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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I have received thousands of emails on the comprehensive sex education bill, Senate Bill 5395. I want to give you an update on what is happening with this legislation since so many folks have reached out to me with their concerns, questions and comments.

The bill passed the House after 2 a.m. Thursday night by a vote of 56-40. It passed the Senate on Jan. 22, by a vote of 28-21. However, the bill is not headed to the governor's desk for his signature just yet. Because the bill was amended in the House of Representatives, it must go back to the Senate for consideration.

My Republican colleagues and I voted against this bill for many reasons. I am deeply concerned about the graphic nature of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction's (OSPI) approved curricula. I was shocked when I started reading through it. What OSPI is calling age appropriate, for kindergarten through 6th grade, I would call offensive.

Conversations about sex education should start at home, when parents think it is appropriate, not when OSPI or the Legislature think it is appropriate. Let's not take away parental control.

I feel this bill also takes control away from our school districts. Currently, whether to have sexual health education, and what is in the curriculum, is decided at the local level with input from parents. The language around the curriculum compliance in this bill goes well beyond anything we do for other subject areas.

The people of Washington do not want this bill. I don't think I have seen an issue that has engaged so many people in Olympia since I was first elected. There were thousands and thousands of people watching the debate late into the night. Over 700 people showed up to testify against this bill at the public hearing in the House Education Committee. Since this bill must be revisited by the Senate, I would urge you to contact your senator and others in that chamber.

Click here to check out an overview of our arguments for parental rights and local control.

Stay informed on coronavirus

As you know, Washington state is experiencing an increase in cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the virus continues to spread. Unfortunately, there have also been several deaths. With the serious nature of this virus I want to make sure you have information and some helpful resources in case you have questions or concerns.

Health officials are working rapidly to identify and test people who may have been exposed. Risk of exposure is elevated for healthcare workers, people who have had close contact with persons with COVID-19, and travelers returning from affected international locations (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Hong Kong).

Here are some recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and local health districts on how to respond in your daily life:

  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
  • Try to avoid shaking hands for now.
  • Stay home when you're sick.
  • If you are sick and wondering what to do, call your healthcare provider before you go to a clinic or emergency room.
  • Show compassion and support for individuals and communities most closely impacted. The same for anyone who might be sick.

If you have questions, you can call the Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

You can also stay up to date by following them online at the various websites and social media channels below:

Website: doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus
Facebook: facebook.com/WADeptHealth
Department of Health: How Can I be Prepared?
Grant County Health Dept: granthealth.org/2019-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov/
Kittitas County Health Dept: co.kittitas.wa.us/health/
Lincoln County Health Dept: co.lincoln.wa.us/public-health/

What we are doing in the Legislature

On Tuesday, the Legislature passed bipartisan legislation, House Bill 2965, to provide $100 million to state agencies and local governments so they have the necessary funding to respond to the COVID-19. It will also give the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) funding to address the growing need of nursing staff.

The money is coming out of the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) or Rainy Day Fund, but we put some accountability measures in place ensure the money is being used as intended. Some of the accountability measures include:

  • The appropriation from the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) does not alter the four-year balanced budget requirement.
  • The Office of Financial Management must provide monthly updates to the legislative health care and fiscal committees on the expenditures of the $100 million appropriated.
  • The dollars may not be used to supplant existing state, federal, or local spending for coronavirus response.
  • State agencies and local governments must demonstrate maximum use of federal resources before seeking funds from the appropriation, and reimbursement from federal sources must be repaid to the BSA.
  • Any unspent amounts must be transferred back to the BSA at the close of the fiscal biennium.

Remember, we are all in this together. Please follow the DOH recommendations to keep yourself healthy and keep updated on the latest information. Do not hesitate to contact DOH if you have any questions or concerns. If I can be of any assistance please let me know.

It is an honor and privilege to serve the 13th Legislative District.

Sincerely,


Tom Dent

State Representative Tom Dent, 13th Legislative District
RepresentativeTomDent.com
437 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
tom.dent@leg.wa.gov
360-786-7932 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000