Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Summer has flown by so fast! Kids are back in school, the weather is changing, and soon fall will be upon us. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide a brief legislative update and address some of the emerging issues from the summer.
Planned PenMet Parks community recreation center breaks ground
It was an honor to help break ground last week on a long-awaited project by PenMet Parks to build a community recreation center in Gig Harbor.
In the Legislature, we were able to secure $1 million from the 2023-25 capital budget for the $31.6 million facility. It is being built on the former Performance Golf Center’s 17-acre site and will include a soccer/football/lacrosse field, courts for basketball, pickleball and volleyball, a walking/jogging track and extension of the Cushman Trail. The project is expected to be completed a year from now.
My seatmates, Rep. Spencer Hutchins and Sen. Emily Randall, and I were surprised when Parks Board President Steve Nixon gave each of us a framed copy of a proclamation recognizing the work we did to secure the capital budget funding for the project. (See photo above.)
In total, the capital budget provides nearly $68 million for various projects in the 26th District, including improvements to Quincy Square in Bremerton, White Cove restoration, West Sound Technical Skills Center modernization, and upgrades to the Admiral Theater, among other projects.
Learn more about our groundbreaking event from this Gig Harbor Now story.
Report: Crime on the rise in Washington state
I have been very concerned about increasing crime in our communities, neighborhoods and across the state. A recent report on annual crime by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) indicates our state has experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s. The crime report reflects that our public safety policies need more work and staffing levels are too low.
We also need to make it clear that if you break the law, there will be consequences. That message is eroded when judges release suspected violent criminals with very low bail, as Thurston County Superior Court Judge Sharonda D. Amamilo recently did in the case of a man charged with first-degree rape of a child. The victim was repeatedly raped from the age of nine through 14. The prosecutor asked for bail of $250,000, but the judge reduced it to just $10,000. That meant the rapist was able to get out of jail for only $1,000. Read more about this in a report by radio host Jason Rantz. If this practice continues, we may need to look at reforming our bail system.
I believe we also need to do more to give law enforcement officers the tools they need to do their jobs. We’ve succeeded in many ways, but have a long way to go.
Washington has the lowest number of police officers per capita in the country. If Washington had the national average of officers-to-population, we would have 7,000 more officers commissioned than we do right now.
For more on the WASPC report, check out the stories below.
- Report: Washington sees record-high violent crimes in 2023, record-low officers per capita (FOX 13)
- Homicides, violent crime up in WA as police staffing hits all-time low (The Seattle Times)
- Murders hit record, auto thefts soared in 2022, new figures show (Washington State Standard)
Public safety, cracking down on crime, and ensuring justice are among my priorities as we convene in January for the 2024 legislative session.
Why gasoline prices in Washington state are nearly the highest in the nation
If you’re like me, it’s hard to comprehend gasoline prices reaching $5.09 a gallon in Washington state. That’s nearly a dollar a gallon more than Idaho and 34 cents higher than Oregon.
For several weeks this summer, we had the highest gas prices in the nation, competing for that position with California. The News Tribune recently published an article that said more than a third of Washington drivers canceled summer travel plans over high gas prices. Who could blame them?
Higher gas prices are also affecting the cost of groceries and other goods. It’s expected that Washington families will pay an additional $500 a year due to these higher prices.
Gov. Inslee says oil companies are gouging Washington consumers. However, I find it interesting that these higher prices in Washington state correlate with the implementation of the governor’s cap-and-trade policy that went into effect in January.
Under this law, known as the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), industry and utilities (including oil refiners) that exceed carbon emissions caps must buy allowances at an auction to emit carbon above the cap. The auction price for the allowance, which represents one ton of emissions, was forecast to be around $22 in the program’s first year, but instead has been above $56. That’s nearly three times higher than the public was told. This has brought in revenue to the state that is three times what the fiscal note in the legislation predicted. Due to carbon pricing, experts say the impact of the cap-and-trade program on gasoline prices is an additional 50 cents a gallon.
For those who question the CCA’s effect on gasoline prices, please check out the chart below. Washington’s gas prices have historically tracked with Oregon’s prices, but diverged sharply at the start of 2023 when Washington’s cap-and-trade program took effect.
When this legislation, Senate Bill 5126, came up for a vote in 2021, I was among the Republicans who voted against it because we knew it would make gasoline and energy prices unaffordable in Washington state. We are now working on solutions for the 2024 session that would help provide relief for Washington families from these higher costs.
You can learn more about the gas prices issue from this new website.
Dental compact bill gains national attention
I am honored to have been invited to speak at The Council of State Governments’ Legislative Summit, Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Washington, D.C. on legislation I sponsored and passed during the 2023 session that establishes a dentist and dental hygienist compact in Washington state.
House Bill 1576 is gaining national attention because it creates the foundation for a compact of states to come together to reduce interstate barriers for dental professionals. It will also increase portability and preserve patient protections.
Here in Washington, we are facing a critical dental workforce shortage, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. Dental professionals want to move to Washington, but they face significant barriers to getting licensed, including education requirements, fees and processing delays. This especially impacts members of the military and their spouses, who may move to Washington state for a short time while serving their country.
I worked with the U.S. Department of Defense who suggested this bill to help military spouses retain licensure across state lines.
The dental compact addresses these issues and helps to open doors for licensed dentists and dental hygienists to practice within the compact states.
The national conference in Washington, D.C. will also be attended by members of the American Dental Association. I look forward to sharing our legislation with them and discussing opportunities to alleviate barriers for dentists and their patients.
I work for you throughout the year
I am here to help. If you have a question involving legislation or state government, an idea for a bill, or if you need help navigating with a state agency, please call my office in Olympia. I look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to proudly serve and represent you and the 26th District!