State Sen. Sharon Shewmake and Rep. Joe Timmons of the 42nd Legislative District hosted a town hall on May 31 at Whatcom Community College’s Heiner Center.
After giving brief introductory statements, Shewmake and Timmons focused on responding to constituents. Audience members wrote their questions on index cards and moderator Ray Deck read them aloud to the legislators.
Rep. Alicia Rule, the district 42 representative for position one, did not attend the event.
When given a question about affordable housing to address the houselessness crisis, Shewmake said the shortage of newly constructed homes is an overlooked factor. Many people consider mental health and economic conditions, but Washington also faces an acute housing shortage.
“Wealth creation through homeownership stops cycles of poverty,” Timmons said.
Shewmake said she supports condominium liability reforms because high insurance rates cause builders to invest in high-end units. Many units are designed for wealthy individuals or single families and Shewmake said she wants to fund other options.
Shewmake hopes to fund alternatives. She sponsored a bill in January to expand accessory dwelling units, which are small cottages on a property with a primary house.
The representatives also answered a participant’s question about the legislature funding substance abuse treatment centers.
“Addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing,” Shewmake said.
“When we talk about fentanyl, it is, to me, a very scary issue,” Timmons said. “I saw a slide the other day that showed the amount of fentanyl that could be lethal and it was on the tip of a pencil. It’s 50 times more lethal than heroin.”
The legislators addressed a constituent’s concerns about threats to reproductive healthcare access in Washington.
Timmons said the state legislature responded to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by passing House Bill 1155, which protects consumers’ health data from being sold without their consent. He also cited House Bill 1340, which protects reproductive healthcare providers from discipline, as an example of Washington’s response.
“Reproductive care is healthcare, in my opinion,” Timmons said.
Shewmake also answered a question on the often-maligned Senate Bill 5599, which allows minors seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare to stay in a shelter temporarily without parental notification.
She said the bill seeks to prevent the exploitation of minors and the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families will try to reunite children and parents. The bill is often misrepresented by opponents.
“Washington supports trans children, poor children … that is a core value of the Democratic caucus,” Shewmake said.
Deck said any remaining questions would be answered via email or newsletter.
“You are more powerful than you realize when you send out emails,” Shewmake said.
Shewmake encouraged audience members to contact their lawmakers and added that her constituents often change the way she thinks about the issues impacting her district.
Mia Limmer-Lai (she/her) is one of two copy editors for The Front this quarter. She is a second-year environmental studies and journalism student at Western with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and listening to punk music. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.