‘Top of mind’: Local lawmakers focusing on crime, public safety in new legislative session

SPOKANE, Wash. — Local lawmakers are gearing up for another session in Olympia with crime, public safety and drug concerns very important for legislators.

Local representatives say they’re bringing optimism and a desire to work across party lines this session. They may have different ideas on how to fix some of these issues but know compromise is important to pass legislation and make meaningful change.

“First and foremost, public safety is top of mind of all legislators I believe,” said Marcus Riccelli (D) who represents the 3rd district.

“I certainly believe we need more tools in the belt of the officers,” said Leonard Christian (R) who represents the 4th district.

These representatives say they’re ready to work on curbing crime and keeping the community safe. For some, that means giving police more power to pursue criminals.

“We have to be able to allow our law enforcement to put a little teeth back in them and be able to stop folks when they know for a fact these folks are committing crimes,” Christian said.

It could also mean making sure there’s enough other resources out there so police can go after people committing crimes.

“We also need to make sure that our folks that are connecting with the criminal system because of behavioral health issues and substance abuse issues have access to the treatment and the counseling they need,” Riccelli said.

Lawmakers also know they need to fix drug possession laws.

“Fentanyl is ravaging not only adults but young people. This is very scary, so I think we need to look at all of our laws on the books to make sure that we have a safe community,” Riccelli added.

“I certainly believe we need more tools in the belt of the officers and allowing it to be a felony, to be honest with you, for certain amounts,” Christian said when asked about the criminal charges drugs should hold.

He doesn’t think the legislature would make drug possession a felony but knows there needs to be stricter enforcement to keep drugs off the street and save lives.

Housing, homelessness, healthcare and creating more jobs are also important issues for these local representatives.

“The reality is we need to have programs in place to help people get better, get better jobs, more housing and more housing options,” Christian concluded.

“We also need to make sure that our working poor are protected,” Riccelli said. “There’s a lot of people that are just one paycheck away from being on the streets and so we need to create more affordable housing.”

These are all important issues on everyone’s mind with a new session in Olympia on the horizon.

Something you will see continue this session is the use of virtual testimony during hearings on bills. Lawmakers say this has been an important way to keep people connected and engaged with our democracy. Making your voice heard this session is key to what we’ll see passed in Olympia.

READ: 5 major things the Washington Legislature approved in 2022