2023 session priorities: Improve public safety, provide tax relief, support substance use recovery
The start of the 2023 legislative session brings us back together in Olympia for the first in-person session in two years. This is how our state government should operate, and it is essential that we, as your state legislators are transparent and accountable to you, our constituents.
This session follows elections within the new legislative district boundaries adopted last year. The “new” 16th District is smaller geographically, with a larger population; it still includes Walla Walla County and a large portion of Benton County and now includes West Richland.
As your advocates in Olympia, we wanted to share our top priorities going into 2023. We are hopeful now that we are back together, we can collaborate with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to bring real solutions that benefit all Washington residents. We also know there are issues unique to the 16th district and are working on those.
Improve public safety. A recent poll showed 23 percent of voters believe public safety should be the Legislature's top priority this year. Over the last two years, we have seen dramatic increases in vehicle theft, burglary, larceny, and destruction of property. We have all seen the devastating results of the misguided law enforcement reform bills passed by the Legislature over the last few years, which have negatively impacted our officers' ability to keep our communities safe. We hope these issues will be addressed during the 2023 session, in part, by:
- Restoring law enforcement's ability to pursue fleeing suspects
- Providing funding to hire, train and retain more officers
- Supporting the creation of an Eastern Washington law enforcement academy
- Ensuring encampments don't threaten safety around parks and schools
Tax relief. Many Washington residents still feel the economic effects of the shutdowns during the pandemic. Now, many are experiencing financial burdens due to historic levels of inflation. We've seen other states offer some form of tax relief or tax refunds – we have the budget capacity to provide relief and should be having that conversation in Washington.
Address our state's drug crisis. Washington is experiencing a drug crisis that has touched nearly every family in some capacity. In 2021, the Washington Supreme Court surprised many of us with a ruling decriminalizing simple drug possession. The Legislature then passed a temporary fix to make possession of hard drugs a misdemeanor, but only after three unenforceable treatment diversions. In July of this year, the penalty is scheduled to reduce to a civil infraction – the equivalent of a parking ticket – absent new legislative action. We support compassionate solutions that maintain accountability. We also know jail usually isn't the solution for those struggling with addiction. To that end, we will seek capital budget dollars this year to fund a recovery center in the Tri-Cities that can serve the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla areas.
Additionally, during this 105-day session, lawmakers will develop three state budgets for the 2023-25 biennium – operating, transportation, and capital. We'll be working to ensure those three budgets reflect the needs and priorities of the 16th district.
As always, we strive to work collaboratively to develop real solutions to our state's many problems. We are here to serve you, and we welcome your thoughts as we work to improve the lives of our residents. Please stay connected using the contact information below.
As always, it is an honor to represent you in the Legislature. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.
Editor's note: Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, and Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla, serve the 16th Legislative District.