Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I'm grateful for family time during this Thanksgiving week. Soon we will be celebrating December and New Year's holidays and then the 2020 legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 13. Legislators will be under election-year restrictions from Dec. 1 until the first day of session, which means I will not be able to send out email updates or newsletters during that time frame. However, I will be able to respond to any emails, mail, phone messages or other direct communications in which you contact me. Since these restrictions begin in just a few days, I wanted to touch base with you one more time before session begins.
Since my last email update, I have been busy meeting and talking with citizens all across the district about local and state issues of concern. I traveled back to Washington, D.C. where I met with several federal officials, and visited the D.C. Facebook World Headquarters where we discussed issues of cybersecurity.
Among some of the highlights this month back home, I was honored to be the driver for a decorated Marine in the Veterans Day Parade. I also toured the renovated Goldendale Observatory and Education Center, and participated in a robust discussion about the future of child care in our state.
I was privileged to visit several schools throughout the district, including Naches, West Valley, Stevenson and Centerville. See the article about my Centerville School visit in the Goldendale Sentinel here.
I also toured the White Salmon Community Hospital, the Salvation Army in Yakima, and the Bickleton Carousel Museum. Plus, I attended a dinner in Yakima to support homeless youth, and was honored at the Washington Hospitality Association Convention in Bellevue with the “2019 Legislative Hero” award for my work in the Legislature supporting the hospitality industry. Read the award news release here.
As we reflect on Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful to be serving as your representative and having these opportunities to be your voice in and outside of Olympia.
2020 session priorities
With the help of staff and fellow lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, I was able to get nine of my sponsored bills through the 2019 Legislature and passed into law.
I have several bills from the 2019 session that will carry over into the 2020 session, as well as new legislation I plan to offer in the coming year. Here is a quick view of those measures.
- Missing persons (Cody's Law) – Since July 2015, Cody Turner, a 26-year-old man from Yakima has been missing and his mother has been desperately looking for him without a trace. While looking into what we could do to help, I discovered there are more than 40,000 unidentified bodies across the United States in the custody of law enforcement. With DNA samples, these bodies could be identified. Cody's mother has provided his DNA to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS), which is a national database of records relating to missing and unidentified persons. I plan to sponsor (Cody's Law) that would have law enforcement upload DNA information to NamUS, which could try to match those samples to more than 100,000 active missing persons cases in the NamUS database. Anyone can access NamUS to search and track cases. This legislation could help solve cases of missing persons in Washington state.
- Prosthetic insurance fairness – Twenty-one states mandate insurance coverage for prosthetics. Unfortunately, Washington is not among them. Prosthetic devices can help to restore the normal functions of a missing body part. I am working on legislation that would allow prosthetics to be covered by private insurance.
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis – About 6,100 children in Washington state are affected by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), in which the body mistakenly identifies some of its own cells and tissues as foreign and attacks them. Treatment consists of high doses of prescription drugs. What we've discovered is that in a number of cases, insurance will cover only the first portion of the drugs, but later denies coverage, or forces the patient to go on another medication. Successful treatment depends on continuity of the drugs. Changes to drugs midstream may cause harm to the patient. I'm looking into legislation that would ensure that continuity for victims of this disease.
- Airport tax exemption – A bill passed in 1998 removed a property tax exemption for the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport (CGRA) near Dallesport. It was thought at the time that it would make the City of The Dalles, which was sponsoring the airport, pay its fair share and spur development of the area into an industrial park. In 2000, The Dalles and Klickitat County entered into an agreement to sponsor the airport 50/50. Unfortunately, the 1998 bill has is costing CGRA $10,000 a year in property taxes and preventing growth to the area. My legislation would repeal the 1998 law, which should help to relieve that burden to the city and county.
- House Bill 1056 – Domestic violence/workplace – Would create a task force to identify the role of the workplace in helping to curb domestic violence.
- House Bill 1240 – Teen suicide prevention – Would establish a youth suicide review team with the purpose of bringing experts together to develop a teen suicide prevention plan for Washington state.
- House Bill 1057 – School bus safety – Would require school buses to be equipped with safety cameras and shoulder harness-type safety belts. This bill, which I have sponsored since 2016, will likely be turned into a study.
- House Bill 2143 – Travis Alert 911 – In 2017, the Legislature passed my bill known as the “Travis Alert Act,” which provides training to first responders on how to respond to calls from the disabled and those who suffer from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. The law is named after Travis King, a teenage boy in our district, who has autism. This past year, we were able to secure funding for the training. In the 2020 session, I am introducing legislation that would upgrade the state's emergency 911 system to show that a person with a disability may be present at the scene of an emergency.
In total, I am working on more than 20 bills, either as a prime-sponsor or co-sponsor for the coming session. I will have more details to share once they have each been introduced.
Serving as your state representative is one of the greatest honors of my life. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or suggestions about state government and legislation. You'll find my contact information below.
Have a great holiday season!
Honored to serve you,