The 2019 legislative session is under way, and what an honor it is to be here in Olympia representing you and our neighbors!
I will be sending periodic email updates during this 105-day session about the issues important to all of us, including mental and behavioral health, data privacy, taxes and education. Please consider reading and sharing them with your family and friends, or have them visit my legislative website to sign up for future updates.
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Let me tell you a story about why your involvement matters, and the power of engagement in the political process.
Earlier this week, there was an inspiring grassroots movement of self-employed individuals who came to Olympia, made their voices heard, and truly made a difference. Their frustration was aimed at two Democrat-sponsored bills, House Bill 1515 and Senate Bill 5326, each of which could eliminate their ability to be self-employed by making it harder for them to be classified as independent contractors.
Hundreds of hairstylists, cosmetologists, and other individuals from a wide range of industries sat in hearings to give their heartfelt testimony and offer strong opposition, explaining how the bills could jeopardize their livelihoods.
It was so encouraging to see such a major grassroots effort have an immediate impact on the legislative process. Yesterday, the sponsor of Senate Bill 5326 withdrew her bill.
With HB 1515 still alive, along with several other bills that would hurt small business owners, the fight is far from over. However, this was a win, and I hope majority leadership now realizes that: 1) Washingtonians are closely watching how they handle having larger majorities in the House and Senate, and 2) There will be backlash toward proposed policy and spending bills that expand the power of government to the point of eroding our freedoms.
Mental and behavioral health
There will be a number of important issues we will be devoting serious attention to this session. One at the top of my list is improving our state's mental and behavioral health system.
While the Legislature has increased funding for mental and behavioral health services and facilities by tens of millions of dollars in recent years, our state still lags behind in terms of our effectiveness in meeting the needs of those impacted. As you may know, there have been multiple court decisions related to the mismanagement at state mental and behavioral health facilities. These decisions have highlighted the executive branch's failure of leadership on this issue and the devastating consequences that have resulted from it.
One example is the decertification of Western State Hospital, which was entirely preventable. It is now on the Legislature to find a way to make up for the $53 million in federal funding that was lost as a result.
Leadership is critical if we are truly going to help the hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians who aren't receiving adequate care. Last biennium, Republicans and Democrats came together to secure record mental and behavioral health funding in the capital budget. Thankfully, we are building on those efforts again this session, while also working to implement policies that will help us make measurable progress. Working together, we WILL make a difference.
Please feel free to contact me any time with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my number is (360) 786-7884. Your voice matters, and your feedback helps me to better serve you in the Legislature. I look forward to hearing from you.