Dear Friends, 

As we come upon the end of the 2022, I look back on all we have accomplished with a smile. Together we have done so much, from bringing about the first statewide alert system to locate Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, to taking steps to bringing a green amendment to Washington.

2022 has been a year of action, and 2023 will see us continue the progress we have made!

I am so grateful to have once again been voted into Olympia as your representative, and work has already begun for the upcoming legislative session. Keep an eye out for future updates throughout the year!

There will be plenty for us to talk about in 2023 and beyond, but for now I want to take a look back at some of our top stories from 2022 – I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey as much as I have.

Happy New Year, 40th LD!

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Prevention & Reentry Programs
September 16, 2022

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of speaking with Genero Sanchez and Chris Choke in a retreat with young high school boys and young men who are part of a gang preventative and reentry program.  In the Skagit we have invested in our Hispanic community to heal and restore the lives those who are seeking another chance at success. I was blessed to hear from my constituents about their hopes and dreams to take care their family, have a job that respects them, live their culture without fear, and build a community that is safe for all. 

Genero shared his story as a survivor, as he was once a lost boy who was impacted by historical trauma.  His younger years his heart and spirit were filled with anger, and he landed in the prison system. At that time, we did not have state or local programs to help our people who faced historical trauma and turned to crime, drugs, and alcohol to bandage the hurt.  During his incarcerated time there also were no programs to help in the system, rather the incarcerated system then and today does not heal our people.  But we are going to change that in 2022! 

Genero was released and able to join a program that is led by Chris Hoke, who spent his career working with the Hispanic men to reenter into society with a fresh start. Chris helped Genero during his transition, and today Genero is employed with Mount Vernon School District and he has dedicated his time to prevent young Hispanic men in high school from entering in to gangs, help to find them jobs, provide mentoring based on real life experience, and lead them dowon the path to fulfill their hopes and dreams.

Between Chris and Genero, we are working with Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs, to propose an investment of state funds into several areas that will support our work and build the capacity of the Skagit program and regional the model across the state; invest in the staff and financial capacity of the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs so we can fulfill the Commission’s effort to address data gaps and find solutions for the future of our shared communities; and to support the Skagit program by proposing state support for a building location, as if we are looking for long term investment in our community and our people, then we must take a big step together to ensure this program has a home.

It is important for these young Hispanic men to have a place where they can grow and heal and become the men they want to be today, and in the future. We will also invest funds in a Statewide Taskforce that will do an assessment and report on the challenges, gaps, and barriers to provide recommendations for a 4-corner regional program that will be modeled from the Skagit Gangs Prevention Program lead by Genero and Chris.

This project is near and dear to my heart; 15 years ago when Jeanie Durkin was the US Attorney General and came to the Skagit to meet Northland Washington Tribes and British Columbia First Nations to inform us that the Skagit was the hub for transporting heroin and had large gang activity.  That year we lost so many lives from heroin and gang violence in the Skagit, and I am committed to working with my districts to find solutions and heal our community so we may all have a safe place to call home.

Snake River Dam Update
August 26, 2022

As many of you know, there is an ongoing important discussion around the Snake River Dams and their potential removal. Recently Governor Inslee and Senator Murray expressed that breaching the dams will require extensive preparation and bipartisan support U.S. Democrats don’t yet have

Federal agencies have poured more than $17 billion into salmon recovery over the last 20 years, hoping to revive populations using fish ladders, diversion screens, and hatcheries. But conditions for Snake River sockeye and spring-summer chinook are still dire and, limited on ideas, some federal and regional political actors are starting to look more closely at the possibility of breaching four eastern Washington dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite.

All sides have a lot at stake. There’s no guarantee that breaching these dams will be enough to reverse dwindling salmon numbers, and if they go, grain producers lose an important shipping route, farmers must find other ways to irrigate thousands of acres of farmland, and the region says goodbye to 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy. But if they stay, all four species could continue to decline into extinction.

In June, a draft report commissioned by Inslee and Murray estimated it would cost between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion to replace the collective benefits for energy, irrigation and recreation provided by the four Lower Snake Rivers.

While the report found that breaching the dams will offer the best chance for salmon runs to recover in the Columbia and Lower Snake rivers, and for honoring tribal rights promised by the federal government, it did not take a position on whether the hydroelectric dams should be removed.

