Dear friends and neighbors,
While this was the short 60-day session we have in each even-numbered year, it was one of the most productive and successful session of all the years I have served as your state senator. I know that the challenges we face as a community require hard work and consistent focus in order to bring change and progress. We need solutions to the homelessness crisis, more affordable health care for all, and more reliable infrastructure that helps create better jobs, and a more livable community. These are the issues I remain focused on, and am happy to share with you the progress made this year.
The biggest success for our community by far this year, after 10 years of work, and the foremost priority for our community was the Legislature appropriating $1 billion in funding for an I-5 bridge replacement. In a prior email, I cited the many important reasons we need this bridge.
Not only does this year’s Move Ahead Washington revenue package replace the I-5 bridge with a modern structure that better meets transit and climate needs, it also funds the next phase of bus rapid transit for the Highway 99 corridor and a pedestrian bridge over State Route 500.
More broadly, I entered the legislative session focused on our continued response to and recovery from COVID-19, including relief for families, individuals and businesses impacted. Thankfully, the guidelines and safe practices we have followed over the past two years have kept our state one of the healthiest in the nation over the course of the pandemic. Another continued priority for me is to make improvements to our health care system, which has been under immense stress from two unrelenting years of pandemic. I am pleased our state was able to make progress on both of these important goals this session.
As the chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee, I was able to help shepherd through a number of bills to improve health care in several key areas:
- HB 1616 updates requirements for charity care to ensure more people can access care without having to take on overwhelming medical debt.
- HB 1688 increases prohibitions to further protect patients from surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers and extends those protections to include behavioral health care along with other emergency medical services.
- HB 1851 expands and clarifies state law to protect patients’ reproductive freedom, ensuring access to safe reproductive health care.
While those were House bills, one was companion legislation to SB 5618, which I sponsored in the Senate. Other priorities this session included several bills I prime-sponsored and worked hard to get passed:
- SB 5815 directs the state to issue no-cost Identification cards to people experiencing homelessness, removing a frustrating obstacle to common everyday activities.
- SB 5814 provides a permanent funding to cover the cost of medical exams for children who are suspected of having been physically abused.
- SB 5617 updates state criteria to ensure that Vancouver’s vital Main Street Program can continue to provide funding and support for local businesses, a need made even greater by the continued impacts of the pandemic.
Last but far from least, several local projects will benefit from state funding in this year’s budgets:
- $1.6 million for the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 project.
- $160,000 to the City of Vancouver Fire Department for a warehouse and logistics center to better prepare for wildfires.
- $309,000 for a seismic upgrade and roof repair for the Boys and Girls Club.
In addition, I was able to insert a proviso in the state operating budget to redirect funds for Vancouver Lake cleanup and a strategic lake management plan. And a project that is not currently in our district but is no less important to our community — the Winter Hospitality Overflow (WHO) facility — will receive $283,000 for needed upgrades to better ensure that those needing shelter in the winter have a place to stay overnight.
As you can see, it was a busy and productive session — and a very beneficial one for our local community. I am grateful to be able to work in concert with my two seatmates, Rep. Sharon Wylie and Rep. Monica Stonier, and I thank them for their partnership and support in achieving these important improvements for our community. It is a privilege and an honor to be part of such a strong team working on behalf of the 49th Legislative District!
As we now begin work to prepare for the next legislative session in January 2023, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your ideas, thoughts and feedback.
Take care and stay safe,