12th District Reps. Keith Goehner and Mike Steele held a virtual town meeting to reflect on which bills advanced or died in House committee Thursday.
Voters who live in Chelan County, or parts of Douglas County, Snohomish County and King County, were able to participate.
This year, lawmakers are tasked with crafting the two-year budget with approximately $70 billion in spending.
Steele shared that the House of Representatives will release their budget shortly after the Senate releases their budget on Monday.
Wenatchee resident Lori Nitchals and East Wenatchee resident Jaime Krish of Sunnyslope Church asked representatives where they were in securing health coverage for undocumented residents.
“I saw that the lack of access to affordable medical care was taking its toll on individuals and families who are in our undocumented community,” Krish said. “I was personally aware of families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 because they didn’t have access to health care and they didn’t want to burden their families with huge medical bills.”
Steele said they won’t find another lawmaker more committed to access to health care than he and his colleague, with Goehner adding that the topic of immigration is complex.
“As we address the whole immigration issue, we need to have a serious conversation about how we fund, [and] to what degree,” Goehner said. “I know some people would say that everybody should be covered, and yet we know that it’s the private carriers that take the brunt of the financial responsibility for those who don’t able to pay.”
Some residents wanted an update regarding HB 1333, a bill discussing civil liberties and government overreach. Goehner responded that it died in committee.
Concerning car chase billBoth Steele and Goehner believe that this bill, while not restoring the previous vehicle enforcement policy, restores some authority back to law enforcement.
“Understand that law enforcement only uses this tool in the most serious circumstances and they will withdraw when it is not appropriate to pursue,” Steele said. “We have to give them the flexibility to make that judgment in the moment.”
Goehner shared that the restriction on car chases has resulted in an increase in crime.
“We have countless stories from law enforcement saying people just drove off and they had no right to pursue them,” Goehner said. “Unfortunately, we have had stories and anecdotal information, [saying] who were not pursued or apprehended, they continued to offend in another way.”
When asked about the Blake case, in which the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the drug possession law was unconstitutional, representatives said the decision created a ripple effect for law enforcement.
“What we’re finding is that fewer people are willing to go the drug court route,” Goehner said. “It’s a lose-lose in that they don’t get the help they need because the punishment isn’t that big, so they just want to continue in the lifestyle they’ve been in, and that’s not good for them and it is not good for society.”
Although both lawmakers support increased funding for special education, Steele said the initiative has struggled to be included in the final budget.
“It’s really sad to see these kids begging the legislature to fully fund what should be a fundamental priority for K-12 education,” Steele said. “We’re working on it, but we just can’t get the traction needed to get it over the hump and included in the final budget.”
On the discussion of housing issues, Goehner says there are a few bills moving out of committee that could be radical in their methods to increase housing affordability.
“Three bills that come to mind is the party-splitting bill that allows you to subdivide your lot, and that passed out of the House,” Goehner said. “We also had another bill that would allow for ADUs, accessory dwelling units, in urban growth areas that also passed. Then we had another bill that basically did away with single-family zoning.”
Goehner clarified that all proposals will be managed through the Growth Management Act, to ensure that they do not create more of a problem than what is currently there.
“I think it’s really important that we take a good look at what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and make sure we’re not overloading [or] creates more of a problem than what already exists,” Goehner said.
The 2023 legislative session ends on April 23, 2023.