Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's not an exaggeration to say that pandemic has changed nearly every part of our daily lives. It's even challenged what we think about government, freedom, and individual rights. But despite it all, I've found what's important still stands: We are a people that value liberty and each other.
In recent weeks we've seen both Democrats and Republicans push back on the governor's “Roadmap to Recovery” plan, as they should. I'm glad to see that he recently announced five new regions—including our own—can now progress to Phase 2 of the “Healthy Washington” reopening plan, starting this week. In Phase 2, restaurants can open indoor dining at 25% capacity, same for fitness centers indoors. Sports competitions may also resume in Phase 2 with limited spectators. Wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their capacities from current limits as well. This is good news for our region and the state. It's time to open up more of Washington.
Better bills for a better Washington
I'm excited to introduce you to a couple of bills that I'm supporting through the legislative process. One involves rural broadband and the other health care. Both of these commonsense solutions do what good legislation should, they transcend party division by simply doing what's best for all of Washington.
Rural broadband | House Bill 1263
First, let's talk about rural broadband. More than any previous generation, we've been forced to reimagine communication. Because of the pandemic, we communicate with each other with fewer face-to-face interactions. Online tools that enable individuals to meet virtually have become normal in our day-to-day lives. Just a few short months ago many of us had never even heard of Zoom, but now it's used routinely in homes, offices, and classrooms.
In the COVID-era, using these online tools has brought new light to an old problem. Rural residents are getting left behind because they can't reliably access educational services, health care, business opportunities, and government agencies. In fact, residents that live outside of urban areas are often the least likely to have access to high-speed internet service in our state. This lack not only affects students engaging in remote learning or workers communicating online, but the economic vitality and growth of many communities.
That's why I'm backing an effort to enhance the private sector's expansion of rural broadband. House Bill 1263 jumps many of the hurdles to providing broadband services to rural residents. The proposal seeks to provide a grant-based mechanism for investing in the infrastructure necessary for reliable internet services in rural areas. It would also help fill some funding gaps for school districts that cannot afford to expand their connectivity to existing services.
My healthcare bill | House Bill 1427
If you need a prosthetic device or orthotic service because of a disability, surgery, or accident, cost should not prevent you from getting the help you need. That's why I've sponsored a bipartisan effort to change the reimbursement rate for prosthetic and orthotic health care benefits.
House Bill 1427, co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Lauren Davis from 32nd District, would make the state-regulated individual and group health plans benefit rate equivalent to Medicare for all prosthetic and orthotic services and devices. This simple adjustment could potentially help thousands of Washingtonians.
Bipartisan | 10th District letter sent the governor
Because our state continues to battle both a public health and economic crisis, lawmakers need to be laser-focused on supporting families, small businesses, and communities.
That's why I recently co-authored a letter, along with my 10th District seatmates, Sen. Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, and Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, regarding the governor's “Roadmap to Recovery.” In it, we share our concerns about how the plan affects the communities we represent. Some topics covered include vaccination allocations and administration, inequities in economic recovery, and the metrics used to move up in the governor's phased approach.
To learn more, click here.
Watch my recent legislative video update below. In it, I not only share an update on my activities at the Legislature, but the bipartisan letter noted above.
Data breach | Washington State Auditor's Office
The Washington State Auditor's Office has exposed the personal information of upwards of 1.6 million Washingtonian residents who filed for unemployment last year, as well as other information from state agencies and local governments.
If you are one people affected by this, there are some links to information and resources that can help:
- Office of Financial Management | State Auditor's Office data security incident
- Office of Attorney General | Identity theft/privacy
- Federal Trade Commission | Identity theft
- TVW webcast of Auditor McCarthy's conversation with journalists on February 1, 2021
- About the Accellion data security breach | What you need to know
- Office of the Washington State Auditor
I encourage you to get involved in the legislative process. If you need assistance, call, write or email my office. My contact information can be found below.
In your service,