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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Greetings from Olympia, where the energy is buzzing! The 2024 legislative session is underway, starting on Monday, January 8, and scheduled to conclude on Thursday, March 7. Get ready for the next two months! They will be packed with important decisions as lawmakers address key issues that will influence the future of Washington state. It’s an exciting time, so buckle up for the whirlwind ahead!

Throughout the session, I’ll keep you updated on the events in Olympia. I’ll dive into the discussions taking place and provide insights into important policy debates and bills. For those who like to stay ahead, be sure to check out my legislative website — your go-to source for the latest news and information straight from the state Capitol. You can also visit my legislative Facebook page to stay updated on my activities on behalf of our district.

  • Governor’s State of the State Address: Watch here.
  • Pasco’s Senator Nikki Torres delivering the Republican response: Watch here.
  • AP Forum after the governor’s speech: Watch here.

Key bills addressing 8th District and regional goals

For the past several months, I’ve been collaborating with businesses, community members, and local officials to address our district’s priorities through key bills during this session. The list below reflects the outcome of those conversations, showcasing our shared work and priorities. These bills are designed to meet regional goals and deliver significant benefits to our state.

HB 2120 focuses on securing access to targeted urban area (TUA) tax incentives for clean energy manufacturers, building upon the foundation laid by the 2022 statute (HB 1386) that offered property tax exemptions.

Why it’s important: This legislation tackles challenges encountered by nuclear manufacturing facilities, arising from prolonged reviews by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. By allowing extra time for these facilities to meet the criteria essential for tax preference, the bill actively supports the expansion of these manufacturers. This, in turn, contributes additional economic benefits to both our local region and the state.

HB 1981 seeks to incentivize clean nuclear energy manufacturing through preferential business and occupation (B&O) tax rates.

Why it matters: This initiative is a deliberate step towards shaping a clean energy future for Washington. The incentives provided foster economic development in the nuclear sector, leading to the creation of new jobs and an expanded tax base. This not only enhances the prosperity of the region but also opens doors to statewide economic growth.

HB 1870 proposes the “Moving Assets Towards Community Health Program” (MATCH Act) that would establish a dedicated Department of Commerce program facilitating access to federal grant funding.

Why it matters: In an era of unprecedented federal grant opportunities, Washington state communities face a make-or-break moment. The Infrastructure Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPs Act, and more offer an abundance of federal funding just waiting to propel our communities forward. Yet too many small communities and cities falter because they lack resource support and the matching funds needed to unlock these grants. This bill will address those challenges by establishing a state pool of matching funds within the Department of Commerce. This would provide much-needed support to localities that qualify for federal funding but need help meeting the local match requirements.

HB 1908: Titled the “Grid Reliability Innovation for Decarbonization Act” or GRID ACT, my proposal seeks to establish a program that provides much-needed financial assistance for utility-scale projects focusing on emission-reducing electricity generation or storage, including Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

Why it matters: The legislation proposes grants for pre-development, design, engineering, permitting, and site preparation costs, actively supporting the growth of utility-scale electric generation projects that play a vital role in advancing the state’s decarbonization strategy.

House Bill 2117, alongside its companion, Senate Bill 6188, sponsored by Senator Matt Boehnke, is geared towards enhancing the permitting process for utility-scale wind turbines to address their impact on aerial firefighting capabilities, particularly in communities susceptible to wildfires.

Why it matters: A primary concern addressed in my bill is the obstruction posed by towering wind turbines to aerial firefighting efforts. Aerial firefighters, crucial in suppressing wildfires, face limitations when wind turbines exceed 496 feet in height, creating a significant obstacle in their flight path. This measure would require applicants to demonstrate approval from responsible agencies and fire officials regarding the location and height specifications of the turbines.

Tackling crime and affordability at the Legislature

In addition to the bills listed above, in 2024, my legislative focus is unwavering as I take on the real-world challenges our region and state are grappling with. I’m diving into critical issues such as the fentanyl addiction crisis, escalating crime rates, and the impact of inflation on essentials like groceries, fuel, and housing — all with a keen awareness of what matters most to you and our vibrant communities.

Exciting news from last week: Washington’s Secretary of State officially notified the Legislature that signature verification for Initiative 2113 has been completed and certified. This publicly supported proposal opens the door for Olympia to make a tangible and positive impact on public safety. The initiative aims to amend the state’s controversial police pursuit law, restoring “the authority of police officers to engage in a pursuit when there is a reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law.”

What’s next for the initiative? The Legislature has the option to adopt it as proposed, turning it into law without it going to the ballot. Alternatively, they can reject or choose not to act on it, leading to its placement on the ballot during the next general election. Another possibility is for the Legislature to propose a different bill addressing the same subject; in that case, both measures would be included on the ballot.

  • Stay tuned for more updates. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be sharing details on bills I’m supporting to confront our state’s rising crime rates. Along with police pursuit reform, these include a bill enhancing penalties for fentanyl distribution, a police retention and recruitment bill, and measures criminalizing the exposure of children and adults to fentanyl and other substances.

Affordability: High taxes and burdensome regulations have driven up costs for working families. Housing and transportation cost 30 percent more in Washington compared to the national average. Our state also boasts the fourth-highest combined sales tax rate in the country, disproportionately impacting low-income families. Finally, thanks to the cap-and-trade program costs, Washington motorists now pay the third-highest gas prices in the nation.

  • My seatmate, Rep. April Connors has sponsored HB 2040, which seeks to provide a $200 gas rebate to Washington drivers funded by surplus revenue from the carbon tax to offset high gas prices caused by the Climate Commitment Act. I also plan to support bills that would reform the cap-and-trade program or even eliminate it. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more on these proposals and others that provide solutions to Washington state’s affordability problems.

Upcoming 8th District Virtual Town Hall

Join me, along with Sen. Matt Boehnke and Rep. April Connors, as we co-host the 8th District Virtual Town Hall on Saturday, February 17, at 2 p.m. This virtual event will be hosted on Zoom, and I encourage you to register today as space is limited. Don’t miss the opportunity to pre-submit your questions on bills and debates happening in Olympia when you register. I’m eager to hear from you!

Visitors at the state Capitol

I recently had the privilege of meeting with members and leaders of the Boys and Girls Club at the state Capitol. I am thoroughly impressed by the impactful work they do on behalf of young people across our wonderful state. If you plan to come to Olympia during the next few weeks, be sure to contact my office. I’m always happy to meet with members of our community in Olympia!

Influencing legislation for our region’s values

Our region’s values are best represented in Olympia when we unite. Working together amplifies our influence in passing good policies and preventing unfavorable ones from approval. Whether it’s commenting on bills, providing remote or in-person testimony, or logging your comments, every action makes a difference. Listed below, you’ll find a variety of resources and links to help you stay engaged in the legislative process.

Thank you!

In the next few weeks, expect more updates as we work together to bring about change this legislative session. Your ongoing support means a lot. Together, we are making a real difference for a better 8th District and a stronger Washington state!


Stephanie Barnard

State Representative Stephanie Barnard, 8th Legislative District
469 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7986 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000