Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In my last update, I provided an overview of the 2023 legislative session and shared that we had been called into a one-day special session to fix the state Supreme Court's Blake decision. That special session was held on May 16, and we were indeed able to pass a bill that I believe will help curb illegal drug use in our state. Had we failed to come to a compromise, there would be no statewide criminal penalty right now for possessing hard drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine. While the solution we passed is not perfect, it offers a solid balance of accountability and compassion. It will help those struggling with addiction and keep our communities safer.
While the Blake issue is resolved for now, it is far from the only public safety issue lawmakers should be addressing. Crime is a serious problem throughout our state, and Washington continues to rank last in the nation in terms of the number of police officers per capita. These challenges, and so many more, require bipartisan cooperation, and I hope we see it during the 2024 legislative session. For my part, I'll be reintroducing House Bill 1691, which would increase the penalty for fleeing law enforcement while committing the crime of grand theft auto. I'll also be supporting a number of other public safety measures that are designed to make our communities safer, including the solutions listed on this page.
Cap-and-trade program has caused gas prices to skyrocket
For much of the summer, Washington state has been home to the nation's highest gas prices. In the vast majority of communities, drivers have been forced to pay $5 per gallon or more for weeks now. The reason is clear: the state's new cap-and-trade program that is levying a tax on CO2 emissions from energy producers. According to Affordable Fuel Washington, the program is adding 44 cents per gallon for gas and 55 cents for diesel.
While we need to be good stewards of our environment, we also must take a long look at the cost-benefit analysis before passing legislation that poses a risk of crushing families financially. I'm currently working with fellow lawmakers on a bill that would lower your financial burden at the pump. I'll be able to share more on that in a future update. For now, I want to hear from you about how you're being impacted by rising gas prices. I created a short, three-question survey that I hope you will take a few minutes to complete. You can access it here.
Affordable housing one of my top priorities
In continuing on the theme of affordability, much of my focus this interim has been on affordable housing. I recently held a manufactured housing listening session with 16th District Rep. Mark Klicker to understand the challenges the industry is facing and how lawmakers can work together to address them. We'll be holding another listening session in October. I've also been attending other meetings with stakeholders in the housing industry, as well as working with caucus policy staff to develop ways we can build more affordable housing in our district and around the state. That work will continue.
Finally, I will be reintroducing House Bill 1633 during the 2024 session. The bill, known as the “Home for Heroes” bill, would direct the Washington State Department of Commerce to contract with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to develop and implement a statewide pilot program to provide interest-free loans to eligible workers in occupations critical to life, health, and safety. Loans under the program would be solely used to assist with the purchase of a primary residence. The bill's passage is important because our state suffers from a shortage in two critical areas: housing and essential workers. House Bill 1633 would address both problems by providing down payment assistance for nurses, firefighters, law enforcement officers, military members, veterans, child care providers, mental health professionals, and other first responders. While the bill advanced out of the House Housing Committee during this year's session, it stalled in the House Capital Budget Committee.
New assignment on the House Appropriations Committee
In addition to my roles as assistant Republican whip and assistant ranking member of the House Housing Committee, I was recently promoted to assistant ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. The 31-member committee crafts the state's operating budget and works on related fiscal bills. Republicans have been shut out of operating budget negotiations in recent years, so I look forward to building relationships with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and seeing if we can change that dynamic. If so, that will serve Washingtonians well. If not, we'll continue doing what we can to fight for responsible budgets, broad-based tax relief, and common-sense fiscal policies.
Interview with TVW's Austin Jenkins
A couple of months ago, 35th District Rep. Travis Couture and I had an opportunity to sit down with TVW's Austin Jenkins for a 30-minute conversation about the challenges and opportunities that come with being a new state lawmaker. Take a look:
I am here to serve you year-round, so please continue reaching out to me with any questions, concerns, comments, or suggestions you have. Working together, we can make a meaningful difference here in the Mighty 8th and for our entire state.
It is an honor to serve you!