Happy Holidays, gun violence bills, Hanford Site cleanup, Zelenskyy visits America

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Happy Holidays, from the Office of the Governor

Gov. Jay Inslee and the staff of the Office of the Governor wish you and your family a warm, festive, safe, and joyous holiday season in good company.

Inslee, attorney general propose bills to treat gun violence ‘epidemic’

Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced new gun violence prevention bills Monday.

Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, state and local leaders, advocates, and victims of gun violence gathered Monday to announce their legislative proposals to reduce gun violence.

More than 117,000 Americans are shot each year, including 6,000 children and youth. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for kids. Hundreds of police officers are shot every year. Hundreds of mass shootings occur every year. America has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, and the highest gun death rate in the world among high-income countries (by a factor of four) to show for it.

As the start of the 2023 legislative session nears, Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and several legislators announced three bills during a press conference on Monday to help further reduce gun violence in Washington state.

Inslee is requesting legislation to require a permit to purchase a firearm, certifying that the purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm and has completed a state-certified safety training program. Every firearm purchase would be accompanied by an additional background check and 10-day waiting period. Connecticut passed a similar law following Sandy Hook, and observed nearly a 40% reduction in gun violence since.

“This epidemic of gun violence we are facing is unacceptable,” said Inslee. “What might have been a fistfight in a parking lot is now someone dead in the street. We cannot surrender to this epidemic. I refuse to accept that we’re powerless.”

KeAnna Pickett, wife of late D'Vonne Pickett, spoke in favor of enhanced gun laws on Monday.

KeAnna Pickett spoke in favor of enhanced gun laws on Monday. Her husband, D’Vonne, was shot and killed in front of their family business this fall.

Inslee and Ferguson will jointly request two other bills: a ban on assault weapons, and liability for firearm industry irresponsibility. Victims of gun violence and their families are deprived of legal recourse against gun manufacturers under federal law – the latter bill will allow civil suits for gun manufacturer failures to enact reasonable safety controls, such as chain-of-custody standards and responsible marketing.

Washington voters and legislators have consistently supported substantive, commonsense gun violence measures including universal background checks; bans on bump stocks, ghost guns and high capacity magazines; extreme risk protection orders sometimes known as “red flag laws;” and open carry restrictions in certain public spaces. In 2020, legislators approved creation of a new state Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention that partners closely with community and law enforcement leaders to pursue data-driven solutions to gun violence.

Federal spending bill includes vital investments for Washington state

Gov. Jay Inslee visits the Hanford Site in 2013. Another photo shows a leak of potentially radioactive waste.

The Hanford Site cleanup will benefit enhanced funding within the recent omnibus bill. Gov. Jay Inslee visited the waste treatment facilities at the Hanford Site in 2013. The lower photo shows potentially radioactive waste in an overflow containment area of a waste storage tank after the inner wall began to leak. Photos courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy.

Congress passed a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill before the midnight Friday deadline to fund the federal government through the fall. The bill funded a number of important local programs and federal programs that will benefit Washingtonians.

Nestled within the federal spending bill is an important line item for Washington state: long-overdue investment in the Hanford Site cleanup. The Biden Administration this year accelerated the cleanup by enhancing its funding in the president's budget proposal. This week, Congress further enhanced funding, investing $191 million more had been budgeted originally.

Among many other items, the bill also funds:

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Santa, reindeer cleared for takeoff

Santa and the elves have completed their Christmas Eve pre-flight checklist. Reindeers Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph have each received a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, a genuine requirement of animals entering Washington state to prevent infectious disease. Cleared for takeoff, Santa and the reindeer might be spotted over Washington state late Saturday night.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy visits White House

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, and asked Congress to consider support of Ukraine an “investment in global security and democracy.” The House of Representatives has passed a federal spending bill including more than $44 billion to support Ukraine. Just over 300 days have elapsed since Russia began a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, leading to a brutal ongoing war and humanitarian crisis. Communities throughout Washington state, including in Spokane and Pierce County, are helping welcome Ukrainian refugees.

Federal report affirms scale of housing and homelessness crisis

A new report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that homelessness has increased in 27 states since 2020, with particularly steep increases in some places. Vermont, Louisiana and Maine, for example, saw their homeless populations more than double from 2020. Washington trails California, New York and Florida for largest total homeless population. Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed “urgent and audacious” investments in housing and homelessness to meet scale of the issue, including a $4 billion housing referendum that would require a vote of the people.

Flu spreading quickly in Washington – experts urge caution

Flu is spreading quickly in Washington state, and flu deaths are occurring at a higher-than-usual rate. Forty Washingtonians have died this year from the flu, including three children. Influenza A (H3N2) is the most common strain this year and it typically causes more severe illness. Flu is especially dangerous to children under 5, adults over 65, and people with underlying health conditions. Vaccines are broadly available.

Ecology crews collect 166 tons of litter

Litter crews from the Washington State Department of Ecology collected 166 tons of litter in October and November, equivalent to the collective weight of about 74 killer whales. Ecology reminds Washingtonians to "dunk" trash in proper receptacles and to properly secure vehicle loads.

WDVA Director Alfie Alvarado-Ramos to retire

Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs director Lourdes E. “Alfie” Alvarado-Ramos will retire at the end of January. Alvarado-Ramos has served veterans in myriad ways during her long career in government and the military. Her commitment to equity built a sense of belonging for veterans of all backgrounds, and her efforts to prevent veteran suicide saved lives.

"My cup is full and joyful that I did all I could to serve with you our Veterans, their families, and our state," said Alvarado-Ramos.

Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs director Lourdes E. “Alfie” Alvarado-Ramos

Thank you, Alfie!