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Dear Neighbor,

Today, on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my thoughts are with marginalized individuals and communities throughout Washington – both urban and rural – and our duty as lawmakers to find solutions that work for everyone.

Last year, I was asked to deliver one of the speeches for this important day. You can read the transcript here or watch the video.

Back in Olympia

We’re here in the beginning of week two of the 60-day legislative session. Only 53 days remain before the clock runs out on March 7th. 

During even-numbered years, we pass three supplemental budgets: operating, capital, and transportation.

I have the privilege of serving as the ranking member on the House Capital Budget Committee this year, where I’ll be the lead Republican negotiator on approving money for construction projects and long-term capital investments.  

Through the capital budget process, individuals and communities can identify problems and work with the Legislature on solutions. It is a bipartisan, community-up, not Olympia-down, process.

Police pursuit is back on the agenda

On Friday, the initiative to restore the ability of law enforcement officers to pursue criminal suspects – Initiative 2113 – was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee in the state Senate.

I am calling on leadership in the majority party to quickly pass this common-sense fix. The experiment of giving criminal suspects a free pass has clearly failed. While crime is decreasing nationally, it’s increasing here in Washington.

It’s time to bring back common sense criminal justice policies, end this crime spree, and restore the old bipartisan consensus of holding criminals accountable for their actions and protecting the lives and property of everyone in our state.

Cracking down on illegal highway blockades with tougher penalties

In response to the Jan. 6 highway blockade on I-5 in Seattle – where pro-Hamas protesters stopped northbound traffic for hours, endangering lives and preventing ordinary people from going about their day-to-day lives – I am co-sponsoring House Bill 2358.

This bipartisan legislation by Rep. Andrew Barkis would enact tougher penalties on those who illegally block traffic on state highways.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Create a new gross misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines and/or jail time, for individuals who, acting with three or more people, block traffic on a state highway without legal authority.
  • Elevate the charge to a Class C felony if the obstruction created a risk of injury, impeded an ambulance, or the individuals refused to disperse upon lawful order. Organizers or leaders of such illegal activities would also face significant monetary penalties not applicable under current law.
  • Enact mandatory minimums for repeat offenders. Individuals with prior convictions for similar offenses would face a minimum fine of $6,125 and a 60-day jail sentence.

Happy National Law Enforcement Appreciate Day!

Last Tuesday was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Our law enforcement professionals and their families deserve our thanks for their sacrifices to our communities – they keep us safe and answer the call of duty.

Sadly, Washington state has the fewest law enforcement professionals per capita of any state in the nation. We must do more to recruit, train, and retain law enforcement and give them the tools they need to do their jobs.

Governor’s state of the state address

On Tuesday, during his state of the state address, Governor Inslee said “Our state is stronger than ever.” I disagree and most Washingtonians I hear from also disagree.

Our state continues to struggle with decade-long failures that the governor’s legislative Democratic majority have made worse. Like a skipping record, the state of Washington heard the governor’s same broken promises.

Crime is at all-time high, cost of living is at an all-time high, student scores in reading and mathematics is at an all-time low, and this all happened under the watch of the majority party. Our families, our businesses, and our children are owed real solutions and policies that fix Washington.

Streamlining access to special-education funding

Senate Republican Leader John Braun and I are leading a legislative effort to streamline access to additional special-education funding.

To help school districts with extraordinarily high special-education costs, the Legislature enacted a “Safety Net” program decades ago. Many districts, however, have found the process of applying for Safety Net funding to be overly complicated and burdensome, especially for small school districts with limited staffing resources. Simple errors can result in funding-award reductions of up to 45%.

To cut the red tape, we introduced Senate Bill 5852 and House Bill 1973 to simplify the Safety Net application process by reducing administrative barriers. These bills would also reform how applications are reviewed, which should aid districts in obtaining the added funding.

The state must do more to ensure that we’re providing every student in Washington with a quality education. Special education has not received adequate attention in recent years, especially during the pandemic. Making it easier for school districts to access supplemental funding is a good first-step.

A bipartisan bill to address disaster recovery

For decades, flooding in the Chehalis Basin has devasted communities and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. That’s why, in 2016, the Legislature established the Office of the Chehalis Basin to help mitigate flood-related damage and restore aquatic species habitat.   

