We’re less than one month away from the end of the 2021 legislative session. I wanted to share a quick update on where we’re at as we head into the home stretch.
Senate Budget Proposal
Senate Democrats released our 2021-23 operating budget on Thursday. And let me just say, this is an outstanding budget.
Exactly one year ago, the coronavirus was spreading out of control. Extraordinary measures were enacted to protect public health and control the spread of the virus. Thousands lost their jobs and the economy went into free fall virtually overnight.
There were calls from some lawmakers and editorial boards for the Legislature to convene a special session to slash the budget at a time when demand for state services was skyrocketing. Cutting services at this critical time would have been devastating.
Thankfully, Governor Inslee and legislative leadership rejected these calls to make massive cuts to the state budget. And this week proved that was the right decision.
The economy on the whole has mostly recovered from the public health crisis. Instead of massive budget cuts, the improved economy plus the one-time federal relief from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan allows lawmakers to make additional investments that will support families who continue to struggle from the public health crisis.
Washington received $7 billion in one-time federal money, which we want to use for distributing vaccines, expanding in-class learning for students, reducing evictions, and boosting public health resources. You can read more about our proposal here.
Now that both the Senate and House budgets have been introduced, the two sides will soon begin negotiations to work towards a final budget. Both budgets make critical investments in programs and services that will help millions of people and families across Washington who are struggling to get by as a result of the public health crisis. I’m looking forward to approving the final budget and getting these resources out to communities as soon as possible.
Several of my bills continue to move through the legislative process. I have two bills that have been approved by the Senate and House already. The Gender Affirming Treatment Act and my bill to expand blood donation options to 16- and 17-year-olds are just a few steps away from becoming law.
Other bills moving through the process:
- SB 5235, prohibiting certain arbitrary local government housing limitations, is on the House floor ready for a vote.
- SB 5195, increasing access to life-saving opioid overdose-reversal medication, is in the House Appropriations Committee.
- SB 5106, expanding community-based banking options for local governments, is in the House Rules Committee.
- SB 5253, restoring the state’s bee population, was just approved by the House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.
- SB 5242, boosting media literacy and digital citizenship education in public schools, is in the House Appropriations Committee.
- SB 5194, opening up additional opportunities to go to college for more Washington students, is in the House Appropriations Committee.
New Small Business Grants Now Available
The Washington State Department of Commerce has announced another round of relief funding to help struggling small businesses. Applications for the fourth round of Working Washington Grants are open now. Business owners can learn more and apply for a grant at https://commercegrants.com.
These grants are aimed at for-profit small businesses in industries that have hard costs associated with their operations and faced the most significant challenges to paying those hard costs because they were required to close. Hard costs include but are not limited to rent, utilities, payroll or personal protective equipment.
Eligible applications will be reviewed based on the following priority criteria:
- Industries that had to close as a result of safety and public health measures.
- Size of the business (measured by 2019 revenue).
- Lost revenue between 2019 and 2020 as well as added expenses to maintain safe operations.
To ensure equitable distribution, the Department of Commerce will also consider whether businesses are operating in a rural or low-income community or that are owned by someone from a historically underserved population (minority, veteran, LGBTQ+ or women).
The application portal will be open until 5 p.m. on April 9.
Live with Liias
I had a great discussion with my good friend and House colleague, Rep. Vandana Slatter of Bellevue on our most recent Live with Liias. Rep. Slatter and I talked about her passion for science and her new role as chair of the House College & Workforce Development Committee.
Telephone Town Hall
Rep. Ortiz-Self, Rep. Peterson, and I had a great time talking with you and answering your questions on our telephone town hall last week. If you missed it, you can listen to a replay here.
Virtual Town Hall
The three of us also hosted a virtual town hall online a few weeks ago. A special thanks to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal for stopping by for a few minutes to give us an update on what’s happening in Congress. You can watch a replay of that event on my Facebook page or here on YouTube.
We’ll host another virtual town hall after session to answer your questions and let you know about all great policies lawmakers enacted and investments we made during the 2021 session. Stay tuned for more details about that event.
21st Legislative District