NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 13th, 2020

New State Representative Alex Ramel talks to NPI about his priorities for the 2020 session

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.

The Leg­is­la­ture will con­vene for its short ses­sion today at noon.

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