Fantastic Friday | Week 4

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Happy Fantastic Friday!

Rep. Debra Lekanoff's legislative video update graphic

Click on the image to watch my latest video update.

We’ve just wrapped up the fourth week of the 2020 legislative session, and everything is moving along quickly! Today is policy committee cutoff, which is the first major deadline during the legislative process. Bills that don’t pass out of policy committees prior to the cutoff won’t continue to move forward.

These cutoff dates serve to funnel and narrow down the number of bills being considered. They’re essential for the effective operation of the legislature, but it makes for a fast-paced period for legislators, lobbyists, and the citizens we represent. It also means that soon, we will be spending much of our time on the floor of the House, debating and passing bills over to the Senate.

Since policy committees needed to pass out legislation this week, many bills had public hearings, including my bill to protect student’s ability to wear tribal regalia at graduations if they so choose. Thank you to Sen. Billig for sponsoring the Senate companion of this bill!

Thank you so much. It hurts me to think about incidents when parents were denied their wish to have their student culturally represented in their traditional way. You are our children's hero.” - Patsy Whitefoot, Yakama Nation Member, Affiliated Tribes of NW Indian Education Committee Chair, and Grandmother

Learn more in my recent video update.

Investing in Washington's Workforce

There will be more than 700,000 job openings in Washington in the next few years, and there aren’t enough qualified applicants in the state to fill those jobs. That’s why last year, the Legislature passed the Workforce Education Investment Act, which makes public college tuition free for families that make up to $50,000. The investments will fully fund the Washington College Grant (formerly the State Need Grant), fund the Guided Pathways programs at our Community and Technical Colleges, and expand enrollment in high demand fields, such as nursing and engineering.

We’ve already seen the benefits in our community. At Western Washington University, 275 new students received the Washington College Grant this year, and next year ALL eligible students will receive the grant! At Bellingham Technical College, prior to this investment 23% of their students eligible for the Washington College Grant did not receive a grant, as there were insufficient funds. The Workforce Education Investment Act changed that, as well making it easier to retain nursing and other high-demand faculty by funding salary increases. Overall, this investment means that thousands more students in our district will be able to achieve their dream of a higher education.

In fact, it’s working so well across the state that we have more students wanting to go to school or go back to school than we expected. That’s why this week, the House passed a bill to simplify and improve the way we collect the funding for these programs, making it easier for businesses to comply, and ensuring our state’s students have the access to this opportunity.

People want to get the education they need for a good-paying job and we offered them a solution, a promise. Now we are honoring that promise.

Thank you to Reps. Tarleton and Hansen, as well as Sen. Pederson for their leadership on this issue, our businesses and students are grateful!

Learn more in my floor speech from last night's debate.

Screen grab from the video of Rep. Lekanoff speaking on the House floor in support of SB 6492

Click the image to watch my floor speech from the debate on SB 6492.

Upcoming Events

Constituent Coffees: It was an honor to meet with many of you (over 30!) at this past week’s constituent coffee. I’ll be hosting more over the next couple of weeks, so if you're interested in participating, please RSVP.

Town Halls: I also hosted a telephone town hall earlier this week. Thank you to everyone who participated! If you didn't get a chance to listen or call in, I'll also be holding two in-person town halls on February 22. The first will be from 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. in the Skagit Valley College Multi-purpose Room. The second will be from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. in the Fairhaven Library Fireplace Room. I hope to see you there!

For more information, check out the Facebook events for each of these town halls: Mount Vernon area Town Hall & Bellingham area Town Hall.

My kitchen table is your kitchen table – I will always have a chair for you.

Rep. Debra Lekanoff meets with constituents

Rep. Lekanoff's recent Constituent Coffee.

My recipe in the WFIA Legislative Member Cookbook

This week, advocates from the Washington Food Industry Association unveiled the long-anticipated 2020 Legislative Member Cookbook! I was honored to submit a Multigrain Fry Bread recipe, which was developed in collaboration with the Washington State University Bread Lab. The WSU Bread Lab, located in the beautiful Skagit Valley I call home, conducts research on thousands of lines of wheat, barley, buckwheat and other small grains to identify those that perform well for farmers, and that are most suitable for craft baking, cooking, malting, brewing, and distilling. Through innovation and discovery, and an appreciation of the culture and traditions that define what we eat, the WSU Bread Lab plays a major role in moving food systems in more meaningful and just directions.

Last November, I visited the WSU Bread Lab and participated in their annual Bake for Good event. Afterwards, Dr. Stephen Jones, Director of the Bread Lab, provided me a tour of their impressive space. I was honored to walk into the sanctuary that holds 8,000 seed varieties that go back 500 years. I don’t know if you have ever stepped into a longhouse, but it was that same overwhelming feeling for me. When you step into a longhouse, there are thousands of voices from the past and the future echoing through the place; and this was what I heard when I stood among those seeds. The seeds carry the voices of the past and the future; they carry the journey they took to come into the Skagit and they carry the journey of where they will go next. I hope you too can enjoy our recipe. 

Rep. Lekanoff's fry bread recipe

Constituent Corner

Renter Protections

Many of you have been reaching out about the renter protection bills currently under consideration in the House. This new legislation builds on the work we did last session to improve the landlord-tenant relationship, and simply asks landlords to cite a reason for evicting someone or declining to renew a lease—that's currently not a requirement in month-to-month tenancies. Another bill addresses the problem of tenants being billed for the replacement of expensive items or damage not caused by them after their tenancy ends.

These are modest proposals that recognize both that stable housing is a life-sustaining necessity, and that landlords have legitimate business interests that need protection. Both pieces of legislation had lively public hearings in the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee earlier this session and are scheduled to be voted on in committee today.

Learn more about the eviction crisis in this article from KNKX.

Notable Meetings

Rep. Debra Lekanoff and housing advocates

Rep. Debra Lekanoff with advocates for affordable housing.

This week, I met with:

Affordable Housing Advocates

  • I met with members of OPAL Community Land Trust, San Juan Community Home Trust, Kulshan Community Land Trust, and Catholic Community Services. We discussed the need for permanently affordable housing and to build up the Housing Trust Fund. It was an honor to speak at their rally that same day!

Commissioner Hilary Franz

  • It's always great to see my good friend and hear updates on the work she is doing with the Department of Natural Resources!

Whatcom and Skagit Boys & Girls Club

  • I commend the work they are doing to ensure our children have a safe and healthy place to learn and grow.

Washington State Labor Council

  • We discussed the worker protection bill I've co-sponsored that makes it easier for workers to enforce their rights.

LaVenture Middle School students

  • It's always a pleasure to see youth actively participating in government!

North Sound Behavioral Health Advisory Board

  • We discussed the need for additional investment in behavioral health services and the behavioral health workforce.

County & City representatives

  • I had the privilege of meeting with a range of public servants from our 40th District Counties and Cities, including Whatcom County Treasurer Steve Oliver, Skagit County Treasurer Jackie Brunson, Anacortes Mayor Laurie Gere, Anacortes Parks and Recreation Director Jonn Lunsford and Assistant Director Bob Vaux, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, Skagit County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Adams, San Juan County Assessor John Kulseth, Skagit County Coronor Hayley Thompson, and firefighters from throughout the district.

Thank you all for taking to the time to read this week’s Fantastic Friday, and for taking an interest in our progress at the House of Representatives. I will be sending out a Fantastic Friday letter each week throughout the legislative session. 

Please feel free to reach out to me using the information below, with any questions, inquiries, or concerns you may have.

I am here for you!

All best wishes,

Lekanoff sig

Rep. Debra Lekanoff