State Reps. Gerry Pollet and Javier Valdez and Sen. David Frockt heard from residents in Kenmore and Lake Forest Park on a multitude of issues — including smoking and vaping among teenagers, mobile home parks, taxes, transit, guns and the environment — at a legislative kick-off event at Kenmore City Hall on Jan. 8.
Many of the speakers at the Town Hall portion of the meeting had done their research on the issues, and were advocating for certain positions. They mentioned some of the 81 bills in the state House that were pre-filed before the year’s legislative session officially began on Jan. 14.
A student from Inglemoor High School wore a “Tobacco 21” T-shirt, imploring the lawmakers to raise the age for purchasing tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. A blind man who lives in Kenmore and works in SoDo asked for more bus lanes and frequent service. Several of Kenmore’s mobile home park residents asked for the state’s assistance on issues with leases and rising rents.
Pollet said he was working on putting together a package at the state level to provide more notice and assistance to mobile home park residents. Valdez said he toured parks in Kenmore and Seattle and was aware of the issues. Frockt said he would “make it a point to get more engaged.”
Representatives from Disability Rights Washington (DRW) spoke about mental illness and the homeless crisis. Frockt said he was working on the capital side of the issue, specifically on a community-based approach and step-down facilities. He also mentioned an “innovative proposal” for the state to work with the University of Washington on a teaching psychiatric hospital.
One audience member asked about the state budget and said that the Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal raises the total from $45 billion last year to $54.6 billion this year. Democrats control the state Senate, House and governor’s office this year after adding to their majorities in the November 2018 election.
“We’ve got a backlog to meet our constitutional duties and follow court orders on behavioral health, and on foster children, and schools. That is a very large figure of billions of dollars,” Pollet said, adding that a “huge portion of all new revenues gets socked away” into the rainy day fund.
Valdez said he wanted to “ensure that low-income people and underrepresented communities are reflected” in the budget, and the Legislature will do its job and vet the governor’s plan.
“Obviously we’re in the Democratic party, the three of us here, and this is an issue we’re constantly dealing with. I think the voters voted, I wouldn’t say for spending, but they voted for us to try to solve some of the problems we have to solve,” Frockt said, mentioning the state Department of Social and Health Services and the foster care system.
Frockt said that Republicans, at least nationally, hadn’t done better on spending.
“If you look at what the other party has done in Washington, D.C. with the tax cut, which is now putting us $1 trillion in operating deficit…We’re not seeing any fiscal responsibility out of Washington, D.C. right now,” Frockt said.
Some of the other big topics were education and transportation, including teachers’ salaries, class sizes, congestion on Interstate 405 and adding density and parking around transit. Pollet said the state still has work to do on education, including addressing the teacher shortage.
“Nothing is more basic to basic education than having a qualified teacher in every classroom,” Pollet said.
Valdez said that he would be attending a series of transportation briefings on Jan. 9, which was set to include plans for the next phase of tolling on I-405. The legislators also agreed it was important to support mass transit investments, like ST3.
Other speakers were concerned about the environment and climate change. Frockt said he would support items on Inslee’s agenda, including a low carbon fuel standard and 100 percent clean electricity from utilities, adding that it’s important for Washington to lead at the state level.
The legislators expressed their disappointment that the carbon fee (I-1631) wasn’t passed by voters last year and Pollet said it’s unlikely that anything like that will be proposed in the next few years. Voters did approve some public safety initiatives, including I-1639 and I-940 regarding gun regulations and de-escalation training for law enforcement, respectively.
Valdez is sponsoring a few gun control bills this year: HB 1068 concerning high-capacity magazines and HB 1073 addressing undetectable and untraceable firearms. Frockt is sponsoring SB 5027 concerning extreme-risk protection orders. Pollet is sponsoring HB 1080 creating a domestic violence offender registry.
Before the Town Hall, representatives from each city discussed their priorities with the legislative delegation. Items on Kenmore’s agenda are: propel Lakepointe development, 68th Avenue Northeast pedestrian and bicycle safety, Twin Springs Park, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) and reconnecting Kenmore’s downtown to Lake Washington.
See www.kenmorewa.gov for more.