Dear friends and neighbors,
In recent years, our state has taken significant steps to extend justice and opportunity to all communities. We know that systemic inequities disproportionately affect communities of color and inflict a great social and economic cost on all Washingtonians. This year the Legislature passed several bills to address racial justice and equity issues.
- HB 1474 creates the Covenant Homeownership Program to provide down payment and closing cost assistance to historically marginalized Washingtonians. This will allow more communities of color a pathway to homeownership, leading to greater stability and financial security, as well as a chance to build generational wealth. I am deeply appreciative of the work of my seatmate, Rep. Frank Chopp, in advancing this pathbreaking policy.
- SB 5128 will prioritize fairness and access to justice in our legal system by requiring accurate data on jury demographics to address the top reasons jurors are unable to serve.
- SB 5046 addresses inequities in the criminal justice system by providing postconviction access to counsel to people who can’t afford it.
- HB 1238 ensures students have better access to nutrition by requiring schools with 30% or more of their students eligible for free and reduced-price meals to provide free meals to elementary students who request it.
- SB 5225 strengthens Washington’s childcare workforce while also making care more accessible by allowing more families and childcare workers to qualify for state subsidies through the Working Connections Child Care program.
- HB 1177 creates a new unit in the state Attorney General’s Office to assist federal, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in investigating unsolved cases involving Indigenous people.
- SB 5623 increases protections against hate crimes by ensuring they can be more effectively prosecuted, and courts can require offenders to complete rehabilitative programs.
- SB 5072 requires universal screening for highly capable student programs, reducing the risk of qualified students’ being left out.
- HB 1541, the Nothing About Us Without Us Act, will help historically excluded communities be included in the official bodies that make recommendations to the Legislature about issues affecting underrepresented groups.
- SB 5268 increases equity and promoted efficiency in public works contracting by removing barriers for small contractors, especially for small-, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses.
This is my final newsletter reporting on the work of the 2023 legislative session. If you missed my previous updates on gun safety, reproductive freedom, public education, housing, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action, criminal justice reform, health care, community facilities improvements, behavioral health, voting rights, public benefits and services, or public safety, they are available on my website.
I’m proud that the 43rd Legislative District is among the most politically engaged in the state. Your voice makes a difference! I am currently working on three bills for 2024 that came from constituent ideas. I hope you will continue to reach out with any questions or ideas for future legislation at Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov.