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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Legislature adjourned the scheduled 105-day session on April 23. It has been an honor to serve you the past 15 weeks and spend my first legislative session representing you in Olympia.

There are a lot of issues to update you on from the long session. We had some wins and some disappointments. I urge you to contact me with any questions you may have regarding this update.

Clarifying unemployment benefits

I had my first bill signed into law this session. House Bill 1656 will clarify unemployment insurance benefits appeal procedures. This was an issue I had worked on with the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD).

It will make it easier for claimants, employers and judges by giving them some clarification on the appeals process. It will also improve efficiency and coordination between the ESD and the Office of Administrative Hearings as there has been confusion in the current system.

Journey level electrician certifications of competency

Another piece of legislation I worked on was my House Bill 1393, which would have delayed the required date from July 1, 2023 to July 1, 2025 for Washingtonians to complete an apprenticeship program in order to become commercial licensed electricians. I heard from employers and employees in the commercial construction industry saying the delay was needed.

The bill did not make it out of its policy committee. However, a similar measure in the Senate, Senate Bill 5320, was signed into law that modifies the eligibility requirements for obtaining journey level electrician certification and establishes additional pathways for current trainees to become licensed electricians. The attention my legislation received during its public hearing played a role in the Senate bill’s passage.

I plan on working on this issue during the interim even though the Senate measure does provide some options for those seeking the journey level electrician certification. I believe we can improve upon the legislation passed.

Rep. Schmidt speaks during debate on the House floor.

Wins for the 4th District

Both the 2023-25 transportation budget and the 2023-25 capital budget were bipartisan budgets. It was great to see what could be accomplished with both sides of the aisle working together. Our district did well by the bipartisan plans. As I mentioned in a previous update, the transportation spending plan includes funding, and an additional $176 million for the North-South freeway despite Gov. Inslee’s proposed transportation budget pulling the funding for the project for four years.

The capital spending plan makes significant investments in statewide infrastructure and projects. It has $12.7 million for 4th Legislative District, including:

  • $5.8 million for Spokane County Avista Stadium;
  • $1.849 million for Spokane Valley Summer Theatre;
  • $1.176 million for the Performing Arts Center in Spokane Valley;
  • $1.03 million for the HUB sports fields in Liberty Lake;
  • $750,000 for Spokane Scale House Market;
  • $543,000 for Avista Stadium improvements in Spokane Valley;
  • $500,000 for LP Greenacres Park Phase 2;
  • $350,000 for synthetic turf at the HUB sports fields in Liberty Lake;
  • $207,000 for Veterans Memorial Balfour Park in Spokane Valley;
  • $130,000 for Pinecroft preservation and access;
  • $100,000 for a public food business incubator expansion;
  • $100,000 for Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park in Mead;
  • $100,000 for Township Hall North and West in Spokane; and
  • $20,000 for ADA bathrooms for Northwest Center in Spokane Valley.

Partisan operating budget a disappointment

Unlike the other two budgets, House Republicans were left out of the drafting and negotiating of the operating budget. The lack of transparency and the continued unsustainable increase in spending, are just two of the reasons I voted “no.” In fact, the spending plan passed on a party-line vote in the House. It increases spending up to $69.8 billion, a $5.6 billion increase, or 9% over current spending levels. As you can see by the chart below the 9% increase is actually pretty modest compared to some of the other increases passed in recent biennia.

It also leaves a very small ending fund balance, and provides no tax relief for the citizens of Washington.

Public safety measures fall short

Going into session House Republicans were saying public safety was a top priority, specifically addressing law enforcement vehicle pursuits and coming up with a Blake fix.

Police pursuits: In 2021, the Legislature passed a law that required officers to need “probable cause” to arrest someone before initiating a pursuit rather than “reasonable suspicion.” This set the bar unrealistically high for law enforcement to pursue suspected criminals. They were soon fleeing crime scenes before law enforcement could act or question them.

