32nd District legislators discuss housing, climate, education and more during virtual town hall

L-R: Sen. Jesse Salomon, Rep. Lauren Davis.

Two legislators from the state’s 32nd District – Sen. Jesse Salomon and Rep. Lauren Davis –  hosted a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday to address four major issues:

– Housing affordability

– Climate change

– Education 

– Behavioral health

“These are statewide issues that affect just about every Washingtonian, and we need to make some substantial, lasting progress,” Salomon said. 

Housing affordability

Salomon said that he is working on a bill (SB 5901) with Rep. Mia Gregerson, who sponsored the companion bill HB 1998 in the House, that removes unnecessary barriers and promotes co-living residences. These homes offer sleeping units that are independently rented and provide living and sleeping space. Residents would share common areas, such as a kitchen. 

“It would open up a new housing market for retirees who want to live in a community together,” Salomon said. “Also for young people who might want to live on Capitol Hill or near exciting, vibrant communities but couldn’t otherwise afford it.”

Behavioral health

Davis said that about 6% of substance abusers in Washington are able to engage in treatment yet 80% to 90% of them want treatment. She acknowledged the importance of the recovery navigator program, which helps address the fentanyl crisis by bridging the gap between people who want to get substance abuse help and those who are actually receiving care. 

“The recovery navigator program also serves as a law enforcement assisted diversion for individuals who become entangled with our criminal legal system because of their untreated behavioral health challenge,” Davis said. “I was also excited to see a proviso that I had included in the House budget related to the rapid induction on methadone or Suboxone. Essentially, the idea of bringing patients who are acutely ill with severe opioid disorder into the hospital for short stays and stabilizing them quickly on medications and then being able to discharge them without any withdrawal symptoms.”

She added that the state Legislature has made and continues to make investments in support services, such as recovery housing, employment, education and peer support. Legislation has also supported investments in mobile vans that provide methadone treatments to hard-to-reach populations.

“I work closely with Sen. (Manka) Dhingra on legislation, and her bill is now before the house health care committee trying to make it easier for individuals to get into and stay in residential or inpatient addiction treatment,” Davis said. “There are a lot of insurance hurdles that are artificially erected, saying, ‘You know, you’ve been in jail for a week so you don’t qualify for inpatient anymore.’ That is now going to be prohibited under this legislation.”

Climate change

Washington’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) caps and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s largest emitting sources and businesses to meet state emission standards. While a few town hall attendees were concerned that the CCA may affect how much mid- to low-income residents spend on gasoline and utilities, Salomon said that the CCA may not be costing them money.

“Gas prices are coming down a lot, and it’s not necessarily driven by CCA,” he said. “It’s driven by a number of complex factors, but what we are recognizing that costs in general are just very high, and the Senate is trying to invest $150 million in rebates for low-income folks to pay for their energy bills. We also have a number of grant programs to help people with energy transition – moving toward geothermal or electric heating and away from fossil fuels. So it’s important that we don’t add cost to people who are struggling.”


Davis also addressed public education programs uch as school counseling and music programs that could be cut because of a lack of funding. During this legislative session, Davis said that lawmakers have been discussing ways to increase school district funding for MSOC (Materials, Supplies and Operating Costs). “This is the most flexible money that schools have and can use that at their discretion,” she said. “There’s also collective bargaining agreements, so funding our salaries and benefits for our teachers and school employees.”

“We’ve invested in something called the community eligibility provision,” Davis continued, “which is school meals so the entire school is allowed to have free meals in partnership with the federal government and a match of federal funding if there’s a certain percentage of students in a particular school who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.” 

However, Davis added that current state education funding is not adequate to meet the need, and legislators are partnering with school districts to figure out ways to avoid staff layoffs and cutting programs.

“We are losing enrollment, so one thing I’d like to see in our districts is to attract new families,” Salomon added. “Cost of housing is an issue that would help enrollment.” In addition the Legislature is looking at ways to increase paraeducator pay, he said.

Other topics addressed during the town hall include:

The unanimous passage last week  of HB 2311, which creates a Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) task force to look after first responders’ wellness and mental health.

Legislation that would change the current conditions set by state law regarding police vehicle pursuits. Lawmakers are looking at changing the standard for starting a vehicle pursuit from “probable cause” to “reasonable suspicion.”

Parental rights: Parents have the right to see medical information of children who are getting treated at school, to see their children’s grades and to opt out of sex education.

Removing the funding cap of 13.5% for special education

Citizens initiatives related to the capital gains tax, long-term care tax opt-out and the CCA initiatives, which will be the topic of public hearings in Olympia Feb. 27 and 28

Salomon said that capital gains funds are “investments” in early childhood education, working families tax credit and school construction. “If we do lose those revenue sources, it’s going to be a significant hit,” Salomon said. “Thirty-three hundred people in Washington state pay the capital gains tax, and almost everybody benefits from the result of that.”

One town hall attendee asked about a bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists proposed to be built across North 205th Street to connect the Shoreline part of the Interurban Trail with the Edmonds section. Salomon responded that he and Rep. Davis have been working on such a bridge on 145th Street, which has received a lot of state and federal support. 

“That [project] would be endangered if the CCA initiative passes because our funding source for a lot of those transportation investments is the Climate Commitment Act,” Salomon said. “So we need to finish that before we’re in position to look at additional ped bridges. It’s tough to get to the next bridge without knowing what our funding situation is.”

The 32nd Legislative District represents portions of Edmonds and Lynnwood, the town of Woodway and the city of Mountlake Terrace. 

To contact legislators, email Sen. Jesse Salomon at: Jesse.Salomon@leg.wa.gov and Rep. Lauren Davis at: Lauren.Davis@leg.wa.gov.

— By Nick Ng

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.