Greetings from Olympia,
We’re in the third week of the legislative session and the committees are working quickly to get public comment on legislation and voted out before the Feb. 7 deadline for policy committees. Things feel a bit frantic as the majority party doesn’t appear to have clear direction on what we need to be working on.
During my town halls, I was clear with you all about what I felt we needed to do in the session, and how we need to address the homelessness problem. To me, we must have a laser-like focus on mental health and drug addiction. In my meetings here in Olympia with folks working on this problem, they agree.
The problem won’t be solved by just throwing more money at building taxpayer-subsidized housing that takes years to come online. That’s the plan that the governor is proposing. He wants to raid the state’s rainy-day fund to the tune of $300 million. It’s an emergency fund in case of an economic downturn, not a piggy bank for ongoing expenses on something we should have been addressing with the record amount of tax dollars we already have.
We (the state government) spent about $625 million in the biennial budget on homelessness. I don’t feel like you are getting the results you deserve as taxpayers, and our neighbors stuck on the streets caught in drug addiction or struggling with mental illness aren’t getting the help they deserve, either. That’s a problem.
Some of my Senate Republican colleagues held a news conference recently to unveil a comprehensive plan to get at the root causes of homelessness, respond to immediate needs, and address larger systemic problems. You can watch that by clicking here. When reporters asked the Senator majority leader what they are doing, his response was shockingly, “We don’t have a final plan yet.”
Other unfinished business
An issue that is constantly being kicked around in Olympia is our state’s lax drunk-driving laws. For some unknown reason, bills to crack down on impaired driving are consistently blocked. As a former fireman of 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand the tragic outcomes of people getting behind the wheel while impaired. Too many lives are lost on our roadways that are preventable, particularly for repeat offenders.
My legislation, Senate Bill 6555, is a simple proposal to stiffen penalties for those who continue to put others on the road at risk. It would reduce the number of prior offenses necessary to elevate a driving-under-the-influence offense to a felony from three to two priors. It would also increase the window in which the two offenses must have been committed to amount to a felony from 10 years to 25 years.
It is an honor to serve you. Please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you may have about your state government.
Your 10th District State Senator