Hello friends and neighbors!
It’s been a busy week in the Senate! Last week we finished passing most Senate bills out of policy and fiscal committees and now we are voting them off the floor. It’s been long days of debate and deliberation with more than 150 bills, most of which have broad and bipartisan support. A few bills I’m excited about that we’ve passed through the Senate this week are –
- SB 5235 will cut the red tape for folks who want to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs or garden cottages) on their property to expand our supply of more affordable housing. 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 relative or a young family member looking to start out on their own. The Senate vote was 42-6 on Monday and the bill is already scheduled for a public hearing in the House on Thursday!
- SB 5466 is another piece of the housing supply problem, focused on areas near light rail stations and high-capacity transit. This is really important because transit works better when there are people and jobs near transit stops. Not everyone wants to live in transit communities, and that’s ok, but for those who can’t drive or don’t want to drive, transit-oriented communities can be a vibrant and accessible community that makes it easy for folks to get to their jobs, school, and run errands without a car or while using a car less often. Personally, I love living in a neighborhood where I can hear chickens from my yard, see a bus stop from my side window, and walk across the street to get an ice cream bar from the corner store or ride bikes with the kids to a park. Allowing and incentivizing transit-oriented development takes off some pressure to develop wetlands, floodplains and farmlands, and by including affordability incentives, it can help solve our housing supply problem. This passed 40-8 on another strong bipartisan vote!
- SB 5729 keeps the cost of insulin capped at $35 a month. We first capped the cost of insulin here in Washington state in 2020, but the program had a sunset date. We expected that Congress was going to pass a cap nationwide, but, as is far too often the case, Congress 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. This passed 47-0!
- SB 5371 is a Lovelett/Shewmake bill that I heard from a LOT of you about! It’ll better protect our Southern Resident Killer Whales by increasing vessel distancing requirements in the Salish Sea, a big win for our beloved orcas. Ships and boats really disrupt the orcas, their communication, and their social groups, and this will be an important protection for them. The final vote was less bi-partisan but still had some Republican support and passed 29-18!
We still have a few more days for bills to come on the Senate floor – the deadline for us to pass most Senate bills and send them over to the House is next Wednesday, March 8. After that, we start all over with committees, but going through House bills this time, while the House works on and reviews the Senate bills we sent over.
Speaking of housing…
I was proud to publish an op-ed in the Cascadia Daily News about our affordable housing challenges and the solutions that legislators are working on. Voters should absolutely expect us to deliver results, and the good news is that we have a lot of great ideas moving through the process. I encourage you to check out the op-ed here:
We all know someone who is struggling to keep up with rent increases or to buy a home, wondering if they will ever be able to compete in our real estate market. The housing crisis hurts our families, our young people, our seniors and our workers. It limits our economy, too — without enough housing, businesses locate elsewhere because they know they can’t hire workers if workers can’t find a place to live. Economists estimate that a more robust housing market would increase our economic output by 9%.
High housing costs are a problem brought on by our prosperity. Washington state is a great place to live, and we should be proud of that, but we need to ensure there’s enough housing for everyone who wants to be here and share in the economic, cultural and natural bounty that makes our state great. If we can’t respond with more houses for these productive workers, the wealthier people who can afford housing bid up the prices until housing is unaffordable for most.
It doesn’t have to be this way — instead of having more and more people competing for a fixed supply of units, we could just build more homes. You might have learned this in an economics class: When demand for an item increases, the price might jump at first, but then producers enter the market, we increase supply, and prices go back down.
Town hall coming up soon!
Since we have important deadlines coming up, this is one of the most important times for you to be in touch with us legislators about the issues you’re concerned with and what we’re working on. You can always reach me at Sharon.Shewmake@leg.wa.gov, but we also have a town hall event coming up with my seatmates, Rep. Alicia Rule and Rep. Joe Timmons, so we can hear from you and answer your questions in person.
WHO: Sen. Sharon Shewmake, Rep. Alicia Rule, Rep. Joe Timmons, and hopefully you!
WHAT: 42nd Legislative District town hall meeting
WHEN: Saturday, March 18 from 1-2 p.m.
WHERE: Ferndale High School, 5830 Golden Eagle Dr., Ferndale, WA 98248
You can also submit questions in advance here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/42ndLDTownHall
I hope to see you there! Thanks for reading,
Sen. Sharon Shewmake