Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The summer is quickly slipping away. Students are back in school, the weather is changing, and fall will soon be upon us. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide an update of my legislative activities and invite you to join me in an upcoming town hall meeting.
Save our Communities! Second drug crisis town hall meeting to be held Sept. 5 in Toppenish
I wish to thank those who attended my “Save our Communities!” drug crisis town hall meeting with Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer on June 20 in Goldendale. We had more than 150 people attend and heard heartbreaking stories of the destructive effects of fentanyl, heroin and other hard drugs on the lives of families.
With the success of that event, I am holding another drug crisis town hall — this time in Toppenish. I invite you to join me on Tuesday, Sept. 5, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Toppenish Community Center, 600 North Meyers Road in Toppenish.
Together with local, tribal and health officials, we will engage in a discussion and listening event about the problem of drug abuse, addiction and deaths from overdoses of hard drugs. This is an opportunity for each of us to work together to save our communities from the scourge of deadly drugs. It will also help to provide the foundation for legislation I will be drafting in preparation of the 2024 legislative session in January. Everyone is welcome! I hope to see you there!
Capital budget brings projects home to the 14th District
As a member of the House Capital Budget Committee, I helped to secure more than $92 million in the 2023-25 capital budget for projects in the 14th District. Also known as the “bricks and mortar budget,” the capital budget provides funding for state construction projects, grant and loan programs for local governments, and to build and improve K-12 schools and facilities for higher education.
Some of the more notable projects funding in the 14th District include:
- $14.2 million for behavioral health community grants, including $11.7 million for substance abuse and mental health treatment in Yakima, and $2.5 million for mental health facilities at Astria/Toppenish Hospital.
- $10.5 million for Department of Ecology remedial action grants.
- $12.5 million for the Washington Wildlife Recreation Program.
- $8.1 million for small district and tribal compact schools’ modernization.
- $2.5 million for mental health facilities at Astria/Toppenish Hospital.
- $1.4 million for rehabilitation of Klickitat and Yakima counties’ courthouses.
- $1 million for grants to allow the Toppenish School District to expand, remodel, purchase and construct early learning facilities.
- Funding is also provided for construction grants at schools in Centerville, Mabton, Wishram, and Trout Lake.
For a complete list of local capital budget projects, go to https://fiscal.wa.gov/statebudgets/capitaldistrictmap. Select 014 under Legislative Districts.
Report: Crime on the rise in Washington state
As the ranking Republican on the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee, I’ve been steadily working on legislation to make our communities, streets and neighborhoods safer. This includes returning to law enforcement officers the tools they need to do their jobs. We’ve succeeded in many ways, but a report recently released by The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) shows we still have a long way to go.
The WASPC Annual Crime in Washington Report indicates our state has experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s. The crime report reflects our public safety policies need more work and staffing levels are too low.
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 more than 7,000 officers commissioned than we do right now. For more on the 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 will continue to be one of my highest priorities as we convene in January for the 2024 legislative session.
Why are gas prices so high?
Summer is the time for families to take vacations and enjoy time together. However, the high gasoline prices in Washington state seem to be cutting into that time. A Tacoma newspaper recently reported that more than a third of Washington drivers have canceled summer travel plans over high gas prices. The Washington hospitality industry (hotels and motels) are also affected as tourists cancel vacation plans. Who could blame them with prices exceeding $5 a gallon?
Why is Washington competing with California for the highest gas prices in the nation? Gov. Inslee says oil companies are gouging Washington consumers. However, our House Republican policy analysts did a deeper dive on this subject and discovered the governor’s new cap-and-trade policies are impacting what you are paying at the pump.
Under the new cap-and-trade law (Climate Commitment Act), 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 prices of an allowance, which represents one ton of emissions, was forecast to be around $22 in the program’s first year, but instead have been above $56. That’s nearly three times higher than the public was told, and this has brought in revenue to the state that is three times what the fiscal note in the legislation had predicted. Due to carbon pricing, experts say the impact of the cap-and-trade program is 50 cents a gallon.
When this legislation, Senate Bill 5126, came up for a vote in 2021, Republicans voted against it and predicted, quite accurately, that it would significantly boost gasoline and energy prices across Washington state. In fact, a recent report also shows cap-and-trade is boosting Puget Sound Energy bills by about $3.71 a month. And now these additional prices are costing the average Washington family about $500 a year.
My Republican colleagues and I have been working on some solutions for the 2024 session that would help provide relief for Washington families from these new costs.
You can learn more about the gas prices issue from a new website: https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/wa-gas-prices/
Communities come together to fight local wildfire
I wish to express my gratitude to all of the firefighters, local officials, landowners and others who came together last month to ensure the safety of residents and protect land and property from the Newell Road Fire southeast of Bickleton.
The town hall meeting in Goldendale on July 25 was very productive and helped to answer questions from a lot of folks worried about this wildfire. I also attended daily incident command meetings where we received up-to-the-minute reports on the progression of the fire and suppression efforts.
Nearly 600 state and local firefighters, along with four helicopters and 48 engines, were able to bring the fire to 100% containment on July 29, one week after it had erupted. Unfortunately, nearly 61,000 acres of grass, brush and timber, along with several structures, were burned or destroyed. We know, however, that this could have been much worse had it not been for the hard work of everyone to get this fire contained.
Following a disastrous wildfire in Medical Lake near Spokane in which more than 350 structures were destroyed, Gov. Inslee issued a statewide emergency proclamation to make relief resources available to those in need. A brush fire just north of Goldendale closed U.S. Highway 97 for a while on Aug. 24. This reminds us we are still in the midst of wildfire season.
Here are links for helpful state resources in the case of an emergency:
- The Department of Social and Human Services’ Washington Connection offers a way to find and apply for a variety of services and assistance online. By entering basic household information, Washington Connection will let you know what state, federal or local programs or services you or your family may qualify for. As always, you may apply in person at a local CSO (DSHS Office Locator) or by calling the Customer Services Contact Center at 877-501-2233.
- Department of Ecology – Wildfire Smoke Information
- Washington’s Air Quality Network – Air Monitoring Program
- Department of Natural Resources – Wildfire Incident Information
- Washington Department of Transportation – Real Time Travel Map
- Washington State Department of Health – Emergencies
- The Washington Emergency Management Division
Good news for agriculture, local food producers
A recent study I helped sponsor found exciting opportunities for local farmers and food producers to reduce costs and find new revenue sources from agricultural byproducts or waste. The practice of “agriculture symbiosis,” in which waste can be exchanged and repurposed for profit, offers important benefits for improving the economics of food production and our environmental quality. Local dairy, potato processors, and produce businesses featured in the study, including DeRuyter & Sons, D&D Dairies and the Yakama Nation Farms, have already seen benefits from adapting their operations.
For more information on the study, technologies used in the projects, or general questions related to agriculture symbiosis, go to https://www.sustaininfrastructure.org/ag-symbiosis.
Read our 14th District Legislative Report
In case you missed it, you can get all the details of the 2023 session in the 14th District Legislative Report I sent out earlier this year with my seatmate, Rep. Chris Corry. Download it here.
I am here to help
I work as your state representative throughout the year. 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 want to hear from you!
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!
Honored to serve you,