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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As we step into 2024, I want to extend my warmest wishes for a fantastic year ahead for our region and all fellow Washingtonians. The much-anticipated 2024 session has kicked off, and I’m excited to be back in Olympia, working diligently for the communities and people of the 13th District, representing your values, and championing the causes that matter most to you.

The New Year brings a renewed sense of energy, setting the stage for a brighter tomorrow. Reflecting on the challenges we faced in the past year; I am continually inspired by the strength demonstrated by our district and state. Together, we have overcome obstacles, showing that our collective efforts can truly make a difference.

Ready, set, go! Your impact on Olympia

The 2024 session will be a short one, starting today, Monday, Jan. 8, and concluding on Thursday, March 7. In the weeks to come, I’ll keep you updated on the work I’m doing in Olympia and share insights into the top policy debates and bills being deliberated. But before diving into these issues, I want to share ways you can affect the legislative process.

Your voice matters in shaping the future of our state!

If you’re looking to learn more about how you can get involved in the legislative process, click here. A fantastic way to start is by subscribing to “The Week Ahead,” a list of bills identified by House Republican Caucus staff for their potential impact. Follow this link to access the latest issue, and on the far right-hand side, you can sign up to receive it every Friday throughout the session.

Here are a few other resources:

  • My legislative website: You will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
  • TVW: The state’s version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
  • The Ledger: A legislative news aggregator that is updated frequently.
  • Capitol Buzz: Sent out each weekday, featuring stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.

In the coming weeks, I’ll provide links and resources for you to make your voice heard in the state capital in every update. However, one of the most effective ways is simply to pick up the phone and call my office or send me an email. Your opinions, comments, and thoughts guide my decision-making in Olympia, and I’m always grateful to hear from you. Click here for my contact information. Let’s make this year one of positive change by working together!

And now, let’s dig into some of the big debates that will be taking place in the weeks to come.

Fueling frustration: Washington’s farmers face more challenges

In recent years in Olympia, we have witnessed relentless attacks on agriculture and an attitude that deems no amount of regulation sufficient. This year, farmers were confronted with an additional hurdle in the form of increased fuel costs due to the cap-and-trade program.

The surge in gasoline prices in our state can be attributed to the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) or the cap-and-trade program implemented on Jan. 1, 2023. Although this program affects fuel costs for everyone, its repercussions are felt significantly by the agricultural community. During discussions in Olympia, concerns were raised, including by myself, about the potential challenges faced by the agricultural industry due to the cap-and-trade program, particularly in managing the increased fuel expenses. Reassurances were given during these discussions that an exemption would be established to safeguard the interests of the agricultural community. Unfortunately, this exemption has not yet materialized.

In 2023, efforts were made to make the agricultural industry whole on this issue with the introduction of House Bill 1780. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t successfully pass through the legislative process. Despite this setback, there’s hope, as the bill is still in play and could be approved during the 2024 session. Rest assured, my commitment remains steadfast in supporting this vital measure to ensure our farmers receive the relief they rightfully deserve! In the weeks to come, I will keep you updated on this bill and others affecting our farming community.

House Bill 2040 puts Washington’s motorists first with $180 rebates

Speaking of frustration, let’s continue our discussion on gas prices, a topic I addressed in my September update. This year, the carbon auctions under the cap-and-trade program generated a staggering $1.3 billion, triple the initial projection. It’s crucial to grasp that this amount is funded by us and our families through elevated fuel costs. The higher prices at the pump have also resulted in an uptick in the cost of other necessities, such as groceries.

Washingtonians need relief! A promising solution on the horizon is House Bill 2040, known as The Carbon Auction Rebate (CAR) program. This newly introduced bill would give a $180 rebate check to the 6.8 million registered vehicle owners in the state, with the potential for a $360 rebate for a two-car family starting in July 2024. The measure does not interfere with previous investments made by the Legislature using cap-and-trade revenue. Its primary aim is to return funds to the pockets of Washington motorists and families grappling with the high cost of fuel. Other proposals will also be considered for overhauling the cap-and-trade program. In the coming weeks, I will provide information on bills that seek to reform or eliminate the program altogether.

Improving student performance and expanding child care access

The academic situation for K-12 students is worrisome. About 70% of students are not meeting standardized math requirements, and 50% are facing difficulties in reading. The Legislature needs to do something about the learning problems caused by the long school closures in Washington. Another concern is there is not enough local childcare available. Our state is the 9th most expensive in the nation for infant care, and 63% of kids under five don’t have access to local child care.

Read more K-12 education facts here.

To tackle these issues, I am committed to pushing for more funding for tutors and paraeducators. This support is meant to help students do better in both math and reading due to COVID-19 learning loss. Additionally, I’m working with my fellow lawmakers to figure out ways to give stabilization grants to childcare providers. This support will help them keep their services going and might even lead to more local childcare centers, making it easier for families in our communities to find childcare. Stay tuned! I’ll be sharing more on these topics in the coming weeks.

Tackling rising crime rates

Crime rates are surging, and many neighborhoods no longer feel safe. Alarmingly, Washington holds the unfortunate distinction of ranking 1st in the nation for retail theft, 2nd for overall property crime, and 2nd for automobile thefts. Worse yet, 2023 saw a record number of violent crimes, with a significant increase in homicides. Adding to these concerns, our state consistently ranks last in the nation for police officers per capita.

Read more about crime statistics in Washington.

In response to these problems, I am wholeheartedly dedicated to supporting commonsense solutions. That means advocating for recruiting efforts to bring in additional police officers, and, critically, reinstating vehicular pursuit for law enforcement. Look for updates in the coming weeks from me on bills that do just that. We must enable law enforcement to apprehend criminals and effectively prevent crime!

Addressing homelessness, mental health, and the drug crisis

Despite a substantial increase in funding, our state is suffering from an escalating homelessness and drug crisis. Recently, it came to light that a staggering $143 million was spent to move just 126 people out of homelessness. Clearly, this is not effective policy.

Adding to that concern, Washington now holds the 4th highest homelessness rate in the nation and has experienced the largest surge in drug overdose deaths in our state’s history over the past year. To compound matters, our mental health system ranks 32nd in the nation, despite having one of the highest rates of mental illness amongst our population.

Despite significant financial investments over the years, the outcomes have been underwhelming. That’s why I fully support enhancing accountability for spending on homelessness. It’s straightforward: effective policies yield positive results. Before directing millions toward new programs, we need assurance they are worthwhile investments for the public.

Additionally, I plan to continue to support the ongoing expansion of our state’s investments in mental health treatment programs. However, this effort should be accompanied by a focus on community safety, including the removal of encampments near sensitive areas like schools and parks. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing more on how we can address these priority policy areas.

Thank you!

In my next update, I’ll talk about the first few days of the session, the governor’s State of the State speech, and give you more insights into the bills we’re looking at in Olympia. Thank you so much for trusting, engaging, and advocating with me.

Let’s keep working together to make a positive impact on our amazing state!

Sincerely,


Alex Ybarra

State Representative Alex Ybarra, 13th Legislative District
RepresentativeAlexYbarra.com
470 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
alex.ybarra@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7808 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000