Alex Ramel — the newly appointed State Representative from the 40th Legislative District — heads to the statehouse today championing two vitally important legislative priorities that he campaigned on back in 2018. One is increased access to affordable housing and the other is climate justice.
Both are issues the Legislature has historically struggled to make headway on, with last year’s session being a notable exception.
Ramel wants to build on what was won in 2019. He says he’s trying to manage his expectations on what he can accomplish given his somewhat last-minute addition to the Legislature and the short session this year. “I’ll work to get the ball rolling on bigger things that we’ll be able to tackle over time,” he explained.
On confronting Washington’s housing crisis, Ramel says there are two major historically funded services that he believes should continue and that can be expanded to be even more effective. The first is the Washington Housing Trust Fund, he said, to build homes that can be kept affordable in the long term. The Trust supports affordable housing programs that serve low-income populations.
Ramel also believes another existing program that is working well is the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) Referral program, which provides access to essential needs items, as well as rental assistance for low-income individuals who can’t work for at least 90 days because of a physical or mental incapacity. Ramel says this program is essential because it helps those individuals who have had “a run of bad luck for whatever reason” and are about to lose their home.
“I’m absolutely persuaded that we have to fund prevention first. It’s some of the most cost-effective work we can be doing [to address homelessness],” he said.
Another signature issue for Ramel this year, and into the future, is tackling the climate crisis. He says he supports putting a price on pollution if possible, as well as the adoption of a clean fuels standard to reduce pollution in Washington’s air and water (also an NPI legislative priority for 2020). He intends to join the Climate Caucus, where he hopes to work on the state’s district heating systems.
“If we can provide multiple buildings with electric emissions-free heating, over time it’s going to save building owners money, they’re easier to maintain, it’s nicer heat […] and it’s union jobs,” Ramel observed.
Ramel added that he’s hopeful the Legislature can “cross the finish line,” and adopt California’s zero emissions vehicle standards to bring the full range of electric vehicles available in other parts of the country to Washington.
Another one of NPI’s legislative priorities this session is supporting a ban on single use plastic bags in grocery stores and retail establishments.
Ramel says this “sounds like good policy,” and it’s a city-wide policy he has witnessed succeed in Bellingham since 2011.
He says there is a path to do it that actually supports the grocery stores and business establishments while also reducing single-use plastic waste.
While he compares the start of his new position as “drinking from the firehose,” Ramel says he trusts the process.
“There are a lot of smart people that have been doing this for a long time in Olympia who I’m looking forward to working with and learning from,” he said.