Most of this month’s 34th District Democrats meeting was devoted to a “town hall” Q&A event with our area’s state legislators – Sen. Joe Nguyen, Rep. Eileen Cody, and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. Rachel Glass and Jordan Crawley moderated the event Wednesday at The Hall at Fauntleroy. Here’s our video:
Ahead, our toplines from what was asked and how it was answered:
First, some self-introductions. Sen. Nguyen noted that it’s just been a year since he was elected, and congratulated those who emerged victorious in the recent election. Rep. Cody noted that she continues to chair the House Health Care Committee, while Rep. Fitzgibbon noted that he chairs the Environment and Energy Committee.
First question: Invasive species like ivy and holly are choking our forests – it’s being cleared on public land but “seed sources” continue on private land – he has a proposal for incentivizing cooperation in taking care of that.
Rep. Fitzgibbon agreed “our ecosystems are at risk from invasive species.” He said he believes “we need regulations AND incentives.” Another legislator has a bill to ban the sale of English Ivy is in the works, he added.
Second question: Taxes – what are the prospectives for less-regressive taxes, especially in the wake of 976? Sen. Nguyen said he didn’t see 976 as a referendum on transit so much as regressive taxation. A “tax structure workgroup” was set up last year, he said; also, he has a “wealth inequality” bill in the works. Rep. Cody noted they’ve been “pushing” capital-gains taxation for “some time.” Rep. Fitzgibbon elaborated on Nguyen’s bill – taxing “excessive executive compensation.” He thinks capital-gains taxation “is close.” He also mentioned the estate tax, “the most progressive tax we have in the state of Washington.” Federal cuts should be “recouped” at the state level, he suggested.
There were some followups about protection for middle-class retirees. Nguyen said there are “certain exemptions.”
Third question: Vehicle emissions – what’s happening and what are you going to do about it? Nguyen said the state’s trying to get tough and the feds are trying to stop that. “We did a lot of great things last year” moving toward it. Fitzgibbon was confident it would happen. He said he doesn’t have a car. He told an anecdote about Hyundai not selling certain electric cars in this state “because they’re not required to” but … “I think this is going to be one of the big bills we get passed in 2020.”
Fourth question: Car tabs and the depreciation schedule that played into 976. Nguyen, who’s on the Transportation Committee, said that goes back to regressive taxation too, but even if the formula had changed, he didn’t think it would have made that big of a difference. Cody noted that they never figured out how to make that change but cover the Sound Transit revenue loss. Fitzgibbon recalled there was a prospective solution but “Republicans killed it because they wanted to keep this issue alive.”
Fifth question: Directed to Fitzgibbon, thanking him for working on a clean-fuels bill. How can people help get it passed next year? He said it’s his top priority. (HB 1110) His answer: Identify other supporters of climate action, and have them keep their legislators’ feet to the fire, especially senators, since that’s who stalled the bill last year. “We’re the outlier in the West Coast; we haven’t passed this bill because the oil industry has their foot on it.”
Sixth question: The climate crisis – could the Legislature lead a public-awareness campaign? Rep. Fitzgibbon said he’s not sure they’re the “best messenger to the public” for that sort of campaign due to distrust of politicians – he would rather see direct action. Followup retort: Couldn’t the Legislature hire someone to organize a really great campaign? “We’ll have to look at that,” replied Fitzgibbon.
Seventh question: Universal health care. Cody answered first but wasn’t familiar with the specific proposal the attendee was asking about – it was before Congress, it turned out. But, she pointed out, they passed the “public option” last year. Nguyen then advocated for working on big 2020 election results to bring more “systemic changes.”
Eighth question: If the Supreme Court lets DACA die, can anything be done in our state to support those affected? Nguyen said that’s a tough one – maybe some private-sector partnership. Fitzgibbon said the state can’t do much about immigration.
Ninth question: About arbitration – this required some clarification and nobody was entirely sure what the question was about.
Tenth question: State Licensing Department cooperation with immigration authorities – that should not be happening, said Nguyen, except for one situation involving a criminal-justice database. In response to a semi-related followup, Nguyen said he’s working on a “sweeping data-privacy bill.”
Eleventh question: Lighting problems on Vashon leading to safety challenges. They weren’t sure that was really a state issue.
