What's passing in Olympia?

Legislative update from Olympia

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Dear Neighbor,

Greetings and Happy Valentine's Day!

We’ve reached the halfway point on the 2020 legislative session, some of you might be asking “what is the status of I-976? What is the legislature doing to address our state’s homelessness crisis? What bills are moving through the legislature this session?”


Washington voters passed I-976, sending a message to government officials, Sound Transit and supporters of Sound Transit’s light rail project. Several government agencies and transit organizations, have filed a lawsuit, arguing I-976 violates a rule in the state constitution that initiatives must deal with a single subject.

This week, a judge in King County ruled that I-976 is constitutional. Unfortunately, taxpayers won’t see car-tab relief just yet. The judge’s decision is expected to be appealed.

However, the legislature has the authority to solve this problem. We should follow the example of former Gov. Gary Locke and the legislators serving in 2000 who, after a court struck down the original $30 car-tab initiative, decided to show a little leadership and approve car-tab relief themselves. Legislators need to come together and ensure voters get the car-tab relief they voted for.

Washington’s homeless crisis

Along with other states on the west coast, Washington is struggling with homelessness. A recent Crosscut/Elway poll stated that nearly 1 in 3 Washingtonians believe that homelessness is the biggest issue facing the legislature. We need to do more to create more affordable housing as well as treat those with mental health issues and drug addiction – all contribute to our current homelessness crisis.

Many bills on this topic have been introduced and have passed important committee hurdles so far this session. Sen. Hans Zeiger has proposed a jobs training bill (SB 6385) that would help individuals experiencing homelessness get back on their feet. This is a true “hand-up” bill that addresses causes not just effects.

Other bills still moving include my proposed legislation on multifamily tax exemption (SB 5366), Sen. John Braun’s tax incentive for hiring (SB 6564) and Sen. Phil Fortunato’s American Dream homes (SB 6457).

Too many of our loved ones are suffering on the streets. As the Republican lead on the Behavioral Health Subcommittee, I have heard testimony from those struggling with these issues, I have seen how this crisis is impacting friends and families firsthand. The time is now for lawmakers to come together and pass laws tackling this issue from all sides. We need to help those who are suffering the most get the care and shelter they need and deserve.  


Bills moving this session

Some of the bills I’ve sponsored are still moving through the legislature. They include:

Property tax exemption. SB 5366 would allow a property tax exemption for multi-unit residential housing projects in urban areas from July 2022 to July 2025. There is a housing crisis in Washington state and more housing inventory is needed. A lack of housing is a limiting factor for economic development. This bill is a tool for local governments to incentivize more housing.

Department of Corrections (DOC) health care admin. SB 6063 would ensure offenders get the medical care they need while incarcerated at Washington state correctional facilities. Recently, an inmate in Monroe prison died after not receiving treatment for cancer while serving time at the correctional facility. This legislation will require the professionals overseeing their medical treatment meet the medical standards needed to treat these patients.  As a bare minimum, DOC should be required to follow its own rules and procedures.

Body scanners. SB 6064 would bring body scanners into the DOC facility in Monroe to increase contraband and drug detection. Currently, Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy is using a scanner and in the first two months of operation, the scanner detected more contraband than the previous staff-intensive body searches detected in a full year. This bill would also add an additional scanner at the Women’s Correctional facility.

39th Legislative District Town Hall meeting

Come and participate with your 39th LD legislators as we provide our 2020 legislative update.

When: February 22nd, 10-11:30 a.m.

Where: Putnam Hall at Arlington Municipal Airport, 18204 59th Ave NE, Arlington

Who: Sen. Keith Wagoner, Rep. Carolyn Eslick and Rep. Robert Sutherland 

As always, it is a privilege to serve as your state senator. If you need anything, my office is here for you. I can be reached by email at Keith.Wagoner@leg.wa.gov, by phone at (360) 786-7676. Or, if you are in Olympia, stop by my office, located in Room 203 of the Irv Newhouse Building on the Capitol Campus.



February 14, 2020

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Fun fact…

Each legislative update will highlight a fun fact about your 39th Legislative District State Senator!

Senator Keith Wagoner….

Owns a firetruck