Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you are adjusting to the cool temperatures and staying warm. I have been busy this interim working on legislation for the upcoming session, meeting with folks throughout the district, spending time with my legislative committees to get a firsthand look at priority issues, and much more. In this update, I will provide you with an overview of what I am working on and what I have been up to.
House Joint Memorial supporting Israel
However, I first wanted to say my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims in Israel – many who were women and children – and their families who suffered at the hands of Hamas terrorists. I also pray for the safe release of those who have been taken hostage and quick healing for those who are injured. What we have seen is horrific and disturbing.
As a show of support for Israel, House Republicans will introduce a House Joint Memorial on the first day of the 2024 legislative session. The Joint Memorial will be directed to the United States Congress to provide full and unequivocal support to the State of Israel to defend the historic Jewish homeland, rescue American hostages, and bring justice in response to the terrorist attacks upon innocent Jewish and Israeli civilians. Click here to read the statement from House Republican Leader Rep. Drew Stokesbary condemning the attacks and our call for a Joint Memorial to Congress.
Assisting victims of the Gray and Oregon Road fires
Rep. Mike Volz and I have drafted legislation for the 2024 session that would allow properties damaged by wildfires to build under the building codes that were in effect on Jan. 1, 2023, or the ones that are in effect when the property owner submits a building permit application. The legislation is designed to help property owners who would not have known that the State Building Code Council was in the process of updating the codes, imposing new requirements that cost tens of thousands of dollars more than the prior code. Those who lost or had their homes damaged are dealing with tremendous loss already. This is one way we can assist them in their rebuilding process. Click here to read our news release.
Earlier this month, the governor visited with the Spokane Long-Term Recovery Group to discuss recovery efforts. The governor shared that more than $4 million has been provided by the state to help those impacted by the fires, including using all of the emergency funds available to him. He is also working to secure federal aid but indicated it could be a slow, uphill battle.
If you have any questions or concerns about the state’s relief efforts, please do not hesitate to contact me. We must continue working together as we rebuild the communities affected.
Focusing on business and transportation
Many of you know I have a business background, and much of my focus in Olympia is on business-related issues. Labor costs and the minimum wage are among the most challenging issues facing our small employers. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country. It will be $16.28 on Jan. 1.
It is no secret our state loses businesses to our neighboring state of Idaho, where the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. As the ranking Republican on the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee, I will continue to work on policies that will help our employers and state economy thrive.
While we do not want to continue losing businesses to Idaho, we do need to address the traffic congestion we are seeing in that direction. I sit on the House Transportation Committee and having been working with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), advocating for a third lane to Interstate 90 from Barker Road to the Washington-Idaho state line.
Legislators on the Transportation Committee have been traveling around the state to see priority issues firsthand. We face many difficult decisions related to transportation projects and infrastructure as our transportation funding model languishes.
Volunteers of America Crosswalk Youth Center facility
This interim, I have seen the results of hard work in Olympia. I recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Crosswalk Youth Center. Sen. Andy Billig and I worked in a bipartisan manner to get the project funded in the capital budget. This became my priority when I attended a forum where students’ top concerns were about homeless students. After the forum, I started looking into what our community is doing to address this and found Crosswalk. I toured their downtown facility. It is small, outdated, and in an unsafe neighborhood. They were looking for funding to build a new facility across from the Spokane Community College. I made a budget request in the House and Sen. Billig did in the Senate and it was included in the capital budget. It was great to see the excitement and appreciation from so many people at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Boys and Girls Club behavioral health programs
Also going into effect this summer is the $2 million for behavioral health programs at the Boys and Girls Club. I was able to get language into the operating budget that allows the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to contract with community-based youth organizations for a pilot program to provide behavioral health programs. Boys and Girls Clubs provide daycare before and after school at no cost to qualifying parents and with very minimal costs. This could help with the huge daycare costs we face in Washington state.
Improving the apprentice approval process
You may recall I worked with Sen. Rebecca Saldana on Senate Bill 5320 which modifies the eligibility requirements for obtaining journey-level electrician certification and establishes additional pathways for current trainees to become licensed electricians. As part of that legislation, we had to request a variance to ensure trainees could get their hours grandfathered. The Washington State Apprenticeship Training Council approved the request on Thursday, Oct. 19. This is great news for trainees and apprentices.
Grand Coulee Dam tour
I recently participated in a tour of Grand Coulee Dam. We are fortunate to have clean, reliable and affordable power in our region. Energy continues to be a hot topic as we explore options to ensure we have enough power for the future.
Rep. Schmidt with Sen. Shelly Short at Grand Coulee Dam.
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating state government, want to schedule a meeting, would like me to tour a facility, or speak to your association or organization.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent the 4th Legislative District.