I send this newsletter hoping it finds you well. I do not take for granted the honor and responsibility you have granted me as your state senator. I am providing this newsletter and hosting a virtual town hall next Thursday, June 8th to break down what happened during the 2023 legislative session, why it matters, and how through dialogue and implementation of our new laws and budget we can ensure it makes a difference.
I know life continues to be challenging for so many, and what we do in Olympia can seem unrelated to your daily life. However, we did accomplish a lot this session. Through rigorous debate, hard work, and advocacy from hundreds of neighbors like you, the accomplishments this session establish a solid groundwork for a more promising future for the people of Washington. Here are some notable highlights from this truly extraordinary session.
The year of housing
It was a pivotal year for housing in Washington. Both sides of the aisle came together to tackle the statewide housing crisis, resulting in the passage of crucial bills and historic investments in the Housing Trust Fund. These measures aim to increase housing supply, support homeowners and renters, and expand homeownership opportunities. Notable bills include:
- HB 1110, the “Middle Housing” bill, allows for the construction of more attached single-family homes throughout our state.
- HB 1474 creates the first in the nation Covenant Homeownership Program to address the racial wealth gap and open up homeownership opportunities to those impacted by generational discrimination and redlining. Much of that gap arise from our shameful history of restrictive covenants that prevented racial and religious minorities from purchasing homes in certain neighborhoods.
- HB 1042 helps quickly increase housing supply by facilitating renovation of underutilized or vacant commercial and mixed-use buildings into residences.
- HB 1349 protects vulnerable homeowners, particularly low-income households, and seniors, from predatory foreclosures.
- HB 1337 reduces barriers to the construction of new accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
Although there is more work to be done, these policies and investments represent substantial progress in addressing the housing crisis, and I remain dedicated to continued collaboration in ensuring access to affordable housing and combating homelessness in our state.
Investing in education
We also made significant progress in supporting a top-tier education system that empowers students of all ages by centering children furthest from education justice. One notable victory is the substantial investment in services for students with disabilities, providing an additional $372 million in funding over the next two years. This funding, secured through the passage of HB 1436, aims to enhance inclusion efforts and improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Here are other bills passed this session that will improve our schools:
- HB 1238 increases the number of students who have access to free breakfast and lunch. Starting next year, any school with 30% or more of their students eligible for free and reduced-price meals must provide a free breakfast and lunch to any student in kindergarten through 4th grade that requests it.
- SB 5072 expands access to accelerated learning and other types of enhanced instruction necessary for supporting our most highly capable students. The bill requires universal screening in or before second grade and then again in or before sixth grade for all students to identify and include students who traditionally are not referred for the services.
- HB 1207 provides students, teachers, and parents with another tool to address harassment and bullying by requiring OSPI to develop a model student handbook explaining our state’s anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies and complaint procedures.
- SB 5257 guarantees that all elementary school students have access to at least 30 minutes of recess each full day of school and makes clear that recess should not be withheld as a disciplinary or punitive action.
- SB 5355 requires that districts provide instruction in sex trafficking prevention and identification at least once between grades 7 and 12.
Ensuring gun safety
During the 2023 legislative session, we also focused on addressing gun violence—one of the most pressing issues in our nation. We prioritized the safety of our families. Several meaningful measures were enacted to create a society where our schools, streets, and homes are secure. Here are some significant gun safety bills that passed this year:
- HB 1240 bans the sale, manufacture, and import of assault weapons in Washington state, making us the 10th state in the nation to implement such a ban.
- HB 1143 institutes a 10-day waiting period for all firearm purchases and requires comprehensive safety training.
- SB 5078 requires gun manufacturers and dealers to implement reasonable controls to prevent dangerous individuals from accessing firearms.
- SB 5006 facilitates the voluntary waiver of firearm rights program, allowing individuals in mental health crises to surrender their guns.
- HB 1562 enhances safety for domestic violence survivors by making it more challenging for perpetrators to regain gun rights.
- SB 5231 empowers police to immediately remove guns from the scene of domestic violence incidents, rather than waiting for a court date.
While we have made significant progress, there is more work to be done to ensure our community’s safety. I remain committed to advocating for effective gun safety measures and creating a future where responsible gun ownership and peace of mind go hand in hand.
The passage of the Climate Commitment Act in 2021 marked a historic moment in addressing climate damage. The cap-and-invest system holds polluters accountable and sets a limit on CO2 emissions. What sets this legislation apart is its commitment to equity, prioritizing marginalized communities that have been disproportionately impacted by climate damage. This 2023 legislative session marked the first opportunity for Washington to invest funds generated from the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) towards our goals. Across the operating, capital, and transportation budgets, a total of just over $2 billion of projected CCA revenues are appropriated for the 2023–25 biennium to invest in overburdened communities and projects supported by tribal nations. Funds are directed towards electrification, clean energy, air quality improvement, energy efficiency, habitat restoration, and community health initiatives. The focus on equity ensures that all communities have equal access to resources and opportunities, creating resilient and sustainable environments for everyone. Click HERE to read my piece on environmental equity I wrote with Sen. Joe Nguyen.
You are cordially invited
Please join me for a virtual town hall on Thursday, June 8th from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. I am eager to share with you our accomplishments from the 2023 session and I would love to answer your questions on the issues that matter to you, your family, and your community. Our work is far from over and I want to hear from you about what the needs of our community.
Here’s where you can join the virtual townhall:
If you have any questions about the event, or if you would like to request an interpreter please contact my office at your earliest convenience and we will be glad to assist you. I would also be delighted to collaborate with community groups who can host an event in their preferred language, allowing us to delve deeper into the concerns and interests of their respective communities.
Stay in touch
We have made remarkable progress together during this legislative session. We have shown that positive change is possible when we unite behind a common purpose. As your state senator for the 37th Legislative District, I remain inspired and motivated by the incredible strides we have taken.
Although the 2023 session is over, I encourage you to continue to stay engaged and involved in the legislative process. Your input and feedback are vital to ensuring that we are creating policies that truly serve the needs of our community. Send me an email at Rebecca.Saldana@leg.wa.gov or give me a call at 360-786-7688. Also, make sure to follow me on my social media pages for regular updates.