Brace for a very different kind of session

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106 Newhouse Building ● P.O. Box 40404 ● Olympia WA 98504-0404

Report from Olympia |  December 3, 2020


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

To say this “interim” between legislative sessions has been like no other would be an understatement. A time that is usually spent reconnecting with neighbors, attending community events and maybe traveling a bit to get some extra time with family has been stunted by the pandemic, shutdowns and economic fallout that has kept most legislators busy attending Zoom meetings and brainstorming ideas.

While most of my colleagues and I have repeatedly asked to be called back to Olympia for a special session to deal with the pandemic and the impact it has had on businesses and families, we have been completely shut out of the process. Instead of listening to lawmakers who represent citizens from all over the state, the governor has chosen to rule by proclamations and emergency orders. Lawmakers like myself, who were up for reelection, were also restricted from sharing information through newsletters like this.

With 2021 rapidly approaching, we will soon be back in session and able to consider limiting the governor’s emergency powers. His use of those powers to rule for over eight and-a-half months has made it clear that the Legislature must have more options.

In the meantime, we are preparing for a session that promises to be just as different as the interim has been. Last month the Senate facilities and operations committee decided the protocols for the 105-day session that begins Jan. 11, including the closure of Senate buildings to the public. Debates and voting in the Senate chamber (known as “floor action”) will be conducted remotely, with a limited number of in-person staff and senators. The same is true of committee hearings and work sessions. While the public will be permitted to peacefully assemble on the Capitol campus, people will not be allowed to gather inside the Rotunda or view floor action from the galleries. Face-to-face meetings will be replaced with “zooms” or “teams,” and remote testimony will be more important than ever.

In addition, one of my favorite traditions, the Senate Page Program, has been cancelled for this year. (Applications to serve as a Senate Page in 2022 will open November 1, 2021.)

While these changes will take some adjustments, they will not keep me from doing my best to represent you and our community. If you have thoughts, concerns or suggestions for better government, you can always contact our district office at 921-2460 or email me directly.

Thanks again for the opportunity to serve as your voice in the state Senate.

Best Regards,

Senator Mike Padden

Remembering local icon Lois Stratton

Former legislator and conservative maverick passed away this fall at age 93

Lois Stratton

On Friday, September 11, Spokane lost a local political icon when former state Senator Lois Stratton passed away at age 93 of heart failure.

Lois represented the 3rd Legislative District. She was appointed to the House in 1979 and elected in 1980 and 1982. Voters sent her to the Senate in 1984, where she continued to serve the people of Washington until 1993.

Between 1981 and 1984, I was fortunate enough to call her a colleague, while we were both representatives. While I was (and am) a conservative Republican, Lois was a Democrat.  Even more so than today, Democrats from Spokane were a completely different breed than the kind you find over in Seattle. Lois was pro-life, pro-family and often was willing to buck her party leaders to do what she thought was right.  This earned her the title of ‘maverick” from many, but it always seemed like she was just following her heart and doing what she thought was best for the people of her district and our state.

We didn’t always agree on everything, but we had a sincere respect for one another. We shared the same Catholic faith and even worked together to sponsor the state version of the Hyde Amendment, which would have banned the use of state funds for abortion. We also bonded over our love of baseball and family. More than anything, she was a genuine, warm person who cared for others and will surely be missed.

Click here to read a story from the Spokesman-Review about the passing of Lois Stratton.

Senate prep pays off; remote testimony to increase in 2021 session

remote testimony

For years we have pushed the House and Senate to adopt remote testimony. Our efforts first resulted in a successful Senate pilot program. Last year, the Senate approved a plan to expand remote testimony and make it permanent. This proactive work to increase citizen participation turns out to have been visionary, as citizens will now have to rely on remote testimony to make their voices heard during a virtual session.

The 2021 legislative session will provide members of the public with the opportunity to sign in and testify directly from their homes, places of business, or wherever is most convenient for them. (In the past, witnesses could only testify from designated locations, such as community colleges or libraries.)

Using the electronic sign-in process already employed by legislative committees, the public will be able to sign in and receive a unique Zoom link up to an hour ahead of a scheduled committee meeting. Committee chairs will decide the order and length of public testimony as would be the case with an in-person committee meeting.

To find out more about how to testify this session, click here.

Controversial sex-ed bill approved statewide; rejected by Eastern WA

sex ed bill

One of the biggest issues of the 2020 session was the majority side’s bill to require explicit sexual education for children as young as five and six. The debate that preceded the majority’s passage of Senate Bill 5395 was one of the most impassioned I’ve witnessed, and much of the curriculum that was referenced during the floor debate couldn’t even air on the TVW network without a “parental advisory” notice. Parents and grandparents from across the state flocked to Olympia to make their voices heard.

Using the constitutional power of referendum, which allows the people to confirm or reject legislation approved by the Legislature, concerned citizens managed to gather signatures during a pandemic to get Referendum 90 on the ballot. The measure passed comfortably statewide, but it failed in Spokane County, especially in the 4th Legislative District.

