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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the state Capitol campus – a little more than three weeks after the 2024 legislative session adjourned sine die on March 7th.

In contrast to recent years, we happily saw major common sense policy solutions successfully move through the legislative process this session, thanks to the active participation of hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians.

Three of the six citizen-backed initiatives will become law in June: 

  • Initiative 2113 fully restores the ability of law enforcement officers to engage in vehicular pursuit; 
  • Initiative 2081 establishes a parental bill of rights, ensuring parents have access to student records; and 
  • Initiative 2111 bans personal state and local income taxes.

House Republicans fought for all six measures to receive public hearings. Unfortunately, the remaining three initiatives were not considered:

  • Initiative 2124 would allow people to opt out of the state-run, long-term-care program.
  • Initiative 2117 would repeal the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), the state’s new carbon tax program.
  • Initiative 2109 would repeal the state’s new capital gains tax.  

These initiatives will appear on the ballot in November.

A big step backwards on energy

The new law to phase out natural gas (House Bill 1589) has received a lot of media attention since being signed into law by Governor Inslee on Thursday.

This law allows Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to switch from being a natural gas and electricity utility to solely an electricity utility. Ratepayer funds will be used to replace useful natural gas plants and natural gas pipes with new transmission and less reliable and land-use intensive wind and solar energy generation.

This is one of the worst anti-energy bills we’ve seen in recent years: it’s going to cost utility customers a lot more to heat their homes and cook, and phase out a reliable and relatively clean source of energy.  I voted against this bill twice on the House floor and will continue to fight for common sense out of Olympia.

Investments in the 39th District

As a member of the House Capital Budget Committee, I have the unique opportunity to steer state dollars back to our community.

The capital budget pays for the construction and repair of public buildings and other long-term investments, such as land acquisitions and transfers. It also involves grants and loans to local governments or nonprofit organizations for infrastructure, broadband, housing, and cultural and heritage facilities.  

For this year’s supplemental budget, we’ll be seeing $6.15 million invested in 39th District projects, including:

  • $4.5 million to the Skagit County Crisis Stabilization Center to complete its expansion, adding 48 additional behavioral health treatment beds.
  • $353,000 for Carpenter and English creek fish passage barrier improvement;
  • $300,000 for Skagit public utility districts (PUD) work on the Olsen Creek waterline relocation;
  • $257,000 for the replacement of three fish passage barrier culverts on a tributary to the Pilchuck River;
  • $250,000 for Carpenter Creek at Cascade Ridge design;
  • $250,000 for the Skagit County Crisis Stabilization Center;
  • $103,000 for the Granite Falls Boys & Girls Club;
  • $103,000 for the Municipal Services Campus design and infrastructure in Lake Stevens;
  • $29,000 for Conway Elementary School in Mount Vernon through the small district and tribal compact schools modernization program.

Combined with last year, that brings total capital budget investments to $48 million.

Statewide highlights from $1.33 billion spending plan include:

  • K-12 school construction
    • $ 115 million for the Small District and Tribal Compact Schools Modernization program, which provides planning and construction grants for school districts with fewer than 1,000 students and that have significant building deficiencies.
    • $79.2 million to increase the construction cost allocation from $271.61 per square foot to $375.00 per square foot in FY 2025.
      • This is used to determine the maximum cost per square foot of construction that the state will recognize in the School Construction Assistance Program.
    • $45 million to improve school districts’ indoor air quality and energy efficiency, with much of the grant funds going to school districts with 3,000 enrollments or fewer.
    • $68.2 million for Career and Technical Education projects at Skills Centers and Technical Schools, including Tri-Tech Skills Center and Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center.
    • $1 million for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop a proposal to modify and improve the School Construction Assistance Program with input from the legislature, governor, and other K-12 stakeholders. The proposal must consider variation in district sizes and financial capacity, in addition to other factors.
  • Behavioral health treatment
    • $82.7 million for grants to community behavioral health projects across the state.
    • $16.2 million to purchase and renovate the former Daybreak Youth Services building, for Madrona Recovery to operate a behavioral health and substance abuse treatment facility for youth.
    • $5 million for the design of 20 new beds for youth housing at the Child Study and Treatment Center in Lakewood.
  • Housing
    • $127.5 million for the Housing Trust Fund, including:
      • $20 million for homeownership opportunities;
      • $19 million for housing for those with developmental disabilities; and
      • $15 million for the acquisition and preservation of mobile homes.
    • $55 million for multifamily building efficiency grants.
  • Department of Commerce Community Grant Programs
    • $26.6 million for the Early Learning Facilities grant program to expand access to affordable childcare.
    • $72.5 million for local and community projects statewide.
  • Natural Resources
    • $22.2 million to the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board to continue assisting local governments in removing fish barriers and restoring fish passage.
    • $11.1 million to the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program for the restoration of shorelines and nearshore habitat critical to salmon.
    • $10 million for wildfire reforestation grants, furthering carbon sequestration by helping public and private forests regrow lost trees due to wildfire.

