Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature has officially been adjourned since our one day special session on May 16 to address the Blake decision – a new drug possession law.
It was important we pass this law before July 1 of this year because in February 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled under “Blake v. State” that Washington's drug possession law was unconstitutional. While the 2021 Legislature passed Senate Bill 5476 as a temporary stop-gap measure, it had a July 1, 2023 expiration. Our state would have been without any drug possession law.
Both chambers and caucuses worked on a compromise and passed Senate Bill 5536 during the special session. I supported the measure. It could be stronger, but many points our caucus wanted were included in the final bill.
Town Hall meetings
I want to thank everyone who was able to attend the town halls with my seatmates, Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Alex Ybarra, and I held around the district. We held meetings in Tieton, Yakima, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Moses Lake and Quincy. I was impressed with the turnout!
As I mentioned, it had been far too long since we have had an opportunity to meet in person and discuss legislative issues and our state government. The virtual town halls served a purpose during COVID, and are helpful during the sessions, but it does not beat meeting with folks in person.
Working around the district
I have been working on a variety of issues this interim. Below is a small sampling of some meetings, events and tours I have been participating or working on.
I helped plan and attended the Benchmark Farms tour, north of Soap Lake. I worked with the Department of Ecology in securing water rights for this 1600-acre organic farm. It has also been beneficial to the habitat in the region.
The Commission on Pesticide Registration held their Washington Specialty Crop Tour in eastern Washington this year. The tour was three days, but do to a full schedule I was only able to attend one of the tour days.
I had the opportunity to tour the new Latter Day Saints Temple in Moses Lake. There was good, positive discussion about mental health and children's issues. I have legislation, House Bill 1242, that would create a behavioral health work group to study the root causes of increasing mental or behavioral health issues. The church is very engaged in children's issues.
We held our first Aviation Caucus meeting this interim at the Grant County International Airport (KMWH) in conjunction with a tour of the airport. The meeting was well attended, standing room only. Attendees included eight legislators, the lieutenant governor, and a number of county and PUD commissioners.
The tour included Big Bend Community College aircraft maintenance and flight program, and a company that installs executive interiors in large jet aircraft. We also toured the air tanker base, which is critical for our initial attack on wildfires in the region. Included in the tour was Boeing's Moses Lake operation where there are still more than 150 737's waiting to be repaired. There were presentations from other aviation/aerospace-related businesses at the airport.
I am also having monthly meetings concerning the Odessa Groundwater replacement project.
Finally, I am receiving regular wildfire briefings from the Department of Natural Resources.
If you have a meeting, tour or event you would like me to attend, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Time for change at Department of Children, Youth and Families?
This week news broke that workers at the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) have voted “no-confidence” in DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter and have requested he be replaced.
- Child welfare workers push Inslee to fire Department of Children, Youth and Families Secretary Ross Hunter (The Seattle Times)
As one of the legislative leads in helping establish the new agency back in 2017, I would support a change. We created DCYF to move children's programs out of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to establish more accountability and transparency in the system. Unfortunately, I do not think we have seen the culture change we were hoping for. Instead it seems like we have just rearranged the deck chairs. To listen to my recent interview on this issue, click the link below:
There are too many issues going unaddressed and impacting the children in Washington state who need our support the most.
Crime in Washington state increasing
Last month, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released its Annual Crime in Washington Report. The report indicated Washington state just experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s. This shows we need to strengthen our public safety policies and increase law enforcement staffing levels.
Washington has the lowest number of police officers per capita in the country. If Washington had the national average of officers-to-population, we would have more than 7,000 officers commissioned than we do right now. For more on the report check out the stories below.
- Report: Washington sees record-high violent crimes in 2023, record-low officers per capita (FOX 13)
- Homicides, violent crime up in WA as police staffing hits all-time low (The Seattle Times)
- Murders hit record, auto thefts soared in 2022, new figures show (Washington State Standard)
I expect public safety issues to be a high priority once again when we convene for the 2024 legislative session.
Second highest fuel prices in the nation
Many folks are feeling the pain at the gas pump this year. Last month, Washington state earned the designation of having the highest average gas price in the nation. California is now back on top but not by much. As of Wednesday, Washington drivers are paying $4.97 a gallon, about $1.17 more a gallon than the current national average of $3.80 a gallon, according to AAA Washington. This is better than it has been in the last couple months, but it is still significantly higher than all but a few states.
There are many factors that impact gas prices. However, much of this increase is due to the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), or the cap-and-trade program passed by the majority party in 2021. According to some estimates, and a report by Affordable Fuel Washington, the CCA is currently adding $.44 per gallon for gas and $.55 for diesel.
Last year, the governor and the Department of Ecology said the new state tax on CO2 emissions would have “minimal impact, if any.” That is not the case. The fuel prices are affecting everyone – especially those who can least afford it – the working middle class, people on a fixed income, those who travel a long distance for work, and farmers, who were supposed to be exempt from the new carbon law.
The governor continues to point the finger at the oil companies claiming they are price gouging.
- Washington senator calls for cap-and-trade changes | Capital Press
- Washington Democrat calls for price cap on carbon pollution permits | The Center Square
I have signed on to a letter submitted to the Department of Ecology by Sen. Gildon and 42 other legislators, proposing changes to the cap-and-trade program. You can read that letter here.
Lowering fuel prices for those we represent in Washington state should not be a partisan issue. I am hopeful we can work together to decrease prices.
Following your state government
I encourage you stay engaged even though the Legislature is not in session. There is a lot happening involving state issues and government. Below are some websites you will find to be informative.
- The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator.
- Capitol Buzz – Daily news clips | Daily news clips.
- The Current | An online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating state government, want to schedule a meeting or would like me to tour a facility or speak to your association or organization.
It is an honor and privilege to represent the great people of our region!