Twelfth question: Wouldn’t challenging 976 be circumventing the will of the people on something they voted on? Nguyen points out that the ST car-tab funding, among other things affected by 976, “WAS something we voted on.” Cody said, “We’ve got to get the narrative back here – (other areas) are dictating (to our area) … Seattle and King County get vilified in Olympia.” Fitzgibbon noted the statewide margin of victory for 976 was narrow and that it lost overwhelmingly in our area and yet “we’re the ones who are screwed … (it shouldn’t be allowed) to destroy the transportation future of our state.” Big applause for that.
Thirteenth question: Do local Democrats plan to engage the local Russian-American population? Nguyen: “I think EVERYBODY should be engaged in terms of accessing our democracy.” Cody: “There are all sorts of groups in the 34th that … we need to work on getting involved.”
Fourteenth question: Someone was worried about jet-fuel discharge before landing. Whether that actually routinely happens, the legislators weren’t sure, but even if is not true, certainly there’s an exhaust problem from airplanes and resultant ultra-fine particulate pollution during landings, Fitzgibbon noted.
Fifteenth question: Specific ways for community members to get involved with state politics? Flipping just a few seats to Democrats transformed everything, Nguyen pointed out, so get involved with campaigns, specific issues. And you can talk with your legislators or otherwise reach out to them, Cody and Fitzgibbon said. (You can find their contact info online.)
Sixteenth question: Digital media is not healthy for kids, said the questioner, who wants to see a study about how much screen time is OK, how much recess time is needed. Cody noted, “That’s a really big topic,” maybe bigger than their scope.
Seventeenth question: Alternative regulation of ISPs? A questioner told about the bad experience she had. Sounds like an Attorney General issue, Nguyen suggested.
Eighteenth question: Newly elected Highline School Board member Aaron Garcia asked about the school-bond passage threshold. Reply: Changing that requires a constitutional amendment, and that’s tough, noted Nguyen. Cody said it’s been worked on. Fitzgibbon told of a resident who moved his family out of Burien (which is in the Highline district) after a school-bond measure failed. “You think about how many families make decisions like that … so we gotta fix that.”
Nineteenth question: Can anything be done at the state level regarding truth in advertising on social media? Nguyen mentioned the Public Disclosure Commission‘s role in regulating advertising, at least in “knowing who’s paying for it.” Nguyen said he’s working on the issue.
Twentieth question: Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta talked about “the difference between youth violence and gang enterprises,” speaking about young gang members, shootings, graffiti going unaddressed, MS-13 moving (from Auburn) to White Center – he brought up numerous incidents and said “this is … structured violence against our community.” He thinks gang graffiti should be removed quickly. Nguyen asked Matta to forward a budget request that the mayor had said didn’t go through. He also noted that Burien spends 51% of its budget on public safety and 1% on youth services, and suggests the latter should be increased.
Twenty-first question: Spread of white nationalism – what can the state do about it? Cody mentioned a hate-speech bill. Fitzgibbon mentioned the Legislature actually has a member (Matt Shea, Spokane area) with ties to such groups; state Democratic Party leader Tina Podlodowski said from the audience that they have a website, cancelmattshea.com.
Twenty-second question: Why does licensing take so long for new doctors, nurses, etc.? Cody said one reason is that it’s difficult to get information from other states.
Twenty-third question: The lawsuit over 976 – does it stand a chance? Nguyen said he thinks so but “it won’t be easy … we still need to fix our regressive tax structure.” Fitzgibbon pointed out that the lawsuit, filed earlier that day, is led by Garfield County – “smallest county in the state” – and focuses on seven different allegations that 976 is unconstitutional.
Twenty-fourth question: Assault-weapon/high-capacity-magazine ban status/priority? Reply: High priority. Cody said the change in House Speakers has given this more likelihood of advancing. Some other gun-safety legislation from last session was mentioned.
That was the last question; it was noted that the West Seattle Democratic Women meeting on November 21st will focus on gun-safety issues, with Moms Demand Action.
NEXT MEETINGS: The 34th DDs’ December 11th meeting will be a holiday party … January 8th, the spotlight topic will be hate crimes … watch 34dems.org for updates.