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Legislative update: House Democrats focused on 4 objectives | Guest View

 

Last updated 5/12/2021 at 11:45am



We can all agree that this past year has been one like no other, and the same can be said for the 2021 legislative session.

The House of Representatives, which I am proud to be a part of, worked entirely remotely, and I am happy to report that not a single legislator or staff member came down with COVID-19.

From the outset, House Democrats knew we needed to do things a little different this year in order to meet the needs of communities around our state, stop the spread of COVID-19, recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, and pass new two-year state budgets – all in 105 days.

We decided as a caucus to limit the number of bills we each introduced in order to focus on four objectives: a robust public health response to COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and justice, and addressing the threat of climate change.

The key to defeating COVID-19 is protecting ourselves.

With cases still fluctuating dramatically, we must be more vigilant than ever and do our best to keep ourselves and each other safe. One way to do that is through vaccinations, which I am proud to say were funded in our operating budget with over $1 billion in federal funds, boosting our public health departments and other vaccine distributors.

Utilizing the state budget and the Biden/Harris American Rescue Plan Act, we can dramatically expand our public health response to COVID-19 and set us up for long-term public health success.

Strengthening public health must be coupled with progressive economic relief measures to make sure we have a just and equitable recovery from the pandemic.

Too many families have suffered from reduced work or lost jobs or had their financial security disappear in the blink of an eye. I am proud

to have supported a budget that offers incredible support to those families and businesses who need help the most, with rental relief, food assistance, and cash assistance.

Additionally, we approved critical reforms to begin correcting our upside down tax code, namely funding the Working Families Tax Rebate and passing an excise tax on the sale of extraordinary capital gains like stocks and bonds to fund the expansion and affordability of child care, early learning and K-12 education.

Along with investments in the budget, we also passed additional measures that brought the total funding for rental assistance for tenants and landlords to over $1.3 billion. But rental assistance alone is not enough to keep people housed when the eviction moratorium ends.

As chair of the brand new Housing, Human Services and Veterans Committee, I was proud to support new tenant protections like a statewide just cause eviction policy, legal representation for renters in eviction court, and local planning for housing for people of all income levels.

2020 also saw a nationwide movement for racial justice and police accountability spurred by the murder of George Floyd – and we know many people in our state have been killed unjustly in encounters with police, particularly Black men.

To restore trust between police and communities, House Democrats – led by the Policing Policy Leadership Team – passed several pieces of legislation to transform our public safety system, end deadly police tactics and ensure that custodial interrogations are recorded.

We also expanded voting rights to over 20,000 Washingtonians and continued our efforts to dismantle institutional racism in our schools.

The existential threat of climate change is real and growing.

We owe it to future generations to protect the climate with an eye towards environmental justice. Washington will join our West Coast neighbors in establishing a clean fuel standard to limit greenhouse gas emission from the transportation sector, improve air quality, and create jobs in the biofuel industry.

We also passed the landmark Climate Commitment Act to put Washington on a path to meet our statutory goal of net-zero emission by 2050.

The measure establishes a cap and invest system that will steadily reduce carbon emissions and air pollution while investing in green infrastructure, multimodal transportation, and environmental justice.

To prevent and fight wildfires, the Legislature also passed a bipartisan plan to establish healthier forests that will be more resistant to wildfires and modernize outdated firefighting equipment.

While hours and hours of Zoom meetings is not the preferred way of doing the peoples' business, we had perhaps the most successful legislative session, tackling important issues to my constituents here in the 21st and across Washington state.

Together, we can end the COVID-19 pandemic and make sure Washington remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.

Please continue masking up, keeping gatherings small and outdoors, and get vaccinated as soon as you can.

 

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