As the 2021 session began, our state faced the most challenging time we’ve seen. We knew that we had to build a stronger, better, more inclusive Washington to fully respond to the health and economic impacts on our communities. The legislature used every tool available to uplift and protect the workers, families and businesses that were hit hardest. One of the first bills I voted on as your representative sent $2.2B in federal funds to struggling renters, small landlords, working families, small businesses, and schools. Our budgets over the past two years invest billions to pay back rent, provide unemployment tax relief for small businesses, expand food assistance, boost public health, help get students caught up, support vulnerable communities, and much more. I successfully advocated for $50M in relief for arts, heritage and culture institutions in addition to $2.6M for critical building repairs to Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, $2.5M for Aurora Commons, $2.5M for the Seattle Aquarium, and $900K for the Boys and Girls Club. These were historic legislative sessions as we recovered together. I know we have more to do and will do everything I can to support our community.
Systemic racism has burrowed its way deep into our criminal justice and policing systems. To root is out requires bold policy action and I have been fully committed to that change as your State Representative. During the 2021 legislation session, we passed a package of 11 police reform bills to ban chokeholds and neck restraints, military equipment, no-knock warrants, and restrict vehicular pursuits; implement de-escalation and use of force restrictions; create transparency and oversight in investigations; and hold officers and departments accountable for wrongdoing. As a result, police killings of Washington residents were down 60% last year, the largest improvement in the country. While these are important first steps to rebuild the trust between law enforcement and communities, I remain dedicated to building on these successes in the years to come. I am here to listen. I am here to learn. I will not be silent anymore. I believe that Black Lives Matter.
The lack of both affordable housing and the number of people and families experiencing homelessness has reached a crisis point here in Seattle and across the country. I have been a strong advocate in Olympia to keep people in their homes, build affordable housing quickly, support emergency shelter providers, increase funding for mental health and substance use treatment, and make historic capital investments to build and acquire more affordable and transitional housing. I believe the state must be a strong partner to local governments to address this urgent priority that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, and I remain committed to solving this emergency.
As the proud Vice Chair of the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee, uplifting the people who have uplifted us during this crisis has been my top priority. I’ve been a leader to expand our state’s historic Paid Family & Medical Leave program and shore up our broken unemployment insurance system. I supported more funding for food and utility assistance programs to help families hit hardest by the impacts of the pandemic and inflation. I wrote first-in-the-nation legislation to protect temporary workers and to provide minimum wage, benefits, and labor protections for rideshare drivers in our state. My bill to ban secrecy in NDAs and settlement agreements for those who experience harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wage theft in the workplace will allow workers to pursue justice, healing, and protect others.
As a working mom with two young kids, I know first-hand how accessible childcare impacts families and our community’s ability to thrive. One of my proudest votes was supporting $500M in funding for childcare and early learning programs which has been vital to jump-starting our economy, especially for women who left the workplace in alarming numbers due to a lack of childcare. I sponsored legislation to improve benefits for childcare workers who are mostly women, women of color, refugees, and immigrants. As co-chair of the House Moms Caucus, I have a track record of building coalitions to support policy and budget priorities that improve the lives of women, children, and families across our state including a diaper subsidy for TANF recipients and working to establish a Guaranteed Basic Income program to help lift families out of poverty.
My life changed forever on Jan. 8, 2011, when the nation watched in horror as a gunman shot my boss and mentor former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, our staff and constituents. My friend and colleague Gabe Zimmerman was killed. Five other people died. Watching Gabby fight for her recovery and to prevent the escalation of gun violence taught me about resilience, hard work and grit. I was determined to be a champion for ending gun violence in the legislature and we delivered. My bill to ban untraceable, homemade ‘ghost guns’ became law as well as other critical measures to ban high-capacity magazines, and prohibit open carry at the state Capitol, public demonstrations, local government meetings and election-related facilities. I also successfully advocated for over $8M in funding for gun violence prevention programs through the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention for community-based organizations. Read my recent op-ed in The Stranger. Gun violence is preventable, and I won’t stop fighting to keep our communities safe.
