44th District Representatives talk judicial support, housing and pandemic recovery in Town Hall
OLYMPIA, Wash., February 18, 2022 – Senator John Lovick along with Representatives April Berg and Brandy Donaghy of the 44th Legislative District, gathered together, February 16, for a virtual town hall streamed on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, to share updates on the 2022 legislative session and answer public questions.
“We have got some amazing things planned for transportation, as well education, housing, climate, and health care. I am excited to do this town hall tonight so that we can tell you some of the amazing things we have going on in Olympia, serving you, in the people’s house,” Rep. Berg said in her opening remarks.
Sen. Lovick began by announcing the passing of the new $16 billion transportation package, which passed February 15. Later in the town hall a resident asked how these, newly approved, transportation funds would benefit Snohomish County.
While Lovick mentioned the package is extensive and there wasn’t enough time to go over every project, he noted that $1.8 billion will go to replacing the westbound Hewitt Avenue trestle with $210 million going toward its design, $6 million will go to pedestrian safety in Snohomish County and $10 million will go toward transit.
Rep. Donaghy added that the package is “atypical” because it will not add a gas tax and there is a big influence on the environment, using the fish culverts as an example.
Representative Berg answered a public question concerning what has been going on, this legislative session, to move schools to more green approaches. Berg responded that although steps are being made, such as moving new schools to LED lighting, the best approach is to support HB1226 – encouraging investment in and reducing the costs of transitioning to the clean energy future.
A resident asked each legislator what their priorities are through this legislative session. Sen. Lovick began by sharing that his priorities are, and have always been, “good, safe schools, good safe roads, and jobs with benefits.”
Rep. Berg’s priorities have been “laser focused on jobs, jobs, jobs”, advocating for the recovery of the economy from the pandemic, as well as education.
Rep. Donaghy said that she shared many of the priorities of her housemates but added priority on the housing crises.
Rep. Donaghy explained that those experiencing homeless most likely have a history of not being treated well by the government leading to a distrust, so “it’s a complicated issue.”
Sen. Lovick added that the county is doing their share in providing resources through Compass Health’s resource center in Everett to old hotels being purchased for homeless shelters.
In response to a public question concerning the two new judges in Snohomish County, Lovick told the story of how Judge Millie Judge approached him with the concern that the county is severely lacking in judges compared to other counties in the area.
There is almost 830,000 people in Snohomish County and 15 judges; that’s one judge for every 55,000 people in Snohomish County. King County, by comparison, has 55 judges per every 35,000 people. Pierce County has 23, one for every 39,000 people.
“It’s going to help with the backlog and help us access justice,” Lovick said. “We’re probably denying a lot of justice in our county. This is the heart of our civic engagement, by providing two new judges, this is going to allow more people justice.”
To learn more about Sen. Lovick’s bill on adding additional superior court judges in Snohomish county, click here.
An Everett resident asked what is happening in education, particularly with children struggling during the pandemic. Rep. Donaghy took the question to talk about her bill for paraeducators, HB1942, which has passed the house and is in the senate.
Rep. Berg brought up HB1638, concerning a public question on “surprise hospital bills”, and Sen. Lovick agreed that this is a concerning issue citing a recent “surprise” bill he was stuck with for $680 after receiving a COVID test, a cost he presumed would be covered by his insurance company.
A discussion was prompted surrounding planning for emergencies, after a public question asked if the House is doing anything to prepare for future events similar to the pandemic, mudslides, or the eventual eruption of Mount Rainier.
Sen. Lovick mentioned the Pandemic Response Task Force, which he hopes to add more energy and money into to plan for future emergencies.
Rep. Donaghy added that environment consciousness also plays a big factor in preparing for emergencies, adding that being conscious of where we choose to cut down trees and build plays a big part in preventing issues like flooding and mudslides.
In response to a public question asking when the state will lift COVID restrictions and return to normal, Sen. Lovick and Rep. Berg shared the same sentiments: that they trust the governor and it “all comes down to science.”
Closing out the Q&A segment with the public, Mill Creek City Councilwoman, Stephanie Vignal, who was in attendance at the virtual town hall, asked what steps are being made to clarify the ambiguities with the state’s new police reform laws regarding use of force.
Sen. Lovick noted that he has spoken to his community members and police departments, taken notes, and has taken their consideration in introducing some updates to the bills HB1310 and HB1054 that he hopes will add clarity to the previous bills’ expressed ambiguities. “We can’t all agree on everything but what we need to agree on is community safety needs to be our number one priority,” Lovick said.