Dear friends and neighbors,

Statewide, we have a serious teacher shortage. School districts are struggling to attract teachers to the profession and retain them once they are hired. Some districts have started the year with as many as 30 classroom vacancies. They’ve resorted to filling these holes with principals and scarce, long-term substitute teachers, but even after these stop gaps are in place, many classrooms remain without permanent teachers.

That’s why I’ve sponsored legislation that would explore implementing a 12-month paid maternity/paternity leave for teachers. The study would be conducted by an in-house research group at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

I’ve heard from school boards in our district that we need to do a better job attracting young professionals from around the nation to teach in Washington. Study after study shows that young workers are looking for a better work-life balance. To be a state that is recognized nationally by new teachers, we’ll have to think outside the box and beyond simply increasing compensation. This study will examine a proposal that many large private sector employers are starting to make and I strongly believe Washington should be on the leading edge of attracting young talented workers.

Promoting civic engagement and helping local small businesses

Oftentimes, the best ideas for legislation come from constituents. This year, Joe Grez, the president of PropEle Electric Boat Motors and resident of the 5th district, inspired legislation (SB 6120) to allow people to use low-power electric boat motors without having to go through the hassle of registering their vessels.

I hear from many people that government is unresponsive, but I want people in our community to know that if they have a good idea, I’ll listen and we’ll work together on a solution. When I saw the opportunity to help a local small business and increase recreational opportunities, I jumped. Joe sent me an email in April, we drafted and submitted legislation, and just this week the bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Last legislative session, I was able to secure funding for another idea that came from members of our community — a program to collect and recycle fishing line at local fishing spots.

If you or someone you know has an idea for a law, please feel free to contact me. I would love to hear from you.