Alex Ramel, newly appointed Representative in the 40th LD (Image from Facebook)

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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