Dear friends and neighbors,
It has been a busy few weeks in Olympia since I last sent you an update. You may be following what’s going on in the media, but I’d like to share what I’ve been doing for you and our community.
Town Hall Meeting – mark your calendars
Please join us, your 27th District lawmakers for a town hall meeting from 10 to noon on Saturday, Feb. 22 in the Jason Lee Middle School Cafeteria (602 S. Sprague, Tacoma, WA 98405; Pierce Transit bus route #1). Sign in begins at 9:30 a.m. if you wish to participate and ask a question or voice a comment or concern. We will give a brief update of what’s happening this session and be there to answer your questions. We hope to see you there.
War on middle class continues in the Senate
Brace yourself: the Senate Republican’s war on middle-class employees has restarted after a showdown on the Senate floor. The Republican “reform” proposed for our state’s structured settlement system opens the option for all employees injured on the job to accept one lump sum of money instead of a pension that would be paid out over time. This might sound like a good thing, however, young employees who are permanently injured and unable to be retrained in another career might accept cash settlements that don’t truly cover their actual needs, run out of money and end up in poverty. That’s bad for the injured workers’ households and bad for taxpayers, because taxpayers will eventually pay for the safety net services to care for those impoverished employees. Our workers deserve the surety to know that if they are injured on the job, their future is safe. Our working families have enough to worry about as it is; suffering a permanent injury without receiving enough benefits to make ends meet should not be one of them. I opposed this legislation.
Mental health legislation heard in committee
Depression; hoarding; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Bipolar; Schizophrenia — these are the labels and boxes in which society puts people with mental illness. As if those illnesses aren’t difficult enough to live with, society has added the bonuses of: stigma; isolation; fear; anxiety; sorrow; frustration; pain; and feelings of depression and shame.
Left untreated, these combinations manifest themselves in ways that undermine our society: illness; addiction; violence; unemployment; crime; incarceration; hunger; poverty; an inability to care for oneself or one’s family; and even suicide.
One in seven children in our state has a mental illness. Nearly 65 percent of youths in our juvenile justice system have a mental illness. Passing thoughtful mental health bills is the pathway to address how we serve the mentally ill and care for people with mental illness in our communities and in our state. When we stand up and do what is right, we have less hunger, crime and homelessness. Our communities are enriched, people will be safer and — most of all — people living with mental illness can thrive.
Washington State Community Action Partnership at work on the War on Poverty
This year is the 50th anniversary of the start of the War on Poverty. I was deeply honored to be recognized by the Washington State Community Action Partnership for my work to reduce poverty in Washington state. The event took place in Olympia on Feb. 4, and included a keynote speech by David Bradley, one of the original authors of bills first primed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. We should all be grateful for the work of MDC, our community action agency here in Tacoma. MDC stands for “Making a difference in communities,” and they do.
Medical marijuana and what’s ahead
While we’re working with everyone who has come to the table on the issue of medical marijuana, we can’t find a solution that keeps access to medical marijuana separate from the implementation of voter-approved Initiative 502.
Distributors and people who used and are familiar with the old medical marijuana system are concerned about the state’s pan to bring together the two systems. We will continue working, though so far I haven’t seen a way the two can be reconciled, and predict that medical marijuana users will become part of the larger group that will legally purchase marijuana in the future.
DREAM Act and veterans higher education bills passed in the Senate
For three years, young people in our communities who came to our country as kids, who have grown up in our schools and communities have fought to get the DREAM Act passed. The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act on the first day of the 2014 Legislative Session and the Senate unexpectedly followed suit nearly 20 days later. These Dreamers will now be eligible to apply to our State Need Grant program like the rest of their classmates. These students will not have to put their aspirations and goals on hold as they will have equal access to critical grants to help them achieve their higher educational goals. I was proud to support this bill and all our students who seek higher education.
The other bill I was proud to support was a bill that offers our military men, women and veterans the ability to qualify for in state tuition without a year-long wait for residency. This bill passed in the Senate unanimously and will go to the House for their consideration.
Constituents in Olympia
Over the past couple weeks I have been pleased to meet with many groups from our district. I’ve met with Hannah Fumiko Russ, a member of our district’s Legislative Youth Advisory Council, a number of architects from the district and I received a BIG thank you card from the students at Browns Point Elementary. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to come down and meet with me. Please visit the photo gallery on my website to find photos of some of my visitors in Olympia.
Continuing the commitment to clean-up
As part of my continuing commitment to address areas of our district that were contaminated lead from ASARCO, I’d like to share the latest information from the state Department of Ecology on their clean-up efforts.
The state Department of Ecology is taking over a piece of the Tacoma Asarco Superfund cleanup. The department will continue yard clean-up work started in the 1990s by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Residents of the Ruston/North Tacoma area will start hearing more from their local Dirt Alert Program. Ecology is renewing its efforts because arsenic and lead in neighborhood soils still pose a risk. You may enter your address in the interactive map to find out if you live in an affected area and what services are offered.