Office of Rep. Mari Leavitt, 28th Legislative District announcement.
We’re now close to the end of week 3 of the 2024 Legislative Session, which also means my fellow lawmakers and I are nearly one-third complete with our time in Olympia spent introducing bills, hearing them in committee, and debating them on the House floor.
Today, I’d like to inform you about some of my priorities in this short session and give you an update on where my various bills within these priority areas are at in the legislative process. I also talk about some in this short video I invite you to watch.
A Look at My Top Priorities and Bills in 2024
Based on hearing from you, my core issues are centering, similar to last session, around behavioral health, housing, public and community safety, our workforce, education, and behavioral health. Let me break some down for you and more to be shared as the session moves on.
Public & Community Safety
Our friends, neighbors, and families deserve safe communities. Our kids deserve to learn in safe environments and our election workers must be able to work without threats of violence. We need to ensure that the safety needs of all communities are addressed. One bill of mine that protects election workers is House Bill 1241. Originally introduced in 2023, this bill was re-introduced and passed through the House on Jan. 11 and is now being considered in the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee.
This bill would make any threat to an election official a felony and allow election workers to participate in the state’s address confidentiality program. KUOW did a nice job covering this issue before the legislative session got underway; click here to learn more. The Washington State Standard also covered this topic; click here to read more. I’ll be certain to keep you updated as HB 1241 progresses.
In 2023, the Legislature passed a number of great housing bills, and we’re not stopping our work in this arena in 2024. Our district, like others across the state, doesn’t have enough housing, and what is available is too expensive for working, middle-class, and military families to afford. That’s why I introduced House Bill 1892 before the start of the legislative session. If passed, this bill would create a workforce housing accelerator program by allowing the Department of Commerce to administer a loan program for affordable housing construction and to build these needed homes at a faster rate.
This bi-partisan bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Capital Budget at 1:30 PM tomorrow and can be watched here on TVW.
Addressing Our Workforce Challenges
COVID-19 caused witnessing the impact of supply chains that are still affecting understaffed and overstretched workforce post-pandemic. It’s essential we train for the jobs of today and tomorrow and create pathways to family wage jobs and economic security.
On the health care front, I’ve introduced House Bill 1917, establishing a physicians compact that has passed out of committee unanimously, will streamline the processes and remove barriers and fees for physician assistants. I’ve also introduced House Bill 1862, the Keep our Washington Guard Strong Act, as a recruiting and retention tool to ensure we have a ready Guard to serve our State. will be supporting legislation my colleagues have introduced to help Washingtonians. I also introduced House Bill 1949 which moves a critical category of workers at Western State and the Special Commitment Center to be eligible for the retirement systems that are aligned with their dangerous work.
I firmly believe that we need to make sure that students in the juvenile penal system have access to education opportunities. This helps make facilities safer and reduces recidivism. That’s why I introduced House Bill 2171 before the start of this year’s legislative session. This bill would grant
incarcerated individuals the right to apply for and utilize federal financial aid grants for use towards postsecondary education programs approved by the Department of Corrections. This bill is currently under consideration with the House Appropriations Committee, and I’ll keep you posted as it moves through the legislative process.
I’ve also introduced House Bill 1943 that expands the Washington National Guard eligibility in the educational assistance benefits program to spouses and dependents if not used and extends the timeline to use those benefits.
The opioid and fentanyl crisis has hit our communities hard. One important element to address is through education, prevention, and awareness. I’ve introduced House Bill 1956 to do just that in our schools. This bill addresses fentanyl and other substance use prevention education geared towards middle and high school students. Sadly, our kids don’t always intentionally misuse drugs such as fentanyl. Increasingly, many teens seek out drugs for pain or relaxation from friends or social media, not knowing that they are counterfeits and contain lethal doses (2 milligrams can kill someone) of fentanyl.
This issue is near and dear to me, as I met with Maria Petty, a mother from our district, who lost her son Lucas at the age of 16 from fentanyl poisoning. She worked closely with me on this bill to ensure that other parents don’t suffer the same tragic fate of losing a child to this dangerous drug.
HB 1956 already heard public testimony on Jan. 18 and is scheduled to come out of committee tomorrow. If it passes, there will be another stop in the budget committee. I urge you to read this editorial that recently was published in the Seattle Times.
How to Testify on Bills That Matter to You
I encourage you to participate in the lawmaking process this year. If you feel particularly strongly about any of my bills, all of which are bipartisan. I would love to see you submit testimony. Not sure how to do that? Click here learn more or reach out to my office at any time with your questions.