer economic opportunities, as well as higher taxes and fees for Washington residents.
In a break with tradition, the transportation package was very partisan. Republicans did not have a seat at the table during negotiations on the final proposal. In addition, it does not adequately invest in the maintenance of basic infrastructure around our state.
You can watch House Republican highlights of the debate here:
The full debate is available at TVW here.
The Senate did not concur with the changes the House made to the bill. When that happens, the House and Senate each appoint members to a conference committee which is tasked with working out the differences between the two bodies and agreeing to a compromise version of the bill.
Emergency powers reform
Washington state has been living under the governor's COVID-19 emergency declarations for more than two years. This may be the number one issue I've heard from constituents about.
I believe it's time to end the emergency and return to normal life.
Last week, for the first time in two years, we had a chance to reform the governor's emergency powers during debate over Senate Bill 5909. Unfortunately, the bill did not go nearly far enough. My colleagues and I had planned to strengthen the bill with amendments, but the majority party killed the bill and ended debate after only 20 minutes.
During a press conference this week, Rep. Drew MacEwen explained what happened:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we've seen a sharp increase in deaths from drug overdoses, alcohol use and suicide, otherwise known as “deaths of despair.”
We've also seen our young people suffering from depression and learning loss.
I don't believe we, as a state, have adequately considered the other health and social costs to shutting our schools and businesses down, and to social isolation.
I am happy to report that House Bill 1800, my legislation to increase youth access to behavioral health care, passed both the House and Senate. After the House concurs with the Senate's changes to the bill, it will become law with the governor's signature.
Thank you for being involved in the legislative. Our republican system of government depends on active and informed citizens.
You can always contact me directly.
It's an honor to serve you!