Since I was first elected in 2006, the Legislature has made great progress on health care (providing for health coverage for all Washington kids, mental health parity, and expanding Medicaid); public education (passing simple majority approval for school levies and redefining and dramatically increasing funding for K-12 “basic education”, which now makes up over 50% of the operating budget); the environment (including significant funding for the cleanup of Puget Sound, carbon pricing, a plan to free our entire electric grid from any connection to fossil fuels, and bans on toxic flame retardants, toxic toys, bisphenol A, copper brake pads, and phosphorus in fertilizer); and civil rights (including parentage rights for same-sex couples and the historic passage of marriage equality in the 2012 session, as well as the DREAM Act, Voting Rights Act, and a legal defense fund for immigrants).
In the 2023 session, I continued to serve as the Senate Majority Floor Leader. I focused on special education funding; gun violence prevention; protection of the rights of transgender people; the abolition of the death penalty; and expansion of our state’s Death with Dignity Law.
I am proud to have been the prime sponsor of 93 bills that have been signed into law by the Governor in my seven sessions in the House and ten in the Senate. Those included:
- Holding gun manufacturers and retailers liable when their failure to establish reasonable controls leads to injuries or deaths from gun violence;
- Removing the death penalty, forced sterilization, anti-communist loyalty oaths, and other unconstitutional provisions from our state statutes;
- Giving Sound Transit the authority the form “enhanced service zones” whose voters could approve higher taxes to pay for improved transit service;
- Reforming the Criminal Justice Training Commission to bolster its authority to decertify police officers who abuse the public trust;
- Providing robust and stable dedicated revenue to support public higher education;
- Giving grandparents and other relatives the right to petition a court for visitation with a child;
- Giving Washington patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness the right to try investigational medical products;
- Permitting disposition of human remains through natural organic reduction or alkaline hydrolysis;
- Creating a first-in-the nation program for people with mental health challenges to waive their firearm rights voluntarily;
- Reforming our guardianship laws to protect children whose parents cannot care for them and vulnerable adults, including people with developmental disabilities;
- Establishing a housing voucher program for foster youth when they turn 18 to make sure they do not become homeless;
- Updating our parentage law to protect same-sex couples and their children and replace our criminal prohibition on compensated surrogacy with a regulated structure to protect kids, intended parents, and women acting as surrogates;
- Allowing transgender folks to seal records of name changes;
- Revising our involuntary commitment laws to make it easier for violent mentally ill offenders to be kept off of the streets and given the treatment that they need;
- Establishing a new set of rules for condo associations, homeowners associations, and cooperatives to protect homeowners and their investments in their homes;
- Creating a new type of corporation, the “social purpose corporation,” to allow for-profit businesses to consider social or environmental good, and not just profit, in corporate decisions;
- Protecting victims of domestic violence from contact with their abusers;
- Recognizing Juneteenth, the day on which the last slaves in the United States were freed, as a statewide day of remembrance;
- Modernizing the rules regarding the investment and spending of endowment funds by nonprofits and educational institutions; and
- Protecting our unique and historic houseboat communities.
For five years, I served as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over family law issues such as marriage, adoption and child support; commercial law; landlord/tenant issues; real estate; intellectual property; domestic violence; consumer protection; constitutional rights; and the court system. For four years, I served as chair of Senate Law & Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over gun issues; family law; commercial law; adult criminal law; real estate issues; constitutional rights; and the court system. I continue to serve on that committee and also serve on the Senate Ways & Means Committee, the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, and the Senate Rules Committee, as well as the Legislative Ethics Board , the Office of Public Defense Advisory Committee , and the Statute Law Committee. I was appointed by Governor Gregoire in 2010 to serve on the Uniform Law Commission.
I have also been working hard to change the conversation in our state about tax reform. In 2011, I helped organize and was a plaintiff in a lawsuit to overturn the two-thirds supermajority requirement for increasing taxes imposed by Tim Eyman’s Initiatives 960, 1053 and 1185. On February 28, 2013, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the supermajority requirement and reinstated majority rule on tax policy in the Washington Legislature. This was a tremendous victory for the citizens of our state. We put the decision to immediate use in passing over $300 million in new revenue for the 2013-15 budget. The change was also critical to the success in 2016 of the transportation funding package and our education funding increases in 2017. That victory also made it possible for us to enact a capital gains tax in the 2021 session, which the Supreme Court upheld on March 24, 2023.