For years now we have seen the devastating impacts that the opioid/fentanyl crisis has had across the country. This is a public health crisis that demands our attention and focus, as we must do everything in our power to support those who need our help.
As many of you know, tribes in Washington and across the country have been calling for action to address this growing crisis within our communities – a call that has been heard and recognized by Governor Inslee.
Earlier this week, the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) held a Tribal Opioid/Fentanyl Summit, bringing together experts and officials to discuss the path forward.
According to the HCA:
“The American Indian/Alaskan Native ( AI/AN) community has faced impacts to their health and wellness since the country was colonized. These impacts persist and were highlighted during the pandemic where American Indians experienced at least two times higher rates of suicide and overdose attempts than that of non-American Indians. As a community, the life expectancy rate or AI/AN has been lowered by 6.6 years.
Couple these impacts with historically low funding of the Indian health care system, and we are at a time that demands investments to curb and eradicate the effects of opioids and fentanyl on our AI/AN communities.”
I am so grateful to all who joined the Summit this week, and the dedicated individuals who continue to roll up their sleeves every day to do the hard work. Thank you to HCA Director Sue Birch, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Lummi Chair Anthony Hillaire, Colville Chair Jarred-Michael Erickson, and all others who came out to address this important issue.
To learn more about the Summit, click here.
This is an issue that is impacting our communities at every level, and it will take a concentrated and concerted effort from all of us – tribal, federal, state, and local officials, as well as each of us reaching out a hand to help our neighbors.
Keep an eye out for additional updates as we move forward with plans to address the opioid/fentanyl crisis.
Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday.
“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff
Special Legislative Session
As we talked about on the last Fantastic Friday a few weeks ago, Governor Inslee called the State Legislature back into a Special Session to find a solution to our state’s drug possession law – which would have expired on July 1.
In 2021, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Blake that the state’s law making drug possession a felony was unconstitutional, and we passed a temporary measure – which will expire on July 1 – making drug possession a misdemeanor.
Addressing this gap in legislation was a major point in the 2023 Legislative Session, and unfortunately, we were not able to come up with and pass a solution. We readjourned with this single goal in front of us.
Now, I am pleased to say that we came together quickly to pass bipartisan legislation that addresses this gap in our legal system. Governor Inslee signed this new bill into law on May 16, and the new provisions relating to drug use and possession will take effect on July 1, 2023.
The new law makes it a gross misdemeanor to:
- Knowingly possess counterfeit substances and controlled substances (hereafter “prohibited substances”); or
- Knowingly use prohibited substances in a public place.
I want to congratulate my colleagues who worked swiftly and efficiently to pass this important bill – it is because of you that we were able to set out into our Special Session and resolve this issue so well.
My Friend Bob Ferguson
Next – Attorney General Bob Ferguson is running for Governor!
Last week, following the announcement that Governor Inslee will not seek another term in office, my friend Bob Ferguson, our Attorney General, announced his exploratory Gubernatorial campaign!
It has been a pleasure to work with Bob as Attorney General and I am so grateful for his ongoing support as I have served in the People’s House.
Now, I am thrilled to return that support as he begins this journey into the next phase of his service to Washington and Washingtonians! I hope you’ll consider joining him as well.
Here is Bob’s announcement statement from last week:
“I’ve never been afraid to take on big fights. From the Trump Admin and the gun lobby to anti-abortion extremists and corporate interests, I’ve taken on powerful adversaries, and won.
That’s just the start. Today, I’m proud to announce my exploratory campaign for Governor of WA.
Since I first ran for office, I’ve run grassroots, people-powered campaigns. I refuse to take money from large corporations. This campaign will be no different — join us today. We can’t do it without you.
To learn more about Bob and his work, click here.
Salmon People Gathering 2023
Next, I would like to share an update on Children of the Setting Sun’s recent gathering in Sacramento, California – their Salmon People Gathering 2023!
According to Children of the Setting Sun:
“We recently met for the 4th Annual Salmon People Gathering in collaboration with Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, United Auburn Indian Community, and Wilton Rancheria in Sacramento, CA. At this gathering we were able to connect with 17 tribes from along the Pacific Coast—representing Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California.
