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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

With the 2024 legislative session rapidly approaching, my calendar is filled with legislative-related meetings, tours and events. While it is a busy time of year, I hope all of you find time to be with family and friends as the holidays near.

This latest legislative update includes media coverage of the legislation I am co-sponsoring to help the victims of the Gray and Oregon Road fires, an update on the North Spokane freeway, a work session and tour related to the workforce committee I serve and more.

Legislation to assist victims of Gray and Oregon Road fires

In my last email update, Rep. Mike Volz and I had just announced we were drafting 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. Some of the media coverage included:

It is not easy to pass legislation in a short, 60-day session. However, I can assure you we will be working hard, and in a bipartisan manner, to get this through the Legislature. Assisting those who suffered the tragic loss of their home should not be a partisan issue. Our legislation will be ready to go on the first day of the 2024 legislative session, which begins Monday, Jan. 8.

North-South freeway dedication

One of my top priorities while serving in Olympia was to secure funding for the critical North Spokane Corridor project. On Thursday, I had the honor to speak at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 1.5-mile section that opened from Freya Street to Wellesley Avenue. Click here, and go to the second KHQ video on the page and you can watch my remarks at the 12:26 mark in the video.

Rep. Schmidt speaks at the North Spokane Corridor ribbon cutting ceremony.

For more coverage of the event and details on the phases that are not yet completed check out the links below.

You will recall, Spokane area legislators were able to get an additional $176 million for the North-South freeway in the transportation budget, despite Gov. Inslee’s proposed transportation budget pulling the funding from the project for four years. This should help ensure the final phases are completed by 2030.

House Transportation Chair Rep. Jake Fey and Ranking Republican Rep. Andrew Barkis with Rep. Schmidt

Our transportation system is facing some critical challenges. However, House Transportation Committee Chair Jake Fey, and our lead Republican Andrew Barkis, have been instrumental in ensuring current projects are moving forward and the committee works well in a bipartisan manner.

Postsecondary education and workforce tour

When the Legislature adjourns, the committees legislators serve on will often hold meetings or committee work tours around the state to get a firsthand look at the priority issues that come before the committee. I serve on the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee. We recently had a tour in the Spokane region.

Eastern Washington University students in the Mariachi Las Aguilas band performed for the committee.

The committee started at Spokane Falls Community College, visiting the Center for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; food bank; and the Orthotics and Prosthetics program. At Spokane Community College, we were able to visit the nursing simulation classrooms, the HVAC/electrical program and tour technical education lab spaces. We have a labor shortage in many areas, so it was great to see students getting firsthand experience in labs as well as career and technical education (CTE) related classes.

The Spokane Workforce Council and LaunchNW gave presentations on their work to help ensure students have skills for the workplace. Their efforts are greatly appreciated. It was shared during one of the presentations that:

  • Fourteen years after graduating from high school in Spokane County, the median annual salary for students with only a high school diploma is around $32,000.
  • One in three families in Eastern Washington are economically insecure. Four out of five of those economically insecure have no education beyond high school.

Day two of the tour included a presentation from the University of Washington – Gonzaga University Health Partnership on their efforts to provide access to medical education for citizens in the Northwest and increase the number of primary care physicians.

The Western Governors University discussed its online nursing programs and health care degrees. And, Gonzaga University provided an overview of the Rural Nursing Workforce Consortium.

It is a critical issue as our rural patients find it more difficult to access health care resources. Issues facing our rural population include:

  • Shortage of rural health care professionals;
  • Rural areas have fewer practicing registered nurses compared to urban;
  • 19.3% of Washington’s populations reside in rural areas; and
  • Only 8.6% of nurse practitioner’s work in rural communities.

The work session not only focused on health care issues in rural areas, but we also heard from the UW-EWU Dentistry program, WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals, and the WSU College of Medicine.

Legislators from the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee go ‘old school.’

Another highlight of the tour was a visit to the One Room School House. (Photo above) It represents EWU’s beginnings in 1890 as the first institution in Washington for teacher instruction.

House Page Program

Students interested in the Washington State House of Representatives Page Program can now submit their applications. Students from the age of 14 to 16 are eligible. Pages help legislators, including delivering documents and providing assistance in the chamber during floor sessions. During their 40-hour work week of service, they also attend Legislative Page School and learn firsthand about the Legislature and the other branches of state government in action. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 8 and ends on March 7. When applying, potential pages can select which weeks they are available to work. Pages earn a stipend of $65 per day and can also earn up to 20 hours of community service. Click here for the online application.

Stay informed

Please let me know if you have any questions about this email update or the upcoming legislative session. In the meantime, below are some options to help you stay informed or involved on what is happening with our state government.

  • My legislative website: You will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
  • How you can be involved in the legislative process: This includes a citizen’s guide to effective legislative participation.
  • TVW: The state’s own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
  • The Ledger: A legislative news aggregator that is updated frequently.
  • Capitol Buzz: Sent out each weekday, featuring stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.

I wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

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