R-90 was rejected in Spokane County and in 19 of the 20 Eastern Washington counties. The large voting margins in favor of keeping the law came primarily from Seattle and other parts of King County. The other side had tremendous financial advantages. An organization that labeled itself “Parents for Safe Schools” raised $460,000. Another $1.7 million for the campaign to confirm the sex-ed law came primarily from Planned Parenthood and its allies, the Washington Education Association and the ACLU. There was also considerable media bias and advocacy journalism that favored approving R-90.


Those of us who fought against this harmful policy are understandably disappointed, but we are not willing to give up the fight to protect our young children. Some parents are even considering removing their children from the public schools altogether, which has led to school superintendents’ fears that they could see a dip in enrollment. This is why Mead, Central Valley and West Valley school districts all asked Governor Inslee to veto the measure (ESSB 5395) when it came out of the Legislature.


Governor's new COVID-19 restrictions unfair blow to small business

Listen Now!

Governor Inslee’s new COVID-19 restrictions are an ‘unfair’ blow to small business according to a state senator. Tracy Ellis explains. To listen, click here or on the image above.

We are all concerned about the safety of our communities and issues of hospital capacity, but we must also consider the economic and emotional pain the governor’s new restrictions will create.

The families and small business owners who I am hearing from are rightfully alarmed and angered by the governor’s illogical and Draconian response to the spike in COVID-19 cases. They want solutions that are balanced, fair, and consistent with the data.

According to the Spokane Health District and Washington Department of Health:

  • Only 5.7% of all beds occupied in Spokane County are by COVID patients;
  • There are 81 patients hospitalized with COVID in Spokane County at the moment; and,
  • Less than 60% of all licensed hospital beds in Spokane County are occupied (Total number of beds in Spokane County is 1531; Total beds occupied are 907).

Washington has already lost more than 3,000 small businesses – most likely permanently – due to COVID-related shutdowns. The governor’s latest order means even more business shutdowns and increased unemployment over the winter holidays – a time of year that is already ripe for depression and suicide.

Worse yet, the governor refused to bring lawmakers to the table. Any solutions to address the spread of the virus will take the buy-in and active participation of the public. How does the governor expect to get that level of cooperation, when he has repeatedly shut the public out?

Click here to read my full press release on this issue.

In the News:

State auditor warns unemployment agency on ‘interference’ with audits into massive fraud

By Paul Roberts and Jim Brunner, Seattle Times | Nov. 29, 2020

Since May, the head of Washington’s unemployment agency has been buffeted with criticism for a slow-footed response to a massive fraud that leeched away hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Now Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzi LeVine is being rebuked by state Auditor Pat McCarthy for hindering her office’s investigation into what went wrong.

In an unusual step, McCarthy recently accused LeVine of imposing “significant constraints” on auditors, including attempts at limiting interviews with key ESD employees and delaying access to important documents.

Click here to read the full article.

From the District:

Greater Spokane Meals on Wheels making a difference

Meals on Wheels

The Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels program and its volunteers deliver more than 1,000 meals every day to seniors and vulnerable adults throughout the community.

This program, for which we were able to secure funding in the budget, has proven its value to the community for nearly 50 years, and that need hasn’t diminished any just because there is a pandemic. In fact, the services provided by Meals on Wheels has perhaps never been as vital. Not only does the program get food to people who need it, Meals on Wheels also provides contact for many who live in isolation. There are many cases where the Meals-on-Wheels delivery is the only outside contact a senior will have for the entire day.

As the weather gets colder, volunteers are also dropping off new blankets to those in need.

To learn more or find out how you can help, visit

In the News:

Hutton Settlement Christmas Tree Farm’s first weekend of the season brings record-breaking sales

By Emma Epperly, Spokesman-Review | Nov. 29, 2020


Brian Suitor lugs his just-purchased noble fir to his Ford F-250 pickup truck on Sunday at Hutton Settlement’s annual Christmas tree sale in Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW).

The Hutton Settlement Children’s Home Christmas Tree Fundraiser began this weekend, bringing record-breaking sales, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The children’s home, more than a century old, serves about 32 school-aged children at a time.

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of life at Hutton Settlement. The campus has been closed to visitors, and children have been completing coursework from the administration building-turned-makeshift classroom, said David Milliken, campus director. …The pandemic has even affected Hutton’s funding.

Click here to read the full article.

Contact us!

If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to serve you!

Phone: (360) 786-7606

Street address: 106 Irv Newhouse Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia, WA 98504

Postal address: PO Box 40404, Olympia, WA 98504

Email address:

PLEASE NOTE: Any email or documents you provide to this office may be subject to disclosure under RCW 42.56. If you would prefer to communicate by phone, please contact Sen. Padden's office at (360) 786-7606.

To request public records from Sen. Padden, please contact Randi Stratton who is the designated public records officer for the Secretary of the Senate and Senate members.