RENTON – The issues of housing affordability, homelessness and mental health care will receive intensified scrutiny in the 2019 Washington State Legislature.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday adopted a structure that includes two new committees that prioritize these areas – the Housing Stability & Affordability Committee chaired by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) and a Behavioral Health Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond).
“I’ve heard from people across the state, and these two issues consistently rise to the top,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane). “Every community, and really every family, has in some way been touched by a mental health crisis and the intersection between that issue and our state’s housing and homelessness crisis is clear as glass. The creation of these new committees will enable us to intensify our efforts to create solutions in these areas while providing Washingtonians more opportunity to articulate their needs.”
The Senate is also restructuring environmental oversight by creating a committee whose primary focus is environmental health through improved water quality, oil spill prevention and other measures to protect our state’s ecosystems. Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) will chair the new Senate Environment & Tourism Committee. As the name suggests, committee members will also work to boost our state’s tourism industry.
The Senate Energy, Climate and Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), and the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, chaired by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), are the existing environment-focused committees. These committees will address a variety of issues from climate change to telecommunications to water rights.
“The environmental health of our country and our state have reached a critical tipping point,” Billig said. “Washingtonians want and deserve action on this critical concern. It’s up to us to lead on this issue and accomplish what the other Washington can’t or won’t.”