This year, I am co-sponsoring House Bill 2020 withRep. Joe Timmons to ensure the state is better equipped to support local communities when natural disasters occur. The bill defines public infrastructure assistance and then directs the state’s Emergency Management Division to administer the program.

The damage caused by catastrophic flooding has been financial, physical, and emotional and this policy will help provide financial support, as well as hope to countless families.

Tenino sandstone built Washington, and should be the state rock  

I’ve revived legislation from former State Senator Dan Swecker, in collaboration with leaders in Thurston County, the city of Tenino, and members of the Tenino Stone Carvers Guild, to make Tenino sandstone the state rock with House Bill 1977.

States with significant mineral deposits often create a state mineral, rock, stone or gemstone to promote interest in their natural resources, history, and tourism. Currently, 29 states have designated a state rock. Washington has designated petrified wood as the state gemstone, but the state rock designation remains unfilled.

There are so many buildings and monuments in the state of Washington that were built and designed with Tenino sandstone. You can’t visit the Capitol without seeing Tenino sandstone or the craftsmanship of the Tenino Stone Carvers Guild. It is fitting to designate Tenino sandstone as our ‘state stone.’

Last year, I helped secure $160,000 for the guild to construct a workshop and classroom near the Tenino quarry to help train the area’s future stone carvers.

In September, it was also unveiled that the city, county, and stone carvers are working on a large-scale economic development, tourism, and art project that will highlight Tenino sandstone.

Tenino sandstone is part of the history and tradition of Washington state. This legislation would help bring that history to life, to the classroom, and provide the recognition that the stone and Tenino community played in building our state.

My other 2024 legislation

  • House Bill 1005 would extend and double the existing public utility tax (PUT) and business and occupation (B&O) tax credits for employers who hire a veteran, spouse of a veteran, or spouse of an active-duty military member.
  • House Bill 1011 would repeal the unpopular and unsustainable long-term care program and payroll tax.
  • House Bill 1014 would establish a new grant funding source for rural fire departments whose buildings and equipment are inadequate to meet the fire safety needs of their growing communities.
  • House Bill 1409 would expand the residential building code in an effort to reduce costs associated with building residential treatment facilities, such as the Chehalis facility proposed by Cascade Community Healthcare
  • House Bill 1729 would create and expand tax incentives for the research, development, production, and sale of hydrogen fuel products in Washington state.
  • House Bill 1856 would commission a legislative task force and broad-based study on the establishment of the Washington Office of Transparency Ombuds to serve as a nonpartisan and independent agency tasked with helping Washingtonians access public records.
  • House Bill 1974 would add counties to the list of entities given that authority and would reduce the wait time from 90 to 30 days.
  • House Bill 1986 would help fire departments with limited resources pay for fire safety trainings and assessments. 
  • House Bill 2031 would allow post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be considered an occupational disease for county coroners and medical examiner personnel for workers’ compensation purposes.
  • House Bill 2389 would address service of notice by mail in cases involving forcible entry and forcible and unlawful detainer.

White Pass Jr. Sr. High School student pages in Washington State House of Representatives

This week, I had the honor of sponsoring page Jackie Bier – a White Pass Jr. Sr. High School junior. Jackie completed a 40-hour work week, which involved serving House members on the chamber floor, making deliveries throughout campus, supporting member offices, and attending  Page School.

Page School supplemented her hands-on learning experience with a classroom component geared toward understanding the legislative process.

During the 60-day session, there are eight different weekly opportunities to be a page between Jan. 8 and March 7. When applying, potential pages can select which weeks they are available to work.

Eligible students must be at least 14 years of age and have not reached their 17th birthday.

Pages earn a stipend of $65 per day and can also earn up to 20 hours of community service.

Students interested in participating next year can find more information about the program at leg.wa.gov/house/pages/housepageprogram.aspx.

Applicants who need financial assistance for the expense of traveling and staying in Olympia may also apply for the Gina Grant Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship, which helps to offset expenses. Applications for the scholarship can be found at: leg.wa.gov/PageSchool/pages/ginagrantbullscholarship.aspx

For more information, contact my Olympia office at (360) 786-7896.

In the news

I work for you year-round

Please call, write, or email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions about government. I work for you all year.

Thank you for the honor of allowing me to be your voice in Olympia.

Sincerely,


Peter Abbarno

State Representative Peter Abbarno, 20th Legislative District
representativepeterabbarno.com
411 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
peter.abbarno@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7896 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000