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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you had a good holiday season with family and friends. The 2024 legislative session began on Monday. We have a lot of work to do in the short, 60-day legislative session. I urge you to follow the session to stay informed on the many bills and issues before us. In this email update, you will find helpful links to follow the Legislature and be engaged.

I will also give you an overview of many of the bills I have introduced, share some statistics on why public safety must be a priority this session, and link to my recent radio interview with KIT Radio.

Rep. Dent walks into the House Chamber during opening day ceremonies with his colleagues.

Primary-sponsored bills

Much of my focus in the Legislature continues to be on wildfire prevention and attack, transportation and aviation, and children’s issues. Below is a brief breakdown of some of the bills I have introduced this session.

House Bill 1971 would direct the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to create a Rangeland Fire Protection Association (RFPA) pilot project to better assess the measures needed to ensure the safe and effective operation of RFPAs. This bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee on Friday. To sign up to testify or share your position on the bill, click here. To listen to the radio report on this bill, click here.

House Bill 2046 would establish alternative requirements for child care providers in under-resourced areas. Available and affordable child care is difficult to find in Washington state, particularly in rural areas. This bill would help address some of those child care “deserts.”

House Bill 2047 would allow employers to screen candidates for cannabis use when hiring persons who will work directly with clients or patients receiving treatment for substance use disorder.

House Bill 2147 would help provide more reliable and readily available funding to prevent, quickly detect, and rapidly respond to emerging threats from agricultural pests and diseases.

House Bill 2185 would move the Oversight Board for the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) from the executive branch of our government to the legislative branch. There continues to be many problems with DCYF with little or no action being taken. My hope is with some legislative oversight, we can change that.

House Bill 2187 would promote access to water for family farms. This legislation is a result of the Bi-Zi family farm situation in Clark County. The state Department of Ecology ordered a 151-year-old Clark County farm without a water right to stop irrigating or risk fines of up to $5,000 a day.

House Bill 2292 would have the Department of Fish and Wildlife work in collaboration with the tribes and independent scientists to identify hatcheries near waterways entering the Puget Sound to audit and identify areas of improvement related to adult fish survival.

House Bill 2300 would delay some of the requirements for child care providers related to certification and training qualifications. This bill was brought to me by those in the child care industry. We lost many child care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This would provide an incentive for some to get back into the child care business.

House Bill 2302 would extend the Pesticide Application Safety Committee until 2035. When we created the committee, an expiration date of 2025 was set. The committee is working well so we want to leave it in place.

Rep. Dent visits with a colleague before the start of floor debate in the state House of Representatives.

Public safety needs to be a priority

My caucus continues to be committed to effective public policies that benefit Washington state. Key priorities on our agenda include enhancing public safety, combating inflation, boosting our economy, making housing more affordable, strengthening our transportation infrastructure and protecting our agricultural and water resources.  

Public safety will be a big focus as we lead the nation in retail theft, have the second-highest property crime rate and auto thefts have increased significantly. Check out the statistics below.

  • #51 in police officers per capita behind all states and D.C. (WASPC Report).
  • Homicide is up 96% since 2019 culminating in a new state record (WASPC).
  • 61% of violent crimes go unsolved (WA Criminal Justice Snapshot).
  • #1 state most impacted by retail theft (Forbes).
  • #2 for all property crime (Statista).
  • #3 for automobile thefts (KIRO).

Some of the solutions we have proposed include:

  • House Bill 1363 would reinstate vehicular pursuit laws so officers can chase individuals committing auto theft and property crimes.
  • House Bill 1380 would provide recruitment and retention bonuses for police officers to improve both manpower and morale. 
  • House Bill 2202 would increase funding to counties and require them to meet minimum police officer staffing ratios designed to take us from last in the nation to the middle of the pack.
  • House Bill 1456 would modify the definition of theft so that security officers could actually stop shoplifters when they conceal merchandise rather than only when they leave the store.

I discussed public safety and our state’s lack of law enforcement in a recent interview on KIT Radio. Click here to listen. You can also check out the audio news release here.

Water and natural resource concerns

As the ranking Republican legislator on the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, I am also very concerned about the crises impacting our salmon, forest health and water quality. Check out the statistics below.

Forest Health                                                                                                                  

  • Washington has 2.7 million acres of unhealthy forest. (DNR)

Water Quality

  • Nearly 50% of Washington’s freshwater and 20% of its marine water is polluted – listed for violating federal Clean Water Act standards for at least one pollutant. (Ecology)
  • Thanks to tainted wastewater, “Puget Sound salmon are on drugs—Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor, even cocaine… with levels detected among the highest in the nation.” (Seattle Times)
  • For over a decade Washington has failed to meet federal requirements that help prioritize cleanup efforts in Puget Sound that help salmon and steelhead. (Tri-City Herald)
  • Toxic chemicals have been detected above state action levels at public drinking water systems that serve 570,000 people or 7.4% of the state population. (Seattle Times)

Salmon

Water quality, salmon and forest health are vital to our state. We need to make sure we are not ignoring these issues as we work to address other needs.

Get involved

Here are some tools to keep updated on the Legislature and state government.

Use the QR code below to check out my website:

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns about this email update or the legislative session. Your input and feedback is appreciated.

It is an honor to serve the great folks of 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
(509) 941-2346 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000