What issues Spokane lawmakers hope to tackle this 2022 legislative session

SPOKANE, Wash – The 2022 legislative session begins Monday, the second session in a pandemic.

Because of COVID-19 and the rise of Omicron cases, many lawmakers will work remotely. A limited number of legislators will be allowed on the floor this year, and they’ll be required to take COVID-19 tests before coming in. Only vaccinated House members will be allowed on the floor, whereas the Senate is requiring a negative COVID-19 test walking in.

While many people, including lawmakers, want to put the pandemic behind them, Spokane Representative Marcus Riccelli says it’s still important to have the precautions in place so they can continue work.

“We want to ensure we do things in a safe and transparent way, and I think that we’re committed to doing the work of the people,” Riccelli said.

Spokane Rep. Jenny Graham feels doing legislative work over a computer isn’t the same.

“That is the one thing I miss, though, is being at the Capitol. Because we don’t have the ability to interact closely. The people are also prevented from going to the Capitol,” Graham said.

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Remote testimonies are allowed. Riccelli feels it has been helpful, especially for people in Spokane who might not be able to make it over to Olympia. People will be able to testify on bills again this session.

Hundreds of bills have already been pre-filed.

Riccelli is sponsoring one regarding staffing in hospitals. He wants to limit the number of patients health care workers have, as well as address overtime, breaks and how it will all be enforced.

“I think our nurses are overwhelmingly being pushed to the brink. There’s burnout. We’re losing folks in that profession. We need to make sure they have adequate staffing levels that are safe for patients and to allow them to do the job they want to do,” he said.

In addition to that bill, Riccelli says he’s continuing his work to expand telehealth with another representative. He’s also pre-filed a bill to allow legislative staff to unionize.

“They deserve the right to collectively bargain like so many other public and private sectors do,” Riccelli said.

As for Graham, she wants to amend bill House Bill 1584, wanting to call it Lilly’s Law after the 5-year-old whose mother, Kassie, was stabbed to death last spring during a domestic violence incident in Spokane. Lilly was stabbed and seriously hurt but survived the attack.

“We don’t do enough in this state to help crime victims and their families. This would be for the crime victim or the immediate family, to be able to look into and see if they qualified for it,” she said.

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Graham also wants to help improve driver’s education in relation to traffic stops, wanting to avoid hostile confrontations.

She wants driver’s education to include information about what to do if a person were to be pulled over by the police.

Included in the hundreds of bills already pre-filed, several legislators are hoping to address the housing crisis issue.

“It’s clear we need to invest significantly more dollars into affordable housing projects,” said Riccelli.

On the housing front, Graham feels there should be more collaboration between city and state officials.

“I don’t feel like we communicate enough on these particular issues so we can take a look at what resources we have,” Graham said.

The 60-day 2022 legislative session begins on Monday. To see what Washington lawmakers are already proposing this year, click here.

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