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Spokane voters gather for legislative update from 3rd District representatives

UPDATED: Sat., Feb. 22, 2020

Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, lower right, talks with Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, lower left, on the House floor on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Riccelli was in Spokane on Saturday to talk to voters about the session. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, lower right, talks with Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, lower left, on the House floor on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Riccelli was in Spokane on Saturday to talk to voters about the session. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

Representatives from Washington’s 3rd District delivered an update on 2020 legislative issues – including education, health, housing, gun control and Rep. Matt Shea – to about 200 voters at the Woman’s Club of Spokane on Saturday morning.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, was the sole elected official in attendance. Riccelli said his seatmate, Rep. Timm Ormsby, was in Olympia hammering out the final details of a supplemental budget proposal before its release on Monday. The staff of Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig acted as a surrogate for the senator while he recovered from an illness, Riccelli said.

Riccelli focused much of his update on health-related bills headed to the Senate, such as a bill to reduce the cost of insulin, the Hunger-Free Schools Act and a bill to increase outreach for access to child dentistry programs. He said a dental clinic at the East Central Community Center will open in late summer.

Riccelli also lamented the failure of a bill that would ban the sale of high-capacity gun magazines that had 120 amendments proposed by Republicans. He said he is concerned that in the future legislators will propose a large number of amendments to bills again to keep them from going to the House floor.

“I look at gun violence as a public health issue,” said Riccelli, who promised House Democrats would continue looking at gun safety regulations.

Riccelli said he was excited about the prospects of a Senate bill in the House that would create a new state agency for reducing gun violence. The office would be the first of its kind in the country, one of Billig’s staff members said.

Riccelli, a member of the House transportation committee, said legislators are negotiating about $450 million in cuts to the state transportation budget with the passage of Initiative 976, which slashed car registration fees. He said one priority for the negotiations is to restart paused transportation projects, such as the North Spokane Corridor.

On the issue of Washington’s homeless population, Riccelli said legislators are continuing to prioritize investment in the Washington Housing Trust Fund, which gives counties and cities the power to keep a portion of sales tax revenue for affordable housing projects.

“We have a lot of folks that are one incident away from homelessness,” said Riccelli, giving an example of a medical emergency that leaves someone unable to pay for housing. He said the state is also investing in Hope House and emergency shelters.

Riccelli addressed ongoing questions about Shea’s future in the House after an audience member submitted a question about a recent investigation that determined Shea’s past actions amounted to domestic terrorism. Shea has been expelled from the House Republican Caucus, legislators have called on him to resign and last week 56 Democrats signed a letter calling for his expulsion from the Legislature.

“I take these allegations very seriously,” Riccelli said.

He said he agrees that Shea should be expelled, but he doesn’t think the votes are there to do so because no Republicans signed the letter calling for his expulsion.

“I don’t think it should be politicized,” Riccelli said, emphasizing that action on Shea’s expulsion could still move forward. “The allegations of domestic terrorism violate his oath to the state of Washington.”

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