Hello friends and neighbors,
Today marks the 64th day of the 2023 session, which means we are officially in the second half. The last couple weeks we spent many hours on the Senate floor, voting on bills that will have a positive impact on our communities. I’m proud of what’s been accomplished so far for our community and Washingtonians across the state and eager to share with you the progress we are making. I also want to remind you that your voice is integral in the lawmaking process and helps guide us to shape better policy. I encourage you to stay engaged and make your voice heard!
37th District In-Person Town Hall
Please join us for an in-person town hall on Saturday, March 18, from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at the Centilia Cultural Center of El Centro De La Raza. I will be there starting at 10 a.m. to greet you and share a cup of coffee. Together with Reps. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Chipalo Street, we will share our legislative priorities, provide an update on where things are halfway through session and answer your questions on the issues that matter to you, your family and your community.
The address is in the graphic below. If you have any questions about the event, how to get there or if you or your neighbor need language interpretation, please contact my office and we will be glad to assist you. There will not be childcare, but children are welcome! Their voices matter, and we will have a table with coloring books and activities.
Eight Bills Have Passed
This session, our Senate Democratic Caucus is committed to improving lives in Washington by acting on thoughtful legislation that puts people first. Our top priorities include:
- Building healthier communities
- Creating a healthy planet and a stronger economy
- Safety for all
- A home for everyone
- Success for all our kids
Several bills that reflect these priorities have already passed the Senate and are being considered in the House. I am excited to share with you that eight of the bills I am sponsoring this session have passed the Senate! Here is a brief overview of some of those bills:
Social Equity in Cannabis
The Black Lives Matter movement and national uprisings after the murder of George Floyd stimulated an urgent discussion about the need to create social-equity programs as more states legalize cannabis. Senate Bill 5080 expands and improves our state’s existing social equity in cannabis program. By doing so, it acknowledges how the “War on Drugs” disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx and Indigenous individuals and communities. Senate Bill 5080 and the community reinvestment account fund are beginning to build equity in cannabis and repair harms with new pathways to opportunity, which were called out in the Social Equity in Cannabis Taskforce Report.
Use of Tobacco and Vapor Products Among Minors
We want our children in Washington to be safe and successful. Senate Bill 5365 addresses the concerning use of tobacco and vapor products among minors in our state. This bill will increase fines for retailers who sell vapor and tobacco products to people under age 18. It will also focus on offering community-based intervention to help young people quit tobacco use. We have a critical public health issue on our hands, and we need to act now to protect our children and adolescents from these dangerous addictions.
Post-conviction Access to Counsel
Senate Bill 5046 begins to ensure when a judge, prosecutor or defense attorney makes an error at trial that isn’t documented, individuals have access to a public attorney to help them file their petition to address those errors. Currently, our court data shows that more than 83% of petitioners (many with disabilities, limited access to education or tried as minors) do not have lawyers. The petition process is complex, which is why wealthy people hire attorneys at the beginning of the process. Folks from disadvantaged backgrounds should have access to legal assistance at this stage too.
Child Welfare Housing Assistance
Ensuring success for our children includes providing safe housing for them. Senate Bill 5256 expands and makes the Child Welfare program permanent. This program is a way for families to stay together. Regardless of the circumstance, a child being removed from their home is traumatic, and in the long run, causes more harm than good. A family’s housing instability shouldn’t be the reason why they are not reunified. When a child is returned home, their anxiety goes down and the outcome is better. This legislation will save the state money in costly out-of-home care and, most importantly, will keep families together and ensure stable housing for children.
Adult entertainment is a licensed activity in Washington, and the entire business is dependent on the entertainers and the money they bring in. Hospitality and entertainment industries were decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have not received relief. Senate Bill 5614 will provide relief and strengthen protections for entertainers to make sure they are not being exploited or trafficked. Entertainers need to know they are safe, protected and will leave each shift with minimal fees. Washington needs to require training for its staff, bartenders and security. Club managers and owners need to stop cutting corners to make profit at entertainers’ expense. Other states have cultivated safe entertainment environments — it is time for Washington to do the same by passing this legislation.
To learn more about these bills or view the full list of bills I am sponsoring that have passed the Senate click HERE.
Remember, your voice is integral in the lawmaking process and helps guide us to shape better policy. Remote public testimony will continue to be offered — along with the return of in-person testimony for all committees — providing every Washingtonian the chance to participate no matter where they live. You can register for in-person and remote testimony here.
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me and my team! I’d love to continue hearing from you, and look forward to learning more about your priorities. Send me an email at Rebecca.Saldana@leg.wa.gov or give me a call at 360-786-7688. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for regular updates throughout the coming months.
We look forward to seeing you at the 37th District town hall this Saturday, March 18!