Dear friends and neighbors,
For the first time since 2020, legislators have gathered from around the state for an in-person session. The pent-up energy is obvious, with over 500 bills having been introduced in the Senate in just the first 12 days. I am thrilled to be back at work tackling the challenges that face our state and people in the 43rd Legislative District, from housing and homelessness to climate change and gun violence. This year we will meet for 105 days and pass new two-year state budgets, funding everything from transportation and public health to environmental protection and public schools. I am honored to continue representing you in that work.
Although legislators are back in person, we are delighted to continue welcoming public testimony from all around the state. I look forward to hearing and meeting many of you in person and virtually this year. You can stay up to date on floor and committee activities at www.leg.wa.gov. Our floor sessions and committee hearings are also streamed on TVW.org.
New year, new Legislature
This fall voters increased Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate and elected the most diverse group of legislators in the state’s history. Our Senate Democratic caucus includes 16 women and 13 men; four Asian-American, three Latinx, two Black, and one Native American members (over 1/3 people of color); four LGBTQ+ people; and members ranging in age from their early 30s to their late 70s.
Last month, my colleagues reelected 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 Senate Facilities & Operations Committee, the Joint Committee on Employment Relations, 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.
New 43rd District boundaries
Last year the Redistricting Commission made changes to the boundaries of legislative districts across the state, including our own 43rd district. The district now includes Belltown, Laurelhurst and Denny-Blaine, while retaining the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, Eastlake, First Hill, Madison Park, Montlake, South Lake Union, the University District, the southern parts of Wallingford and Fremont, and the northern part of downtown. You can take a closer look and compare the new map with the old at http://www.redistricting.wa.gov.
Making our laws more transparent
Last summer I received a message from a constituent concerned over an article she had read in the New York Times about the history of forced sterilization laws. She was outraged that Washington was one of 30 states that had adopted forced sterilization laws from 1907 to 1932 – and was the only one that still had it on the books, more than 80 years after it had been declared unconstitutional. This session I introduced Senate Bill 5087 to remove language from statutes struck down by the courts, including forced sterilization of sex offenders, the death penalty, the prohibition on employment of communists by the state government, and the two-thirds supermajority requirement for legislative approval of tax increases. Keeping laws on the books that are no longer in force is confusing for the public. I hope that by removing them, we will make our state law more transparent and easier to understand. You can watch testimony on the bill here.
Save the date: Town Hall on March 11
I will be joining Reps. Nicole Macri and Frank Chopp for an in-person town hall meeting on March 11 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church on First Hill. After a few years of holding town halls virtually, I am excited to see familiar faces and discuss the important policies we are considering this year in Olympia.
Proud moment for our country
Last month I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the White House celebrating the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. I joined a number of LGBTQ+ leaders from Washington, including House Speaker Laurie Jinkins (pictured above). I was proud to help lead the charge for marriage equality here in Washington a decade ago and was honored to see President Biden make it the law of the land.
Serve as a Senate page
Each year, hundreds of students aged 14 to 16 from across Washington State have the opportunity to take part in the legislative process and observe the Legislature and other branches of state government in action. If you or a student you know would be interested in serving as a page this session, you can find more information on how to apply here. Because the page program was suspended during the pandemic, the legislature has made a one-time exception this year to allow students 17-18 years old to participate as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. I’ll be in touch throughout the session to provide updates on our work in the Legislature.