Even with larger Democratic majorities in Washington's Legislature, lawmakers' priorities should remain largely the same. That means fixing remaining school-funding issues and addressing the state's mental-health crisis.
Early election returns suggest the state Capitol will turn a shade bluer, but Washington lawmakers’ top priorities for next year should remain largely unchanged.
Their primary aims must include shoring up the state’s mental-health system — including fixing Western State Hospital, which recently lost $53 million in annual funding after failing yet another federal inspection.
And lawmakers must finally start following the state’s Public Records Act, instead of continuing to try to evade it.
Legislators also must continue working to ensure the state’s new K-12 school-finance model operates as intended. To that end, they must correct their failure to adequately fund special education, an oversight that continues to hurt school districts throughout the state.
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Not all of this work will be especially exciting. However, resolving these issues will help ensure the well-being of some of Washington state’s most vulnerable well into the future.
Even with their larger majorities, Democratic leaders will still need to work across the aisle with minority Republicans. They’ll need Republican votes, for instance, to make changes to Initiative 940, a police-accountability measure that passed easily Tuesday night.
The initiative removes language in Washington law that makes it nearly impossible to hold police criminally liable when they misuse deadly force. This is a much-needed change. Yet earlier this year, legislators, police groups and the initiative sponsors agreed to some improvements to the measure that were later struck down by the state Supreme Court. Enacting those agreed-upon changes with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature will help ensure the success of the new police-accountability law.
These are important issues that deserve the Legislature’s full attention next year. Democratic leaders should ensure they use their increased power at the state Capitol to focus on these and other pressing local matters — and not just to voice their displeasure with the president and his policies coming out of Washington, D.C.