The first campaign I ever worked on was in 1988 when my mom, a special education teacher, ran for a seat on our local public school board and won. That experience profoundly shaped my belief that providing a world-class public education system for all our children is paramount. Today my son George is a first grader at John Hay Elementary in Queen Anne and I am a proud public school parent. The legislature has been focused on passing policies that prioritize student well-being, expand accessibility, and ensure educators and students have the resources to thrive. We funded more school counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers, and increased resources for school nutrition programs. We gave educators a much-needed pay raise and stabilized enrollment, transportation and learning assistance program funding. I will continue to fight to fully fund special education because I believe it is our responsibility to nurture opportunities for every young person to get a good start in life.
As a member of the House Environment & Energy Committee, it was an honor to champion landmark legislation in 2021 to implement carbon pricing and low-carbon fuel standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we’ve continued our great work this year by targeting landfills, buildings, and expanding solar power projects. I sponsored and passed groundbreaking legislation to reduce plastic waste by setting minimum recycled content for packaging, expanding the Styrofoam ban, and making plastic service-ware optional when dining out. I’ve been a leader in keeping our families safe from toxic and pervasive PFAS “forever chemicals” in everyday products. As your urbanist voice on the House Transportation Committee, we passed a transformational 16-year transportation package that makes meaningful, targeted action against climate change by investing $5.4B in green transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure; $1.3B to electrify our ferry fleet; $290M in Safe Routes to School programs; and commits 35% of Climate Commitment Act funds into programs serving communities of color, low-income and tribal communities. The package also directs $25M to support infrastructure of the Ballard Interbay Regional Transportation Corridor, which includes critical repairs to the Ballard and Magnolia bridges, as well as $50M for safety improvements to North Aurora.
Washington state has the most up-side down tax system in the country. We’ve created a combination of taxes that means those people making the least pay over 15% of their income toward state and local taxes, the middle class pays 10%, and the richest pay about 3%. This is wrong and it’s not sustainable. We cannot continue to fund our most vital programs on the backs of the poor and working class, while the wealthy and corporations receive massive tax breaks and don’t pay their fair share. I was honored to vote for the Working Families Tax Rebate that provided 400,000 families with a tax credit of $300 to $1,200 per year, benefiting one in four children in our state. We also passed a capital gains excise tax that will ensure the wealthiest Washingtonians share in the responsibility of funding critical needs like childcare, early learning, and our paramount duty of providing an education for every child. You can count on my support for ongoing tax reform policies in session to come.
As a former board member of Pro-Choice Washington and lifelong reproductive justice advocate, I will always stand in support of protecting reproductive health rights and an individual’s right to choose. I backed the inclusion of $5.2M in the budget for family planning services and voted to create a system of public oversight to ensure that hospital mergers in Washington benefit patients which is critical for access in rural and low-income communities and for people of color, women, LGBTQI+ individuals and terminally ill patients. I also supported expanding abortion care by qualified licensed providers and increasing access to midwives and doulas. While our LGBTQI+ community is under attack, I will always use my platform to protect the rights, safety, and dignity of all people in our community. That’s why I wrote legislation to expand the definition of family in the Paid Family & Medical Leave program to include LGBTQI+ families and supported continuing education requirements for equity-based practices in our schools which particularly impacts our LGBTQI+ students.
We have made record investments that focused on pandemic relief for our small businesses and entrepreneurs who needed a partner in government to help them stay open and competitive, create opportunities, and be resilient. This included $131M in B&O small businesses tax credits; unemployment insurance, family leave and medical leave premium relief; $100M for the hospitality industry; expanding access to capital; $39M for the innovation and competitiveness fund; $75M in funding for small business disaster response, innovation, and resiliency; $20M to support the completion of the convention center; and $35M towards tax credits to make movies here in Washington.