$7.9 million for the Washington Coastal Restoration and Resiliency Initiative program, restoring shorelines and habitat on the coast.

Improving access to child care, early learning, and behavioral health

For as long as I’ve been in public office, child care, early learning, and mental health have all been high priorities of mine. They’re issues that make a big impact on both the health of our communities and on our pocketbooks.

This biennium, I was promoted by my colleagues to ranking Republican member on the Human Services, Youth, and Early Learning Committee, which directly deals with these issues in committee.

This year, two of my bills made it past the finish line and were signed into law by the governor.

  • House Bill 2124 supports and expands access to child care and early learning programs.
  • House Bill 1946 establishes a Washington health corps behavioral health scholarship program to encourage more people to enter the behavioral health field and help ease our workforce shortage.
Gov. Inslee signs House Bill No. 1946 at the UW Center for Behavioral Health and Learning in Seattle – March 29, 2024.

Marking the 10th Anniversary of the Oso landslide

March 22nd marked the 10-year anniversary of the devastating Oso landslide, which claimed 43 lives. Sen. Keith Wagoner, Rep. Sam Low, and I were in attendance for the dedication of the Oso Slide Memorial, which honors those who were lost, the survivors, the responders, and the surrounding communities.

Rep. Low and I issued the following statement:

“We were deeply moved today as we witnessed the dedication of the Oso Slide Memorial, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the devastating Oso landslide. Seeing the site, talking to those who were impacted, learning more about those we lost, and experiencing the unveiling of the memorial are things we’ll never forget.

“In the presence of families, our incredible first responders, and all who came to pay their respects, we mourned and remembered the 43 individuals we lost. Yet, amidst our sorrow, we continue to find solace in tales of heroism and resilience and the enduring spirit that emerged from the depths of tragedy.

“This memorial will stand forever, not only as a tribute to those who lost their lives, but as a testament to the astounding courage and fortitude that defined the response of our community. May it serve as a reminder of the fragility of life, the strength of community, and the enduring power of compassion.

“We will forever honor the lives lost, support the survivors, and cherish the bonds forged in the darkest of hours. We will forever be Oso Strong.”

Background:

On March 22, 2014, the hillside above the small Oso neighborhood of Steelhead Haven collapsed, crashing down and swallowing everything in its path. Because it was a Saturday and struck at 10:37 a.m., more families were at home, including many young children. In minutes, the neighborhood was obliterated and 43 lives were lost. Despite the devastation, the immediate days following the slide saw an inspiring display of resilience. Locals waded into the muck and debris, refusing to leave until the last victim was found. It would be months before that happened, but remains for all 43 souls were eventually recovered. The local community banded together to do whatever was needed, providing water and food to rescue and recovery crews, offering therapy dogs, launching fundraisers, and more.

Almost immediately, survivors and family members began fundraising for a permanent memorial at the site. Collaborating with Snohomish County Parks, state lawmakers from the 39th District, and others, they raised over $6 million to create the memorial, unveiled Friday.

The memorial includes a panel dedicated to each of the 43 individuals lost, or in some cases, a shared panel for multiple family members who were killed. Each wrought-iron panel was created with input from survivors and families, specifically reflecting the personalities of the lives they represent.

Thank you!

As always, please contact me if you have any questions, comments, or ideas about the many issues facing Washington state.   

It’s an honor to serve you and the 39th District!

Sincerely,


Carolyn Eslick

State Representative Carolyn Eslick, 39th Legislative District
RepresentativeCarolynEslick.com
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
carolyn.eslick@leg.wa.gov
(425) 327-2093 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000