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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Social distance legislating continues to keep tensions high in Olympia. With only a few members allowed on campus, effective communication has been difficult. For the past several weeks, I've been in front of my computer screen for long hours taking part in Zoom meetings, talking on the phone, and looking for ways to analyze legislation in what previously was done in face-to-face meetings. 

Although questions linger over the effectiveness of the virtual 2021 session, there have been some benefits. Online tools have made some aspects of citizen participation easier, including access to remote testimony, virtual committee hearings, and Zoom-supported town halls. 

Virtual Town Hall Meeting

With that in mind, along with my 19th District seatmate, Rep. Joel McEntire, I'll be hosting a Zoom Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, March 6 @ 4 p.m. 

We'll provide an update on the session, answer your questions, and discuss bills being debated in Olympia. Please consider joining us for what I hope will be a lively and engaging conversation. 

The conference can only accommodate the first 500 attendees, so register early by clicking here.

Session calendar | deadlines 

Along with my House colleagues, I'll be on the House floor for the next several days debating and voting on bills that survived last week's policy cutoff and this week's fiscal deadline. Policy and fiscal bills that did not make it out from their respective committees in the chamber, House or Senate, where they were introduced may be “dead” for the year. The only exception is for bills considered necessary to implement the budget. 

Softening criminality | House Bill 1499

The use of hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and others leads to physical and psychological addiction, and even death. House Bill 1499 would decriminalize low-level drug possession or personal use amounts of hard drugs—continuing Washington's alarming trend of softening towards crime and lawlessness.

The measure, sponsored by House Democrats, does not immediately specify what “personal use” versus distribution amounts would be—the latter still being subject to felony prosecution. While I applaud the portions of the bill looking to expand access to treatment facilities and other drug diversion programs, legalizing drugs will only lead to even higher levels of addiction, homelessness, and street crime in our state. 

Unfortunately, the bill passed out of the House Public Safety Committee over a week ago. It now sits in the Appropriations Committee, waiting for a vote. Let's hope it dies there. 

Students who willfully destroy property

While I appreciate the intent of House Bill 1176, I think it's important young people who willfully damage or destroy property be held responsible for their actions. This bill seeks to remove that accountability. The Democratic-sponsored measure would remove certain penalties for students who willfully damage school property, or the property of teachers, staff, and other students.

During the committee hearing, I offered an amendment that would allow schools to withhold a transcript when a student deliberately destroyed property; until that student had paid for the damage or worked out a community service plan as recompense, the penalty would remain. Unfortunately, this commonsense amendment was rejected by the majority party.

The bill was approved in committee and now awaits a vote on the House floor. Watch my speech on this bill here.

Open carry, “assault” weapons, and high-capacity magazines

House Bill 1283 was originally deemed the first step to banning open carry. However, since its introduction, the bill has been amended and changed substantially. The amendments expand categories of persons excluded from the bill to cover those hunting or taking part in target practice, and activities on their own property. The measure currently sits in the Rules Committee, where it awaits a date for debate and decision on the House floor. 

The attorney general requested House Bill 1229, and its companion, Senate Bill 5217. The proposal calls for a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” It would stop the manufacture, transfer, import, purchase, or sale of many rifles used in sporting, hunting, and rifle clubs. Thankfully, neither bill received a public hearing, and both are likely “dead” for the session. 

A high-capacity magazine measure, House Bill 1164, was another request bill by the attorney general. It seeks to limit magazines to 10 rounds. Although the House measure appears dead for the session, the Senate version, Senate Bill 5078, continues to advance through the legislative process. It's likely that it will soon come to the Senate floor for a vote.

Limiting the governor's powers during an emergency

In the history of our state and nation, we've never gone through a period of time in which governors, mayors, county executives, and others have welded such a high degree of authority and power. That authority has affected every aspect of our daily lives, including how we work, live, shop—and even the way we breathe. 

In Washington state, most of the covid-related restrictions were imposed without legislative oversight in the decision-making process. Throughout the past several months, the transparency of the legislative process in which we have committee hearings, people weigh-in by testifying or meeting with lawmakers, and then ultimately floor debate and a vote, has been replaced by the orders of one office: the governor. 

That's why it's deeply disappointing that my bill, House Bill 1029, which sought to put some bumpers on the governor's seemingly endless powers during an emergency, is likely dead for the session. Watch my speech on this bill here.

Staying involved in your state government

As a reminder, you can visit my website here or listen to my radio interviews here. You can watch all committee and floor action on TVW here. And you can learn more about how you can stay involved in this remote legislative session here.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the state House of Representatives. My office is here to help.


Jim Walsh

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 485-0547 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000