Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This year's legislative session is over. During the three months I spent in Olympia, I worked on dozens of bills and voted on hundreds of others.
My votes on each bill were determined by the common sense, conservative values I learned growing up in the Yakima Valley. I voted no on tax increases (there were nine total) and on bills that restricted constitutional rights. I voted yes on bills that promoted smaller, smarter government.
When determining my priorities, I thought of you — the voters. You asked me to support our Veterans, protect our senior citizens, and prioritize funding for mental health, special education, water storage, and road improvements. I worked with my fellow legislators to do just that.
It is a great honor to represent you in Olympia. And before I roll up my sleeves in the off-season and start work on next year's priorities for our district, I'd like to highlight some things that have happened in the last few weeks:
Hospital bill receives governor's signature
My first bill was signed by the governor last month. It allows Toppenish's hospital to continue using its newly opened psychiatric care unit without losing money.
The hospital opened the mental health facility at the beginning of the year, but the state's payments for services were not high enough to cover the program's expenses. My bill increased the reimbursement rate to the average rate paid to rural hospitals, which is enough to cover the true costs.
I was humbled by the Legislature's unanimous support for the bill. It's an important down payment on expanding access to care in our communities and ensures patients can receive treatment close to home and near their support network.
Zillah Veterans Memorial Park and Ride receives funding
The 2019-2021 transportation budget approved by the Legislature includes funding for parking at one of the Yakima Valley's crown jewels: the Veterans Memorial and the Teapot Dome historical site in Zillah.
The new 101-space facility will provide parking for the site and serve carpoolers commuting on I-82 to Yakima and the Lower Valley. It will also be a launch site for wine-country tours.
The budget provides $664,000 for the project, which, in addition to funds already invested by the City of Zillah, will be enough to complete the facility.
I submitted the request for funding early in the session and am grateful to Sen. Curtis King, Sen. Jim Honeyford, and Rep. Bruce Chandler for helping me successfully navigate the budget process.
Teacher for a day
Back in district, I stopped by Harrison Middle School in Sunnyside to teach civics to a class of sixth graders. I was invited by their teacher, Daren Fickel.
To demonstrate how state laws are made, I divided the class into two groups. One group played the House of Representatives and the other played the Senate. One student was also selected to be the governor.
All three branches of the mock government produced their own bills. The House and Senate proposed two separate bills to improve safety in schools, while the governor proposed a bill on gang prevention. Next, the students went through the process: Votes were taken, bills were amended, and legislation died.
Ultimately, a new version of the governor's bill — amended to include some school safety measures — was passed.
A KIMA reporter filmed some of the class, and you can watch footage from the lesson here.
Homeless Veterans in Yakima will soon have access to beds and dental care
The state's capital budget, which the Legislature approved last month, includes two important projects for homeless Veterans in Yakima.
The first is the conversion of the former U.S. Marine Corps Armory on 16th Avenue in Yakima into permanent supportive housing for homeless Veterans and their families. Rep. Chris Corry and I and sponsored the project in the House of Representatives. Learn more about that project here.
I also sponsored an on-site dental clinic that will be available to Veterans and their families, which was also funded. Dental care is listed among the top three unmet needs of homeless Veterans in our county, which isn't a surprise since VA dental clinics are currently only located in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Mt. Vernon, Vancouver, and Walla Walla. This will satisfy that unmet need.
As always, I encourage you to contact my office via email, telephone, letter or in person with your thoughts, comments and questions. My contact information is below. It is an honor to serve as your state representative.