Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are nearing the halfway point of the 2023 legislative session. With the first two deadlines to move bills out of policy and fiscal committees in the chamber where they were introduced now behind us, you can expect to see a lot of bills being debated and voted on in the days ahead on the House floor.
A top priority is public safety – specifically, addressing the vehicular pursuit law. Many mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, businesses, and residents in the 39th District have been calling on us to change the current restrictive law and there are similar calls coming from all over the state.
The current law came with the passage of House Bill 1054 in 2021, which only allows officers to engage in pursuits if they have probable cause to believe the person has or is committing a violent offense, sex offense, or is an escapee and poses an imminent threat to others. This has allowed many suspects to simply drive away when approached by law enforcement.
House Bill 1363 is a bipartisan solution supported by many in the House. In its initial form, the bill lowered the threshold officers must meet to engage in pursuits to reasonable suspicion rather than probable cause. However, the bill was amended in its policy committee and now needs improvement.
On Thursday, we voted House Bill 1363 out of the House Transportation Committee where I serve as an Assistant Ranking Member. Earlier this week in that committee, we heard from many people dealing with the real-world impact of the change to the law. I’m happy this legislation moved forward in the legislative process and hopeful we can improve it when it comes to the House floor.
State drug possession laws
The other major public safety issue this legislative session is the need to update our state’s drug possession laws. Law enforcement in the 39th District and beyond has been loudly sounding the alarm over the current law which makes knowing possession of a controlled substance a misdemeanor (it was a felony before the state Supreme Court’s 2021 Blake decision invalidated the law) and mandates pre-arrest referral to voluntary treatment for the first two offenses. The existing law expires on July 1, so the Legislature must act this legislative session.
There were bills proposed in the House and Senate this year to address the issue. A House Republican measure, House Bill 1415, was never given a hearing. In fact, only one bill remains: Senate Bill 5536. The amended measure, passed by a divided Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, makes knowing possession of a controlled substance a gross misdemeanor, repeals mandatory treatment referral, creates a pre-trial diversion program and a path for vacated sentences for individuals who successfully complete treatment. It also includes other provisions. You can read a brief summary here. A lot of work remains to be done in both chambers.
Other important issues
Beyond public safety, there are several other bills I support — including House Bill 1431. The measure exempts food, drink, and meals provided to seniors in senior living facilities from sales tax. We need tax relief, especially for our seniors living on fixed incomes. The 39th District has many residents, especially in Skagit County, who would benefit from this bill so I will do all I can to get it across the finish line.
WATCH: KING 5 report on taxing senior meals.
Another bill I strongly support helps members of our critical professions buy a home. We need to do everything we can to increase access to home ownership and maintain a stable workforce — especially for our critical professions. House Bill 1633, also known as the Homes for Heroes Program, creates a down payment and closing cost assistance program for people in certain critical professions, including first responders, healthcare and behavioral health workers, 911 dispatchers, military members, veterans, and others. The measure passed out of its policy committee, but failed to advance out of its fiscal committee.
I will continue to support this concept and look forward to voting on other legislation that will help address our state’s housing crisis.
Several of my own bills are moving though the legislative process:
House Bill 1031 removes current restrictions on presenting and selecting recipients for the Washington State Medal of Valor that have been barriers to honoring those who put their lives on the line to save others. STATUS: Unanimously approved in the House and is now in the Senate.
House Bill 1271 ensures organ transport vehicles can use red lights and sirens when transporting time-sensitive, life-saving organs. STATUS: I expect this to get a vote on the House floor.
House Bill 1442 is a preemptive effort requested by our Secretary of State to deter the use of deep fakes, or synthetic media, in election campaigns. It defines synthetic media in campaigns, requires disclosures if used, and gives candidates harmed by it the right to sue. Synthetic media is defined as any image, audio, or video recording of an individual’s appearance, speech, or conduct intentionally manipulated digitally to create a realistic but false image, audio, or video recording most would believe to be the actual individual. STATUS: This bill is in the House Rules Committee and could come to the House floor.
House Bill 1443, also requested by the Secretary of State, adds another layer of protection to online voter registration by allowing voters to register with the last four numbers of their Social Security number just like they can on a paper form. STATUS: I expect this to get a vote on the House floor.
House Bill 1504 requires public schools to provide elementary school students at least 30 minutes of recess starting next school year. There was some recent criticism about the Senate version of this bill by Senate Republicans who feel this is a local control issue best left to school boards and school districts. The problem is not every district and board has done that. As a former teacher, I know first-hand the benefits of screen-free recess for students, which includes increased physical activity, improved memory, paying more attention in class, and reduced disruptive behavior. Those benefits and more have been found in multiple studies and in the Centers for Disease Control recommendation on recess.
Are there other big concerns regarding our children’s education in the wake of the pandemic? Absolutely, but I truly believe the first step to ensuring children get the most out of their class time is making sure their young minds are rested and ready to engage and absorb their lessons. STATUS: This bill is in the House Rules Committee and could come to the House floor.
The next couple of weeks we will busy voting on bills on the House floor. I will keep you posted.
I hope you will join me at one of two in-person town hall meetings on Saturday, March 11. Details are below:
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Educational Service Center
12309 22nd Street NE, Lake Stevens
3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Sedro-Woolley City Hall
325 Metcalf Street, Sedro-Woolley
As always, I invite you to contact me directly.
Stay informed and involved
The more you get involved in the legislative process, the better it will be for our community. Find out how to get started here. Here are some other resources:
- TVW | TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
- My legislative website | Find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, videos, bills, and other information.
- The Capitol Buzz | A weekday roundup of online news stories.
- The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator.
It’s an honor to serve you!