Dear friends and neighbors,
The session is flying by as we start the fifth week of the legislative session.
February is Black History Month. The national celebration is an opportunity to remember not only national figures, but also local heroes, like Sandy Williams. Williams worked for over 40 years to inspire change in her community, especially within the East Central neighborhood. Her legacy lives on in places like the Carl Maxey Center. I dearly miss Sandy, who tragically died last year in an airplane crash, but her legacy of civil rights work motivates me every day to fight for justice and prosperity for everyone in our community.
The Blake Decision
A recent article in The Spokesman-Review explained the multiple bills moving through the Legislature to address the Blake decision. I have listened to as many community perspectives on this topic as I possibly could, including hosting a community meeting.
The Washington Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in State v. Blake, commonly referred to as the “Blake Decision,” ruled that the state’s drug law was unconstitutional. This also removed criminal penalties and stopped the possession of controlled substances from being a class C felony. In response, that same year, the Legislature passed SB 5476. Due to the timing of the court decision, we had to pass this bill quickly, which we knew was not perfect. This temporary fix is set to expire on July 1, 2023, forcing us to come up with a permanent solution this session.
There are several bills on this topic that have been introduced, and I generally support the direction of SB 5536 and SB 5467. There is a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate for a policy that includes involvement of the criminal justice system, but with a heavy emphasis on treatment. Since drug possession is usually a result of drug addiction, a health disorder, the focus on treatment makes sense if we want to achieve our goal of helping individuals and making the community as safe as possible.
None of these bills will pass unchanged, so there is definitely more to come. We are going to work hard to get this right.
The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) Comes Online
In 2021 the Legislature passed HB 1297, creating the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) in Washington. Much like the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), this new state-level support adds Washington to a list of 28 other states with similar programs.
Under the WFTC, individuals and families can receive rebates up to $1,200, and it is estimated to help over 400,000 Washingtonians this year. The Department of Revenue has applications in multiple languages, forms in digital or paper versions, and a website where you can check your eligibility.
Keep in Touch
Your input is essential for me to effectively do my job of representing our community. Please reach out to me at any time with questions, feedback, or comments at Andy.Billig@leg.wa.gov.