Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Eight lawmakers to watch in Washington’s 2024 session

Lawmakers meet on the Senate floor, Thursday, March 10, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren
Lawmakers meet on the Senate floor, Thursday, March 10, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

Comfortable shoes are required for the upcoming 2024 legislative session, as this one promises to be a full-on sprint for 60 days. Perseverance and patience, too, for those lawmakers determined to pass a bill or three. A prodigious amount of legislation is pre-filed for introduction on the first day, signaling widespread elevated expectations among the ranks of each party.

Here are eight lawmakers to watch as they influence key conversations when the action begins Jan. 8.

Sen. June Robinson, Democrat, of Everett

Robinson is the new chairof the Senate Ways and Means Committee. After three sessions negotiating operating budgets and tax policies largely outside the spotlight, she’ll garner much more attention in prioritizing how to spend unexpectedly high receipts from the capital gains tax – a bill she authored – and the cap-and-trade program. Telling colleagues “no” won’t be easy but may be necessary since voters could take away both streams of revenue next fall.

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, Republican, of Auburn

This will be Stokesbary’s first legislative session as leader of the House Republican Caucus. Job one will be getting his squad to affect outcomes effectively. Countering far-reaching policies of majority Democrats is one path. Collaborating on ideas broadly embraced on both sides of the aisle is another. Job two for Stokesbary is growing the caucus by getting more Republicans elected. He’ll need to be cognizant that what happens in session – the good, the bad and the controversial – can resonate on the campaign trail.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Democrat, of West Seattle

Fitzgibbon, the House majority leader, will look to answer a difficult question this session: What will collective bargaining for state employees look like? Last year, Washington made it possible for employees of the House, Senate and legislative agencies to form unions and collectively bargain starting in May. But the law didn’t spell out who can, and can’t, go this route. It also didn’t spell out rules for lobbying by staffers. Fitzgibbon and Democratic Sen. Derek Stanford of Bothell are taking point on what’s likely to wind up as a partisan response settling these issues.

Rep. Jim Walsh, Republican, of Aberdeen

Walsh is a booming voice in the House minority. He’s also the chair of the Washington State Republican Party. And he’s the sponsor of six measures proposed for the November 2024 ballot that would rewrite or repeal prized Democratic initiatives. He’s positioned to make the GOP’s case on public safety, taxes, education and the environment without dropping a bill on any of those subjects.

Sen Joe Nguyen, Democrat, of White Center

Nguyen chairs the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee. This is the arena where the Senate’s initial fights on Big Oil and cap-and-trade will occur. Nguyen is expected to step into the ring with bills to put a spotlight on how oil companies set prices and to go after alleged price gouging at the pump. A measure to get Washington’s carbon market ready for linking with California and Quebec should show up too. Democratic Rep. Beth Doglio of Olympia will referee similar tussles in the House Environment and Energy Committee that she chairs.

Sen. Nikki Torres, Republican, of Pasco

Torres’ name may come up a lot this session. She is pushing a suite of bills to address an overstretched and underfunded system for providing public defense for people accused of crimes who can’t afford to pay lawyers. Another reason is Torres could be forced out of her seat. A federal judge orderedthe boundaries of her 15th Legislative District to be redrawn because they undermine the ability of Latino voters to participate equally in elections in violation of voting rights laws. Proposed fixes move her into the 16th District where she’d have to run against an incumbent Republican, Sen. Perry Dozier, to keep her seat in 2024. The judicial process will play out at the same time as the session.

Sen. Andy Billig, Democrat of Spokane; Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Democrat, of Tacoma

Billig is the Senate Majority Leader. His toughest challenge will be managing ambitions in his caucus. Six of the 29 members are campaigning for a different office, and two of them are running against each other. Keeping them focused, and more importantly unified, on critical votes will create trying moments, probably behind closed doors. Jinkins is House Speaker and must manage expectations ina 58-member caucus. All their seats are on the ballot which will motivate many of them to seek a moment in the public eye, an earmark in the capital budget and a bill signed by the governor.

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence.

Jerry Cornfield is a reporter at the Washington State Standard. He joined the Standard after 20 years covering Olympia statehouse news for The Everett Herald.