The Washington legislature opened its 2019 session today [Monday].
In the House, Seattle Democrat Frank Chopp was chosen for the final time as Speaker of the body. He’s held that position since 1999, but plans to make this his final year in leadership.
In a sometimes emotional speech after his swearing in as Speaker, Chopp read a long list of accomplishments. They include what he calls the “historic investments and reforms in basic education” made by the legislature last year.
This year, he says, challenged lawmakers to make improvements in the state’s mental health system.
“If you have a heart attack, you expect to have doctors, nurses and hospitals to be there to care for you. But if you have a behavioral health emergency, you will face a shortage, a shortage of health care providers. Meanwhile, Western State Hospital has been decertified. And if you’re homeless because of your health condition and you have nowhere to go, the answer is that’s just the way it is. This must change," Chopp said to applause.
Chopp urged lawmakers from both parties, from urban and rural districts, to work together to solve problems of mental health, homelessness and affordable housing.
That tone of cooperation was echoed by the House Republican leader, Rep. J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm). He urged the majority Democrats to take his members and their ideas seriously.
“We know that your party and your caucus is going to win any vote on a bill that they want to bring to the floor. But that doesn’t mean that, in the minority, you don’t have serious responsibilities. You took their votes, you took the peoples’ votes, after all, and you are collecting a salary so that means you have to be very serious about the things you’re going to do,” Wilcox said.
Tomorrow [Tuesday], Governor Jay Inslee will give his State of the State address in front of a joint session of the legislature.