Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo

Homelessness, guns among 2020 legislative priorities

WA lawmakers examine issues heading into 60-day session.

The Washington state Legislature will try to address homelessness, the climate crisis and gun violence this session, but per usual the fight over funding will likely be front and center.

During the AP Legislative preview Jan. 9, state lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee walked through some of their priorities this session. One of the biggest items was a discussion about the governor’s proposed budget, which included $146 million in the 2019-2021 cycle. In total, it asked for more than $300 million over three years. Inslee proposed the state tap into its $2.5 billion emergency (“rainy day”) fund.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) said he likely didn’t have the votes to approve using the rainy day fund. Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) said the emergency fund was created for emergencies like the homelessness crisis.

Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup) said the state should be looking to fund homelessness responses with its surplus instead. Other conservative lawmakers echoed similar ideas.

Inslee said using the fund makes sense because the level of homelessness is a crisis. It would also let the state take action without raising new revenue.

“I think this would be better than an additional tax increase,” Inslee said.

Inslee said he wasn’t as worried about where the money came from as long as it was approved.

There were also differing ideas on how best to address homelessness. Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) said having a stable place to live is what ends homelessness, and she supported building more housing and removing barriers that prevent people from getting housing. She said more services are needed.

“We know that building housing alone does not address homelessness,” Macri said.

Diversion programs and direct assistance to struggling people, as well as support for the disabled and elderly, were cited as examples of needed services. Kuderer pointed to other protections such as a proposed just-cause eviction bill she is sponsoring. In contrast, Zeiger said after passing stronger tenant protections last year, the state should wait to see how it plays out before introducing new laws.

Zeiger supported increasing diversion and assistance programs, which could help provide funds to people for rental assistance and other programs. He additionally supported creating city-based employment programs for homeless adults.

“For those who want to work but have found barriers to employment, we need to make opportunities available,” he said.

Rep. Morgan Irwin (R-Enumclaw) also works as a Seattle police officer. His approach to homelessness included enforcing laws. Politicians refuse to use the “stick behind the carrot” when addressing homelessness, he said. Republicans could additionally strap conditions onto the funding, such as barring it from being spent on safe injection sites, Irwin said. Irwin said safe injection sites would likely be hard to approve, and that restrictions on allowing sleeping near the entrances to government buildings could be another condition.

Macri said she thinks the safe injection site discussion is used as a distraction for other issues. Instead, the state should be looking at ways to provide long-term recovery and support for people.

On guns, Democrats seemed more cautious. House Speaker-designate Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) said she would focus on making existing laws work better, like enforcing background checks. Billig and Jinkins both said they would need to caucus to discuss high-capacity magazine and assault weapons sales bans. Both bills have been requested by the Attorney General’s office.

Both Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm) said they would oppose new firearms restrictions. Schoesler said it wasn’t gun safety that Democrats wanted, but gun control and gun seizure. Wilcox said proposed firearm restrictions wouldn’t be supported by the state constitution.

When asked about climate change, neither Jinkins nor Billig could give specific policies they hope to see pass this session. Inslee said this session’s focus should be on tackling transportation sector emissions. Last session, the Legislature set a goal of converting the state’s energy grid to 100% carbon-free sources by 2045.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Downtown Kirkland. Staff photo/Blake Peterson
Update: Kirkland officials strongly encouraging residents to stay out of downtown area, waterfront parks after 1 p.m.

The recommendations are in response to a potential protest in Downtown Kirkland at 2 p.m.

Businesses asked to close by 1 p.m., visitors to avoid commercial shopping areas

The City of Kirkland states it has received reports of being a possible target for looting

Downtown Kirkland. Blake Peterson/staff photo
How is COVID-19 impacting Kirkland?

King County has released city-specific data on case rates, unemployment filings and more.

Kabal Gill, owner of East India Grill in Federal Way, wears gloves to hand over take-out orders at his restaurant on March 23. File photo
New guidelines for Phase 2 reopenings in King County

All workers will need to wear masks as restaurants, retail shops and other businesses reopen.

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. Courtesy photo
Inslee wants nursing home residents and staff tested by June 12

Governor says state will pay for test kits and personal protective equipment.

Stock image
Campgrounds to reopen in 22 Washington counties

Campgrounds in counties actively in Phase 2 of the reopening plan will begin to welcome visitors June 1, state says.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. FILE PHOTO
King County sheriff releases message about Minneapolis Police officer

Mitzi Johanknecht calls video of officer kneeling on neck of George Floyd ‘heartbreaking and disturbing’

File photo of construction near North Bend on Aug. 16. Sound Publishing file photo
                                File photo of construction near North Bend on Aug. 16. Sound Publishing file photo
Rural King County mayors want state to let them enter Phase 2

Mayors cite heavy economic damage from prolonged shutdown.

New dashboard shows how far along King County is to meeting Phase II metrics

The county has met more than half its goals, but the ones it hasn’t met are critical in determining how many people are still being infected, and how quickly people are being tested.

Most Read