Tops is aiding access to rural child care

  OLYMPIA — Forty-second District state Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) says her goals for the 2020 legislative session are “to increase access to rural child care, reduce incarceration rates through improved data collection, green our transportation, and find ways to boost affordable housing.”

  Shewmake notes introduction of the Rural Childcare Access Act (HB 2619), aimed at ensuring all areas of the state have access to child care. “At the time in their lives when kids need care the most, families in rural areas are met with rising prices and a lack of options,” she said.

  The bill will lower costs by expanding the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program to make sure it reaches all corners of Washington. In addition to increasing support for child care and family home providers, HB 2619 tasks the Department of Children, Youth and Families with developing a comprehensive plan to expand child care options to all rural areas of the state.

  According to Washington State Legislature Bill Information, HB 2619’s sponsors also include Rep. Luanne Van Werven of the 42nd and new Rep. Alex Ramel of the 40th District.  

  Another priority of Shewmake is achieving a safer and more efficient natural gas distribution system. Historically, natural gas companies have covered costs incurred by pipeline leaks by passing the charge along to consumers. HB 2518 reforms the incentives for utilities by asking them to complete a cost-based analysis on any leaks. If the safety risks and environmental costs are high, the utility is required to fix the leak.

  “My goal is to save consumers money and help the environment at the same time,” the legislator says.

  Shewmake is drafting a bill aimed at reducing incarceration through streamlined data collection.

  “We can’t fix what we don’t measure,” she says. “Whatcom County has been working to pioneer a better approach to collecting data on who is in our jails, which led me to ask how other counties do it. Turns out, it’s a totally dysfunctional patchwork across the state.”

  Shewmake wants to see partnership with law enforcement groups and the ACLU to come up with an ambitious fix on a larger scale.

  Last year, Shewmake was involved in three bills, all with bipartisan cosponsorship and two of which were passed unanimously.

  Also, Rep. Shewmake has introduced measures on pesticide safety for farmworkers, solar panel recycling and supporting Whatcom County small businesses. 

  In the 98-member House, Shewmake serves as vice chair of the Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources and sits on the Transportation and the Environment & Energy committees.