At the beginning of session, bipartisan legislation would have restored the reasonable suspicion standard. However, the bill died in committee. Instead, we ended up passing Senate Bill 5352. This bill would allow police pursuits under the reasonable suspicion standard of those suspected of committing a violent crime, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, vehicle assault, driving under the influence, and trying to escape arrest.

It doesn’t fully restore the law, but it is better than what we have now. I contacted our local law enforcement and they agreed we should support the bill to at least take a small step forward. To read the release Rep. Leonard Christian and I issued on our vote click here. This will not resolve the increase in crime we are seeing. I expect us to be debating this issue again in the 2024 session.

Blake fix: In February 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in “State v. Blake” that the state’s felony drug possession law was unconstitutional. Under that ruling, all criminal penalties for drug possession were removed, and convictions were vacated and dismissed by an order from the court.

In an effort to address the ruling the Legislature voted to penalize drug possession charges with a misdemeanor and mandated two pre-arrest referrals for substance abuse by law enforcement before an arrest, but the law expires on July 1. Thus, it was critical we have a Blake fix this year. Not to mention the rampant drug use, skyrocketing overdose deaths and increase in drug-related crimes we are experiencing in Washington state.

At the end of session three of the four caucuses had reached an agreement on a solution. However, House Democrats shot it down and brought up their own version. They brought it to the House floor for a vote and in a very rare occurrence it failed by a vote of 43-55. For more information check out the news articles below.

Without a Blake fix and the 2021 law expiring on July 1, local governments were pleading for a solution. They are now left to implement their own penalties for drug possession.

There is discussion of a special session. However, we must have a solution first. House Republicans are committed to resolving this important issue. Click here to read House Republicans’ recent letter to the governor outlining our concerns and our solutions.

Second Amendment and parental rights threatened

Very concerning this session was the infringing of rights of the citizens of Washington. Three gun bills passed and have already been signed into law by the governor.

  • House Bill 1240 will ban the sale, production or transfer of most semi-auto firearms aka “assault weapons.” This legislation goes against a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision and the upcoming federal district court ruling on the California “assault weapons ban,” which most believe will be overturned. This ban will have a greater impact on law-abiding citizens than the individuals who commit crimes. Criminals do not obey laws.
  • House Bill 1143 will impair your right to buy, sell or keep arms. The measure would impose various training and testing requirements on law-abiding gun owners and retailers before they can exercise their constitutional rights. Click here to watch my floor speech opposing HB 1143.
  • Senate Bill 5078 will hold gun manufacturers legally responsible for how individuals misuse their products. 

I expect the constitutionality of at least one or more of these gun bills to be challenged.

Parental rights: One of the most disturbing bills to pass this session may be Senate Bill 5599. The legislation would allow youth shelters and similar organizations to not notify parents that their children are at a shelter if they are receiving “gender affirming” care or reproductive services. Now more than ever, we need to let parents be parents without government interference. This bill will put barriers between parents and children in loving families – even when they may not agree. I ask any parent out there, wouldn’t you want to know where your child is if they left home? To view my floor speech during floor debate on this bill, click here.

Upcoming town hall meeting

On May 27, at 10 a.m., Sen. Mike Padden, Rep. Leonard Christian and I will host an in-person town hall meeting at CenterPlace Event Center (2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley).

I hope you can join us for a review the 2023 legislative session and other important issues related to our state government. We look forward to seeing you there!

Rep. Schmidt and colleagues on “sine die” as the Legislature adjourned the 2023 legislative session.

Following your state government

Even though the Legislature has adjourned there is a lot happening in our state government. I urge you to stay informed. Below are some informative websites. The Capitol Buzz and Ledger are updated daily.

Please keep in mind I am your legislator year-round. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments about the Legislature or our state government. Your input and feedback are important to me.

It is an honor to serve the 4th District!

Suzanne Schmidt

State Representative Suzanne Schmidt, 4th Legislative District
468 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7820 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000