Last week marked the beginning of the 2022 legislative session, and with it another opportunity to improve the lives of people in our state and here in the 43rd Legislative District. This is a short, 60-day session, mostly focused on making improvements to the two-year budgets and major policies that we enacted in 2021. I am honored to continue representing you in that work.
Following public health guidance given the community spread of the Omicron variant, the Legislature is again convening remotely for all committee work, while a small number of lawmakers meet in person for masked and distanced floor action. Although I wish we were together in person, last year we learned that virtual operations increase transparency and accessibility for constituents and citizens testifying remotely. I look forward to hearing and meeting many of you virtually this year. You can also stay up to date on floor and committee activities at www.leg.wa.gov as they are streamed on TVW.org.
New year, new roles
Last month, my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus elected me to serve as our Senate Majority Floor Leader. The floor leader opens the day’s proceedings, assigns bills to committees, and sets the agenda for debates on the Senate floor, ensuring that priority bills are debated and voted on. I continue to serve on the Law & Justice Committee, the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, the Ways & Means Committee, and the Rules Committee. In addition, I serve on the Legislative Ethics Board, the Office of Public Defense Oversight Committee, and the Statute Law Committee, and as one of Washington’s commissioners on the Uniform Law Commission.
In addition to my new duties this session, I’m sponsoring eight bills this year, including:
- Supporting public transit: The opening of new light rail stations last fall in the University District and Roosevelt has transformed our neighborhoods as we realize the promise of how quickly and efficiently people can get around the city and dream of how much better the system could be if it were fully built out. Senate Bill 5528 would let local communities such as Seattle decide if we want to expand transit further and faster. More than 900 people signed up in support of the bill last Thursday. You can watch the hearing here.
- Redistricting reform: Every 10 years new legislative lines are drawn across the country. Unfortunately, here in Washington, our commission failed to meet acceptable transparency standards and missed the deadline to approve new maps, forcing the Supreme Court to intervene. Senate Bill 5560 would reform the process to ensure we don’t experience a failure like this again. Among other reforms, it would require the Redistricting Commission to make final map proposals publicly available three days before the deadline.
- Collaborating with the courts: I believe that each generation of lawmakers has a responsibility to improve our democracy for the next. This year I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 5490 to improve communication and collaboration among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches on court funding and policy issues affecting the court system. I am hopeful that this systemic change can improve how efficiently our government works for you.
Work on police accountability continues
Last year, I was proud to help the Legislature pass historic police reform into law. As chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, I worked hard to increase accountability and transparency in law enforcement state agencies after the horrific killings of George Floyd, Manuel Ellis, and many others in our state and country. I am grateful for the input and feedback from constituents and community leaders as we worked together to bring justice to Black, indigenous, and other communities of color across our state.
As with any major reform, we have learned in the six months since these bills went into effect about some places where the law needs clarification or adjustment. We will be working hard to make those small changes without undermining the historic progress of 2021.
As the session progresses, please feel free to contact me about issues of concern to you at Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov. I will continue to send periodic updates throughout the session before the Legislature adjourns for the year on March 10.