This will not be an immediate process, no overnight fix is possible. It will take a lot of difficult, coordinated work across all levels of government, ensuring that as these dams are removed we are able to replace the services they provided and set ourselves up for the future.

Sensible Gun Legislation
May 27, 2022

Friends, as I’m sure many of you have seen, earlier this week there was a tragic shooting at a Texas school, and too many of our children lost their lives to senseless gun violence. This is yet another on a long list of mass shootings just in 2022 alone, and it’s long past time that we as a community take strong action to prevent such tragedies in the future.

We must ask ourselves about our priorities, and who we want to protect when a child is killed by gun violence. It is unacceptable to continue to allow the killing of our children. As a mother, a community member, and your lawmaker, I am committed to working with my colleagues to enact sensible gun laws here in Washington.

We must continue to look at our failures and resolve to heal from these acts of violence. I’m proud of the work we have done so far, and happy to have the endorsement of The Alliance for Gun Responsibility in this election!

In our most recent legislative session, we took up a great number of bills that will enact sensible reforms to our gun laws and better protect Washingtonians from gun violence. I wanted to take a moment to lay out each of these bills with a quick summary of what they aim to do!

HB 1630 – Bans firearms at school board meetings, ballot county locations, and local council meetings.

HB 1705 – Strengthens Washington’s ban on untraceable ghost guns and requires unfinished frames and receivers to be registered and serialized.

HB 1164/SB 5078 – Bans the sale, manufacture, and distribution of magazines that contain more than 10 rounds.

HB 1719 – Eliminates ambiguity of previous legislation and ensures law enforcement officers have all the tools necessary to do their job.

Protecting the Whatcom Watershed
April 15, 2022

Earlier this week, the Bellingham City Council voted unanimously to purchase an additional tract of land around Lake Whatcom, taking another important step to preserve the old growth forests that circle the city’s primary source for drinking water.

The City Council voted on Monday night to purchase 131 acres on the southern end of Lake Whatcom, protecting this beautiful tract of forest called the Bessie Timber Sale in this vital watershed that supplies water to more than 100,000 people, including the city of Bellingham, the community of Sudden Valley, and residents along the lake’s north shore.

The beautiful Lake Whatcom!

This has been an ongoing effort to preserve these important ecosystems over the past two decades, and our local government has worked tirelessly to ensure that this beautiful piece of Washington is supported and protected, both maintaining these lands for future generations to enjoy and keeping our drinking water safe.

Thank you to Whatcom County Councilmember Kaylee Galloway, Chair of the Natural Resource Committee, for championing this preservation of one of the longest and oldest growth forests bordering Whatcom Lake. We have been working with the State Department of Natural Resources for years, and their work and knowledge has been invaluable as we expand the areas around Whatcom Lake that are protected.

Thank you for all your hard work, Kaylee!

Together with our local community advocates we will continue working to promote our shared values, listening to the science and learning how these old growth forests impact climate change.  

I will continue working with the Whatcom County council to explore any necessary changes, whether they are through legislation or executive action, to update our standing policies and properly value these forest lands. Our communities demand this work, and together we will protect this natural splendor for the next seven generations to come.

Protecting Missing and Murdered Indigenous People
April 1, 2022

Yesterday was a truly historic day. Surrounded by incredible advocate and dedicated individuals, Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1725 into law, officially created an alert system to help identify and locate Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

More than four in five Native women will experience violence in their lifetimes and are murdered at more than ten times the national average. It’s plain to see that this is an issue that we need to address, and I’m proud to have led the way on creating this new system that will save lives and bring our loved ones home.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill 1725 into law

The system will work similarly to “silver” alerts that are used to notify the public about missing vulnerable adults, broadcasting information about Missing and Murdered Indigenous People on message signs and in highway advisory radio messages. It also will provide the information through press releases to local and regional media.

When issues are as plain to see as this one, it’s clear that we must take action. Addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in this country must continue to be a priority, we must do everything we can to protect Native women.

This was a collaborative effort that took months to put together. I’m incredibly grateful to all those who worked alongside me to make this new alert system a reality – together we have made a difference.

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