2020 will be remembered as a year of loss and sacrifice, of innovation and growth. But above all else, it will be the year we demanded more and opened our eyes to the impact that good governance can truly have on our communities. And 2021 will provide plenty of opportunities to demonstrate leadership — local governments need to fill the gaps left by federal inaction, our healthcare workers and vulnerable populations need to continue the arduous process of reaching immunity through vaccinations, and our communities need to heal from a traumatizing year.
This critical work must be done in a session that will be unlike any other in Washington’s history. The tradition of in-person meetings will be switched for Zoom and Teams calls — but not at the expense of transparency. Committee hearings along with floor debates will be live-streamed on TVW, and remote access means less travel to testify before your legislators.
With the Washington State Legislature scheduled to convene (virtually) on Jan. 11, it’s time to address the inequities that 2020 highlighted with policy. Given my new role as Assistant Majority Floor Leader in the Senate, I remain committed to advocating for those on the margins of our community. Our district is no exception to the suffering of this year and includes many families that have been deeply impacted by the challenges 2020 has thrown our way. The additional stressors of the West Seattle Bridge closure in March, and of uncertain ferry schedules due to decreased ridership have impacted commute times and further hindered residents of the 34th. But with session right around the corner, it’s time for policy action to alleviate some of the pain we have felt.
The Legislature can and must address the impacts to small business owners who have lost their livelihoods due to this pandemic. We must demonstrate our commitment to justice and reform our current systems of policing to be more equitable. We must continue to expand access to social services such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) so that more families have the assistance they need in times of difficulty. We must ensure all our neighbors have access to reliable broadband — a basic technology that is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity for school and work. These are just a few of the numerous important issues that need to be tackled in Washington state.
2020 may have presented us with new challenges, but it also highlighted the difficulties we were already facing. 2021 will provide an opportunity to build back, to stand up for each other, and to fight for equality for all our neighbors.
Let’s get to work.
Joe Nguyen is a state senator who represents the 34th Legislative District.