On Saturday, March 18, 2023, the 33rd Legislative District held its first “in-person” town hall meeting in three years at the LIUNA Labor Hall in Des Moines. All 33rd legislators were present: Representatives Tina Orwall and Mia Gregerson, and Senator Karen Keiser.
This is also the first in-person town hall since the redistricting in 2012/2022.
Several elected officials were introduced: those from Seatac, Burien, and Des Moines. Each legislator reported on current issues, proposals, and legislative progress on their specific committee bills.
Senator Keiser opened, reporting about her influence in succeeding in lowering the cost of insulin so those needing it are not paying more than $35.00 per prescription. It was unclear if this was modeled by President Trump’s 2020 executive order or specific to WA State.
Some of her accomplished objectives include:
- Health care for union workers on strike
- Passed bill to prevent female mutilation
- Temporary workers can qualify for six days of health care
Next, representative Tina Orwall spoke.
Like Senator Keiser, she laid out her legislative projects and successes to include the following:
- Creation of a “Dial 988” number (similar to 911) for mental health distress calls
- Consumer protection, “Predatory” contracting bill
- Increase mental health workers in public schools
Lastly, Representative Mia Gregerson, proud to be part of the color caucus and also on the budget committee, said all the funding sent to Washington State during covid had been spent. They want to compensate for this perceived deficit, specifically mentioning rental assistance.
Other bills and projects:
- Climate commitment act
- “Right to Repair” Bill
- Housing and Rental Bill- help for low income
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – WA to replace $93M/month lost in federal funding
All three legislators then discussed public safety. SB 5352 would update the police pursuit law RCW, 10.116.060https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=10.116.060. The current law was intended to save the lives of innocent bystanders by preventing unnecessary hot pursuits. However, the phrasing was confusing and has inadvertently tied the hands of local police regarding the pursuit of perpetrators. They said replacing the verbiage “probable cause” language with “reasonable cause,” per Senate Bill 5352 https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5352&Year=2023&Initiative=false, will give the police more flexibility while fighting crime.
Further public safety discussion included mental health, crisis treatment centers, Open Doors, SeaMar Health Clinics, systemic issues, and visual poverty. Crime has increased over the past ten years; however, no specific reasons were provided. Representative Orwall suggested “working with police” using “alternatives to force” for those in a mental health crisis. Representative Gregerson wants to humanize these issues, particularly noting that we need to invest in a workforce of black and brown people.
All three legislators spoke about HB 1333, which seeks to establish the Domestic Violence Extremism Commission. Although this bill did not have public support due to concerns about potentially targeting political opposition, all three legislators stated that this bill was NOT an attack on dissenting voices in Washington State. It was merely to counter perceived “misinformation and disinformation.”
This town hall forum ended in a Q&A with topics from the audience:
- Mental health
- Certifying more mental health providers and nurses
- Help for nurses with PTSD from covid
- Constitutional Amendment to support reproductive freedom (abortion)
- Vending machines available at colleges with the “Plan B” pill (ends pregnancy)
- Funding for lawsuits defending “reproductive rights,” especially those crossing state lines
- Increase salaries for long-term care workers
- More funds tied to students with special needs
- COVID lockdowns and mandates
- increase in drug abuse/fentanyl availability
When the three legislators began answering questions regarding their stance on the 2nd Amendment, there was a loud and vocal pushback. They are all interested in passing unambiguously unconstitutional legislation, based on their shared concerns about “increases in gun violence,” but no statistics were cited. They mentioned an assault weapon ban, yet never explained what constitutes an assault weapon. Senator Keiser commented that not everyone should own a tactical gun.
Lastly, all three legislators mentioned the airport as a disruptor. Based on a past commission proposal, they have sought other possible locations but have yet to be successful. Regardless, they are hiring another commission to look into alternative sites for an airport.
For me, this meeting served as a wake-up call to all taxpayers and their families in the 33rd legislative district on why it is so important to be vigilant and participate in local government on some level: in public schools, cities, municipalities and/or counties. We’ve mistakenly left our civic duty to those who may or may not represent us.
Best of all, by attending town hall meetings, you’ll meet your neighbors, build community, perhaps run for office, and, by the grace of God, impact meaningful change that genuinely represents “We the People.”