Held at Wollok (Verona Marina), the ancestral village of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, we were able to honor and recognize water warriors, share stories and songs and unite as Salmon People at this multi-day event. More than 85 people attended this gathering, including invited salmon nations and conservation organizations who tirelessly work to preserve salmon and Indigenous lifeways as well as their cohabitated ecosystems.”
This is an incredible organization that is doing great work to protect our salmon and restore the population to abundance. I am proud to partner with them and support them however I can – and if you’re interested in their work or getting involved, click here to learn more.
40th LD Endorsement Meetings
While we are rightfully celebrating a number of great steps forward our legislature made during this past session, there are still a number of upcoming elections that need our attention.
With that in mind, I want to share some information about the Skagit Democrats and Whatcom Democrats upcoming endorsement meetings.
Skagit Democrats – the Skagit Democrats will be hosting their annual endorsement meeting on Sunday, June 4 at 4:00 P.M. The meeting is “open to members, PCOs, and Eboard. Members may vote if their membership has not lapsed by more than 30 days.”
If you are a member of the Skagit Democrats you should have received an email with Zoom meeting information as well.
Whatcom Democrats – the Whatcom Democrats are hosting their annual endorsement meeting this Saturday, May 27 at 10:30 A.M. If you are a member of the Whatcom Democrats you can register for the meeting here.
San Juan Democrats – the San Juan Democrats will not be hosting an endorsement meeting this year.
Network of Environmental Legislators
Friends, we have talked a number of times about the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL), which empowers a nonpartisan network of legislative champions to protect, conserve, and improve the natural and human environment.
I’m proud to serve on the NCEL Board, and am always excited when I hear from my fellow members and board members. In fact, one of the great benefits of my position is the amount of information that comes my way from other state legislators from across the nation.
We hear constantly about work being done on the ground in different states – small steps that consistently move us towards making this world a better place, and leaving the environment in its natural beauty for the next seven generations to come.
One such update recently came from David Hochschild, Chair of the California Energy Commission, who toured an offshore wind farm in Norway.
Here is a piece of his update:
“Just returning from speaking at the international floating offshore wind conference in Norway with a delegation of US states that are all doing offshore wind and wanted to share some highlights:
An extraordinary week. I was joined by CA Coastal Commission Chair Donne Brownsey as well as my chief of staff Kat Robinson and CEC Siting Division director Elizabeth Huber. While Norway only has 5.5M citizens, they are punching well above their weight class as a nation when it comes to clean energy & electrification investments and showing the world that you don’t have to be a big nation to make a big impact.
Essentially, their approach is that climate investments must be urgently prioritized as and that every climate solution must be about making people’s lives better. They also told us they do not think in terms of “climate action plans” but rather in terms of “climate budgets.”
It’s moments like these that remind me how important collaboration is to our work – nothing is accomplished alone, and very little can be done to protect our environment without efforts from countless people around the world,
I am so grateful to count David and the entire NCEL team as colleagues, and I can’t wait to continue working with them in the future!
Network of Environmental Legislators
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of being a virtual guest lecturer for Claremont Graduate University. I was invited by Ted Gover, the Director of the Tribal Administration Program at Claremont, which provides instruction in Tribal history, law, gaming regulation and management to the employees of the Yuhaaviatam of San Manuel Nation.
The Yuhaaviatam of San Manuel Nation has done, an amazing job of providing a higher education program for their members, and their travel employees. What a unique partnership!
Currently I’m working with Washington State University to create a Native American scholarship program where we are able to create opportunities for all tribal people within Washington state to build their dream on the foundation of education.
The intent here is to change our future by removing the stigma of education as a weapon against our Native people, and instill that education is entwined with culture, tribal laws, and western methodologies.
We hope to come back in the 2024 legislative session with a model program, and we hope our legislators will see that in Washington State we can be a partner to our Native communities while developing an educational program and scholarships that help our communities, who have given so much to the state.