Mental health help a top priority, Reps say
By Mitchell Roland - Staff Reporter
While there was hope for more, Washington democrats expanded their majorities in both the state House and Senate.
After the first round of results came in from Tuesday's election, it appears Democrats picked up seven seats in the State House and two seats in the Senate.
Democrats hope to use this majority to additionally fund education and mental health, local officials said.
At an election party at LiLU- NA! in Des Moines, two or three dozen people celebrated as both Mia Gregerson and Tina Orwall held on to their house seats in the 33rd district. State Sen. Karen Keiser also won re-election.
Rep. Mia Gregerson said that the bigger majorities "makes a big difference."
Initiative 1639 passing also means voters want more gun safety, she said.
1639 raises the age requirement on semi- automatic weapons from 18 to 21 and requires more intensive background checks for gun sales.
Democrats hope to use their majority to fund outreach programs and work on "funding more mental health counselors," Rep. Gregerson said.
Rep. Gregerson said that Democrats want to fund education more and increase salaries for full-time and part-time professors at colleges.
This will create "stability for faculty" so that they can "really focus on you," Rep. Gregerson said. But she said that the legislature cannot just focus on one aspect of education funding.
"We really need to be holistic," she said.
Rep. Gregerson said that local colleges and universities need to meet future needs and opportunities.
"aximize programming for the technology age," she said.
For example, Rep. Gregerson said that local colleges could play a role in solving the airline pilot shortage.
Rep. Gregerson also said that she hopes to make the tax system "less regressive," and said that the current system hurts the Des Moines area especially.
Rep. Tina Orwall said that the Democrats plan on focusing on healthcare and said that "we'll see more investments with mental health."
There will also be an increase in "investments around McCleary," Rep. Orwall said.
The McCleary decision was a Washington State Supreme Court decision that put the State Legislature in contempt of court for not full funding K-12 education. The Legislature met its funding requirements in the last budget and is no longer in contempt.
"We need to focus on all of our education," she said.
Rep. Orwall said that some of her colleagues in the Legislature are working on plans that would make the first year of community college free and "expand Running Start into the summers."
The Washington State Legislature will reconvene in mid-January 2019.