Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We're at the halfway point of this 60-day session, and things continue to move rapidly. We've spent a lot of time on the House floor this week voting on bills, and we will continue to do so into next week. Wednesday, Feb. 17 is house of origin cutoff, which means all House bills must pass the House (and Senate bills pass the Senate) or be considered “dead” for the year.
My mission this session has been to support good legislation. I am here to serve you and represent your best interests in the Legislature. That means I will seek to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle whenever I can, because there is so much more we can do when we work together.
An update on my bills
As you know, I introduced two bills this session. The first was House Bill 2877, which would expand the timeframe Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are distributed from 10 days to 20 days. The SNAP program is vitally important to so many families in our communities, and I want to make sure it works well for them. By expanding the date range in which benefits are distributed, SNAP recipients would have access to a wider range of food products – specifically fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products. It would also help eliminate the long grocery lines the current model of distribution has created. This bill is currently in the House Rules Committee.
The other bill I introduced is House Bill 2921, which would address our current teacher shortage by providing incentives for retired teachers to re-enter the workforce without their pension benefits being penalized. A vast number of our retired teachers still have an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm for teaching. They are extremely qualified, and would take the burden off of principals and other administrative staff who are currently stepping in to teach. The teacher shortage isn't going to get better on its own, so we must be proactive in our efforts to solve this problem. With such a short session, not all bills will make it to the floor for a vote. Even so, there are other bills addressing this issue I am eager to support, particularly Rep. Orcutt's House Bill 1737. His bill passed the House last month in a 96-1 vote, and is now in the Senate.
To learn more about the bills I've introduced this session, please watch my most recent video update:
Other legislation I'm supporting
I co-sponsored House Bill 2682, which would enable automatic voter registration for eligible individuals applying for services at qualified voter registration agencies. I spent 12 years working with high school students and 15 years serving with local leaders. My consistent message has been that your voice doesn't count if you don't vote. This bill would increase voter registration and also provide a portal for citizenship through the Department of Licensing. It was brought forth by Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, and I was happy to sign on as a co-sponsor when approached with the opportunity to do so.
Every Friday, I try to make it back to district to meet with members of the community. On Jan. 29, I met with Robin Corak, CEO of the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way. MSC works to provide local residents with food, job placement and housing. Its mission is to lift people from crisis and vulnerability to self-sufficiency and stability. I also met with Tim Johnson, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Federal Way. He shared the latest projects with me, as well as updates on the performing arts center. Economic growth is a high priority for our community.
Earlier this month, I met with Federal Way School Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell, school board president Geoffrey McAnalloy, and school board member Liz Drake. We discussed the current teacher shortage, McCleary funding, and several other pressing issues.
This morning, I attended the Auburn Youth Resources fundraiser and a Federal Way Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast at Caffé D'arte, which is a coffee roasting and distribution company based in Federal Way. It's important to connect with area business experts committed to enhancing economic growth in the South Puget Sound.
Recent in-district news
Tuesday was a great day for Federal Way. I received a call from Mayor Jim Ferrell, who informed me the Weyerhaeuser building had been sold to IRG, a reputable company that honors and respects historical sites. IRG's purchase ensures the stunning and iconic building will remain intact as they lease space to companies that provide family-wage jobs to members of our community.
I was thrilled to watch the election returns for our school district technology levy, which passed with a whopping 61 percent of the vote. The result shows that our community stands up for kids and has confidence in new Federal Way School Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell, as well as the school board. My two major passions are making sure we're educating our workforce and creating jobs. If we invest in educating our children and creating a strong workforce, while matching it with economic growth and jobs for individuals and families, that will create a tax base to support important things like public safety, schools, streets and safety net services.
Standing up for our community
Even though we need places for drug and addiction recovery, as well as mental health support, I was in favor of moving the Woodmont Recovery Center. The location of WRC was too close to nearby homes and families, as well as a school in our district. This center is important, but we can't ask families to sacrifice their safety and quality of life. Fortunately, the center was recently moved to a more appropriate location.
I am deeply concerned about potential health and safety impacts the proposed Tacoma methanol production plant, the world's largest, could have on the densely populated surrounding communities. Additionally, with our pristine Puget Sound being home to so much wildlife, I am concerned the plant could have a terrible impact on their habitat as well. Therefore, I signed on as a co-sponsor of Rep. Linda Kochmar's House Bill 2980, which would prohibit the siting of certain facilities that could jeopardize air quality in areas that have historically failed to meet air quality standards. A Federal Way City Council meeting was held last night to hear public testimony about the proposed plant. According to The News Tribune, 1,000 people showed up (standing-room only), most of whom were opposed to the building of the plant. I believe in regional jobs, but not at the expense of public health and safety. People deserve to be informed on these kinds of issues, particularly when they impact their personal welfare and property values.
I also recently signed on as a co-sponsor of House Bill 2545, which would restrict toxic flame retardant chemicals in order to eliminate potential exposure to children.
I realize some of my positions may not be popular with certain members of the business community, but I am here to serve you first and foremost and do what is in your best interest.
Holding government accountable
It was right for the State Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke to resign last week, just as it was right for the state Senate to remove Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson from her job. Taxpayers deserve competency, and neither of these individuals were providing it.
Pacholke oversaw the early release of more than 3,000 prisoners, at least one of which went on to kill his girlfriend in a DUI crash. Peterson oversaw many high-profile failures costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and leaving them on congested highways. It was time for her to go.
As a Legislature, we should always be protecting taxpayers and holding government accountable. You saw that in action last week.
I encourage you to continue contacting me with your thoughts about how we can work together to address the challenges facing our district and state. Please feel free to give me a call or send me an email anytime. My contact information is below.
It is an honor to serve as your state representative.
122D Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7830 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000