As the Legislature adjourned tonight and completed its work for the year, our hearts and minds are focused on the coronavirus outbreak and the health of our neighbors and friends. The governor’s office has set up a website with a wealth of information to address both the health and economic concerns people have about the coronavirus and the resulting quarantines. We will face challenges over the next several months. It’s important for you to know that our state has the best health experts in the country working on this, backed by the full support of the Legislature.

As the Senate’s primary budget writer, I’ve spent the last three months developing our state’s supplemental operating budget to make needed adjustments to the two-year budget adopted last year. It’s a balanced, responsible budget that addresses the coronavirus outbreak with $200 million in emergency funding. It includes more than $3 billion in total reserves to help protect our state’s finances in a very uncertain economy.

The new budget dedicates $160 million to help local governments with emergency homeless shelters and affordable housing, and shores up our public health system.

I’m proud that it also continues to invest in other challenges that we face together, with enhanced funding for wildfire prevention and suppression and $50 million to implement projects designed to help build climate resiliency. You can read more about the budget here and take a deep dive into the numbers here.

In addition to budget work, I also sponsored several key bills that passed the Legislature this year:

  • Senate Bill 6097 will help keep insurance premiums more stable and health care more affordable by allowing the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to consider an insurance carrier’s surplus money and profit margins when an insurer applies to raise its premiums.
  • Senate Bill 5601 creates greater transparency in health care by regulating benefits managers (the mysterious middlemen that health insurance companies contract to reduce costs) while also providing consumers recourse when they’re having trouble getting benefits to which they are entitled.
  • Senate Bill 5976 expands the successful children’s dental program known as ABCD so that developmentally disabled children can stay in the program until they are age 12. The bill is anticipated to result in more pediatric dentists being trained to provide services to this vulnerable population.
  • Senate Bill 6518 directs the state Department of Agriculture to adopt emergency rules addressing the chemical chlorpyrifos to protect people and the environment from exposure to dangerous levels of the pesticide in food residue and in our air and water.
  • Senate Bill 6613 will require aquatic farms operating in our state’s waters to pay for costs incurred by taxpayers for required enhanced inspections and compliance testing.

My team

Sen. Christine Rolfes, Legislative Assistant Haylee Anderson, Intern Sabrina Saenz, and Executive Assistant Linda Owens.

It takes a team to successfully complete a session down here in Olympia and I like to think I have the best. They work hard to represent our communities in Kitsap County and I’m proud of the results we deliver.