Every year lawmakers approach the upcoming legislative session with optimism for the work ahead. But it may be a series of six statewide initiatives that define how lawmakers act in the upcoming 2024 Washington State Legislative Session. That appeared to be the theme from the State’s top lawmakers gathered in Spokane for Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Annual Legislative Summit. Top lawmakers from both sides of the aisle outlined their goals and concerns for the upcoming session.
Leading the discussion, Spokane’s own Senator Andy Billig (D). The Senate Majority Leader discussed how a series of conservative led initiatives threatens to unravel a decade of advancements by lawmakers in our state. For example, Sen. Billig defended the recent Climate Change tax on gasoline saying he’s concerned about the impact a state initiative on rolling back gas taxes would have on transportation projects. “We are in the final stages of competing the North-South Freeway,” said Billig. “Cutting these funds threatens the entire transportation budget and will force the Department to start over from scratch on allocating funds.”
While Senator Shelly Short (R) Addy, believes lawmakers did not accurately gauge the impact this tax would have on the price of gasoline. A position echoed by Representative Tim Stokesbury (R) who said “we cannot add $1 to $1.50 of gas. It places too much of a burden on all our citizens, but especially on those more vulnerable.”
Aside from conversations about the upcoming Initiatives, lawmakers outlined their own personal goals for the 2024 session. Everyone agreed that Housing must be a top priority.
Sen Andy Billig (D) Spokane – Senate Majority Leader
Sen. Billig wants to focus on mental health issues in our state, child care, increasing incentives for workforce training, housing, and setting new policy on budget reserves. He also agreed to join with Senator Mike Padden (R) Spokane Valley, to help reform Washington state’s condo laws.
Sen Shelly Short (R) Addy – Senate Republican Floor Leader
Wants to focus on more housing opportunities, especially with multi-family and detached units (ADU), building codes. Believes we need to rethink how last year’s legislative actions may be working.
Rep. Monica Jurado Stonier (D) Vancouver – House majority Floor Leader
Wants to ensure the legislation already passed is having the intended impact, focus on increasing child care, more workforce assistance, and greater support for training.
Rep. Drew Stokesbury (R) Auburn – House Minority Leader
Also wants to provide more housing opportunities, hiring more police officers (says Washington if 50th in the nation for officers per family), cleaning up homelessness.
Converting Office Space to Residential Use
One additional note of importance, WA Representative Marcus Riccelli (D) Spokane, believes the time may be right to offer better state incentives to transform vacant downtown office spaces into housing opportunities. Look for legislation on this issue on the year ahead.
Lawmakers will be facing a tight calendar. 2024 will only be a 60-day session given that this is a non-budgeting year.