Dear friends and neighbors,
It’s been an exciting week in the Legislature – here’s the news!
Cutoff deadline – what’s that?
Friday was a big deadline in the Legislature—policy cutoff—the last day a bill can pass out of its policy committee, or else it’s considered “dead” for the rest of session. There are a few exceptions – mostly bills that are necessary to implement the budget, which are generally big tax policies or very expensive bills – but most bills must have moved out of their policy committee by Friday!
Other than the bills I’m sponsoring, here are a couple of other noteworthy ones I’m watching from other legislators that made it past the committee deadline –
- Protecting the riparian areas of our rivers and waterways, HB 1720 from Rep. Mike Chapman and our neighboring 40th District’s Rep. Debra Lekanoff. This is a bipartisan bill on a very complex issue of ecological protection, agriculture and salmon, and it will help create salmon habitat along our rivers and streams. Sometimes we think about salmon as an ocean species, but they’re also a forest species that need cool, clean water in our rivers and streams to survive. Large trees and healthy habitat along rivers and streams create that habitat. Last year we had a very controversial bill (you might have heard the big buffer bill) that didn’t pass because it had mandatory requirements. Simply mandating buffers along streams isn’t enough – you have to manage these buffers if you want to create habitat, which is obvious if you spend any time walking around disturbed areas of Whatcom County, which quicky turn into blackberry habitat, not trees that provide shade for salmon
- Drivers’ ed and younger drivers. We know that younger drivers are safer when they’ve taken drivers’ ed. They’re even safer than slightly older drivers that never took drivers’ ed. I introduced a bill to subsidize drivers ed for those who couldn’t afford it and I’m proud to say that policy has been incorporated into another bill, SB 5583 from Sen. Marko Liias. “But Sharon, what about YOUR bill?” I’ve never thought the measure of a good legislator is the number of bills passed, but if are you watching out for the interests of your district. Working with other lawmakers to move good policy on safety, affordability, education, and protecting the environment has always been my goal, so I’m happy this policy is moving forward!
- Keeping the cost of insulin capped at $35 a month, SB 5729 from Sen. Karen Keiser. We capped the cost of insulin here in Washington state last year, but the program had a sunset date. We expected that Congress was going to pass such a cap nationwide but as is far too often the case, they failed to act, so Washington is going to have to keep on leading the way when D.C. can’t get it done. Insulin is necessary for so many people, and it makes no sense for us to let these costs rage out of control.
These are just a few of the many bills we’ll have the chance to vote for on the floor soon. Lots happening!
First bill passed!
I’m happy to announce I passed the first bill off the floor of the Senate! SB 5192 has to do with streamlining the removal of derelict vessels in Washington waters. The state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program is often used to salvage boats that are abandoned, sunk, or run aground – you might remember it removed one just off shore near Bellingham’s Waypoint Park last summer. But if the owner of a vessel appeals the salvage or seizure of the boat by the program, it can lead to lengthy legal processes. My bill would help speed up those appeals so we can get derelicts out of the water more quickly. Now it’s on to the House and hopefully the governor’s desk!
ADUs for you
One of my priorities this year is legalizing accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, statewide. These ADUs are a win-win – they’re an option for someone looking for an affordable place to live, and they’re great for homeowners who want to make some extra money off unused space on their property or provide a home for an aging family member or a young family member looking to start out on their own.
My bill, SB 5235, would cut red tape and reduce barriers to construction, and it requires comprehensive plans under the Growth Management Act to allow for ADUs within an urban growth area, and it was one of the bills that passed out of committee to stay alive before the Friday deadline this week.
My friend Sen. Liz Lovelett from the 40th LD is co-sponsoring my ADU bill with me!
You can read about my bill, and how it compares with the local regulations on ADUs being discussed by the city of Bellingham, in this great Cascadia Daily News story. I also did a fun appearance on a Seattle radio show about it, which you can listen to here.
I want to close by giving a shout-out to the city of Ferndale and their work to promote ADUs with these awesome Metallica-inspired graphics!
Ferndale is doing a great job on promoting ADUs, and I think they’re an important element in our work to build more affordable housing. An ADU might not be right for everyone, and that’s ok—we need a mix of housing as diverse as our residents are, and ADUs can be perfect for some people. We won’t have more affordable housing if we don’t build more housing. Excited to see this bill continue on its path!
As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have thoughts, feedback, or questions. You can reach me at Sharon.Shewmake@leg.wa.gov at any time.
Sen. Sharon Shewmake