Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you are settling into fall after a summer filled with fun and relaxation. I wanted to check in for a quick update on what I have been working on for next session before the busy holiday season sets in.
You’re Invited: Highway 3 Freight Corridor (Belfair Bypass) Town Hall
First, I want to remind folks interested in the Highway 3 Freight Corridor (Belfair Bypass) project about our upcoming town hall event.
With construction set to begin soon on this long-awaited project and fresh funding secured in our most recent budget, we want to provide an update on the timeline and project details. I hope you can join Rep. Travis Couture, Sen. Drew MacEwen, and me this Thursday, Nov. 9, at 6 p.m. as we host a Belfair Bypass town hall along with officials from the Washington State Department of Transportation who will provide updated maps and timelines and take questions about the project and its impact to traffic through Belfair.
Recently, I met with law enforcement, local elected officials, and community members in Mason County who have been struggling to protect their property. Specifically, they shared how challenging it can be to remove squatters camped within their boundaries under Washington law. I am working with all stakeholders on legislation to help protect Washington property owners and provide clarity to law enforcement on what they can do to assist property owners and when.
Public Safety, Low/No Bail
I continue to have serious concerns about public safety. Among my top concerns is the growing issue of judges releasing dangerous suspects on low or no bail. It is a concern I highlighted during the last legislative session. Unfortunately, the problem has only worsened since then. Suspects are presumed innocent, and there are constitutional rights that must be met, but judges have the discretion to hold someone on reasonable bail when they deem them a flight risk or a danger to the community. Unfortunately, we see many judges deciding to give unreasonably low bail or no bail in cases involving repeat offenders or those the judges acknowledge in court records pose a risk to society. That must change. I am working on legislation for the upcoming legislative session that clarifies minimum bail levels for certain violent offenses, repeat offenders, and those deemed a risk to the community. We must demand elected judges do their part to reasonably keep the public safe.
The most recent capital budget included $1.3 million in funding to begin designing the new Mason County Jail expansion. The much-needed upgrade will be a significant victory when completed, but it is not all about building a new jail. We hope to create a jail that includes treatment for those struggling with addiction, 23- hour crisis centers for those with mental health issues, and wrap-around services, among other benefits, to become the model for the state.
Over the summer, I was pleased to join my seatmates Rep. Couture and Sen. Drew MacEwen, along with local officials and members of the Squaxin Tribe, as we broke ground on the final phase of the Oakland Bay Restoration Project. We have all worked together for more than a decade to secure the funding to finish this project. With the help of Rep. Couture’s position on the House Capital Budget Committee, were able to get the final $5.3 million needed this last session.
The funding will complete the final phase of the West Bay Conservation and Restoration Project removing nearly a quarter mile of bulkhead and enhancing 17 acres of salt marsh to promote growth of intertidal vegetation. The project will help restore the estuary’s natural habitat and significantly boost recovery efforts for coho, chinook and chum salmon.
WA House Speaker District Visit
Washington House Speaker Laurie Jinkins recently joined Travis and me to tour the Sierra Pacific Industries sawmill in Shelton earlier this month. This was an important opportunity to highlight the 35th District’s long and storied history with the logging and lumber industry. It also provided a chance to highlight the important work SPI does for the community, the 300+ jobs it creates, and the ease with which the company has shifted its operations to run with processes that prioritize the environment and sustainability. The speaker must understand the issues and industries that matter to those of us in the 35th District, as she has the ultimate say on whether a bill comes to the floor for a vote.
Thank you for taking the time to read through my November email update.
As always, please reach out to me directly here with your questions, issues, and ideas.