As families begin sending their children back to school and the summer begins to wind down, I wanted to take a few minutes to provide a brief legislative update and a reminder that I work for you throughout the year.
Like you, I continue to be concerned with “kitchen table” issues that are impacting working families and those living on fixed incomes – the cost of utilities, food, gas; crime in our neighborhoods; lack of mental health and substance abuse services; early learning opportunities, childcare deserts, and the quality of our children's education. These are issues that I will continue to address and highlight in the upcoming session.
It is my honor to serve and represent the 20th Legislative District. Please do not hesitate to contact me and my office.
Dolly Parton comes to Washington to celebrate the Imagination Library
It was a thrill and an honor to meet and spend an afternoon with Dolly Parton last week at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma for the Imagination Library Statewide Celebration.
Early learning and childcare are issues near-and-dear to my heart. Our state must do a better job investing in our children before they reach kindergarten. The Imagination Library is an important partnership that helps our children become kindergarten-ready and creates quality family time.
As you may recall, Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, and I co-sponsored House Bill 2068 during the 2022 legislative session that expanded the Imagination Library of Washington program statewide. Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library program in 1995 to inspire a love of reading and provide free books to children ages birth to five-years old. The gifting program mails quality, age-appropriate books to children's homes at no cost to families. The bill expanded the early reading program throughout Washington state. It passed the Legislature and was signed into law on March 11, 2022.
In recognition of the Washington program, Dolly Parton came to Tacoma to thank Washingtonians, and she sang two songs to entertain the audience.
I had the honor of speaking on stage before her event, discussing this amazing program and how it is increasing children's literacy across the state. You can watch my speech here. Watch the full event here on TVW.
Police now enforcing new drug possession law
After February 2021 when the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the state's felony drug-possession statute (State v. Blake) as unconstitutional, we watched the use and abuse of drugs and crime skyrocket in our cities and communities statewide. During the 2023 session, I was one of the chief negotiators of a new compromise drug possession law. Senate Bill 5536 passed during a one-day special session in May, which created a statewide criminal penalty for possession of controlled substances. Read my May 16 statement.
The new law, while not perfect, makes drug possession a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail on the first two offenses and up to a year on the third arrest.
However, due to a delay after replacement of the existing possession law, police have had to refer drug users to treatment programs at least twice before making an arrest. That provision ended Tuesday, Aug. 15, which means drug law violators can now be booked into jail on a first offense. In many cases, an arrest is the first step toward helping drug addicts get the help they need to break their addiction from narcotics.
I will continue working on this issue as the state of Washington creates, builds, and expands the mental health and drug addiction infrastructure to truly address the needs of those in our community that want help improving their lives.
Why are gas prices among the highest in the nation?
As gasoline prices in Washington state surpass $5 a gallon, this is a question a lot of people are asking. Gov. Inslee called a press conference last month to blame oil companies for price gouging Washington motorists. But that's just not the case. If it was, gas prices in neighboring states Idaho and Oregon would be as expensive as the prices in Washington state. But Idaho's gas prices are nearly a dollar-a-gallon cheaper than Washington and Oregon's gas is nearly 34 cents less than our state.
The reason Washington state has higher gas prices is due to the governor's cap-and-trade program that took effect in January. That mandate, which I voted against, has forced fuel prices to rise by 50-cents per gallon in Washington. That means your family and mine will be paying about $500 more, not only for fuel, but for the increase in costs to groceries, goods and other essentials that rely on transportation.
Known as the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), majority Democrats in both the House and Senate passed Senate Bill 5126 in 2021 without Republican support. Under this program, Washington companies that emit carbon, including oil companies, must buy “allowances” at state auctions to continue to operate. In May, that fee was $56.01 a ton, more than three times higher than originally predicted. Those costs, which are passed onto the consumer, are as much as 50 cents a gallon. When you add the state's 49.4 cents of gasoline taxes, it boosts gasoline prices by nearly a dollar-a-gallon in Washington state.
To learn more about this issue, I recommend you visit this webpage: How regressive Democratic policies increased Washington's gas prices.
Speaking of energy and fuel, I am honored to have been chosen as one of the speakers at the 2023 Northwest Renewable Hydrogen Conference in Portland on Sept. 19.
The event will cover various topics relating to the development and advancement of renewable hydrogen in the Pacific Northwest. I will be participating in a panel discussion on Northwest and national implementation of hydrogen policy, including what needs to be accomplished to ensure states and the federal government are working together to help grow this industry.
I have led efforts in our state Legislature to expand development of the hydrogen industry in Washington state and the 20th District. Earlier this year, I sponsored House Bill 1729, a measure that received unanimous support in the House to create and expand tax incentives for developing and selling hydrogen fuel products. I have also co-sponsored House Bill 1236 to provide authority for state transit agencies to produce and distribute renewable and electrolytic hydrogen and own or operate fueling stations that can sell to the public – an opportunity that would encourage public-private infrastructure partnerships to provide hydrogen fuel to vehicle fleets and the public; House Bill 1505, a measure promoting the alternative jet fuel industry; and House Bill 1792, a 2022 effort to expand the production, distribution, and use of hydrogen not produced from a fossil fuel feedstock.
In addition, as a member of the House Capital Budget Committee, I helped secure funding in the 2021 capital budget for Washington's first hydrogen refueling station in Chehalis.
It is an honor to share the stage with some of the nation's top leaders in the development of a hydrogen energy economy.
East Fork Lewis River project to help restore fish habitat at Ridgefield Pits
In 1995 and 1996, flooding on the East Fork Lewis River overtook a series of nine abandoned gravel pits just upstream from La Center, eliminating what had been high quality salmonid spawning and rearing habitat. The pits became so warm during the spring and summer months, they prevented the migration of salmon and steelhead into the upper portions of the East Fork Lewis River watershed. The warm water in the pits also support non-native fish species that prey on juvenile salmon.
In an effort to restore the river, I helped to secure roughly $5.5 million in the 2023-25 capital budget through the Floodplains by Design program. This money, along with federal funding, will help to fund the East Fork Lewis River Floodplain Reclamation Project by restoring 2.5 miles of riparian and instream habitat and reconnecting 300 acres of floodplain. By doing this, it will support the recovery of lamprey and endangered salmonid species.
On July 11, I had the opportunity to join other local officials at the Ridgefield Pits. You can read more about this outing in The Reflector.
Take me out to the ball game!
I was pleased to help secure $700,000 in the 2023-25 capital budget for lights and improvements to the Ridgefield Sports Complex where the Ridgefield Raptors play. On Aug. 9, I was honored with throwing out the first pitch at the Raptors' playoff game with the Portland Pickles. You can watch that pitch here.
I work for you throughout the year
Please remember to call my office if you have any questions about legislation, state government, or you need help navigating with a state agency. I'm here to help you, as well as represent you. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!