Dear friends and neighbors,
It’s the second week of the legislative session and things are already moving quickly! We’ve got bills going through the committee process and I’ll be testifying on many of my bills later this week. Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when many groups do their “lobby days,” and I was happy to have folks come down and visit from the district.
Housing action –
We have to make it easier to build more homes, especially in cities. When we don’t have enough homes, renters and buyers bid up prices which put workers, seniors, young people, and families at risk. When a city has a lot of jobs but not enough homes, it impacts the surrounding small cities and rural areas too, because people come for the jobs but are forced into neighboring areas for housing—they “drive until they qualify.” This process drives up prices and fundamentally changes the nature of rural areas.
Building more homes, and different types of homes at a variety of price points gives people opportunities to live near their jobs and communities, avoid eviction and homelessness, expand their families and save for the future. The best renter protection is a healthy vacancy rate because it gives renters options. Building in cities protects our environment and our agricultural lands because when we fail to build in cities, people convert farmland, floodplains or other sensitive areas into housing creating additional conflict.
I’m serving on the Senate Housing Committee this year, and we have legislation already moving forward expanding density around transit, speeding up permitting for residential construction and cutting red tape. We’re working on a capital budget that directly invests money into building affordable housing. It’s tremendously encouraging that there’s a bipartisan consensus on this issue, and I’m working hard to bring folks together so we can get this right.
Teachers, please read this –
I would love to be able to connect you and your students with the legislative process. There are a couple bills over the past few years that K-12 students have gotten involved in – in 2021, we passed a bill to provide menstrual hygiene products in school bathrooms, an idea that a group of high school students brought to the legislature and advocated for. This year, we’re currently considering a bill to name Suciasaurus Rex (the only dinosaur fossil found in Washington) as the official state dinosaur, a bill that a group of middle school students are trying to get passed. In the education space, there are bills on recess and free school lunches, big bills on recycling, and if you tell me what you think your students would find interesting, we can look around some more!
If you’re a teacher and you think your students would enjoy learning more about or being involved in legislative advocacy and bills, please contact me at Sharon.Shewmake@leg.wa.gov. I would love to help support students or a whole classroom who are interested in doing legislative advocacy, and there are issues big and small where their voices would be heard and valued.
My new role on the Transportation Committee –
One of the cool new things I get to do this session has to do with funding transportation. As the vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I’m part of the team that negotiates and writes our state’s transportation budget, helping to decide what projects get funding and how much, all across our state.
That process starts with the Governor’s proposed budget (you can see his transportation proposal for 2023-2025 here if you like spreadsheets), and I will be part of a small group of Democratic and Republican legislators from both the House and the Senate who will get together to negotiate the final budget for the legislature to vote on. It’s my job in that process to responsibly represent both the 42nd district and all of Washington state – I’ve got to make sure that Whatcom County is getting the projects and investments we need, while also recognizing that this is a statewide budget that must work for all Washingtonians.
There’s a lot to be done in transportation. With traffic deaths rising, we need to prioritize safety on our roads and highways. We need to make sure we’re funding transit, bike, and pedestrian projects to make it easier for folks to get around outside of their cars. We need to think about resiliency and building a transportation system that ensures emergency vehicles can get places even in a flood. And we need to make investments that can help make our transportation system greener, with more support for electric cars and e-bikes and cleaner fuels.
Thanks for reading, and as always, you can reach me at any time at Sharon.Shewmake@leg.wa.gov if you have questions or feedback.
Sen. Sharon Shewmake