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Dear Friends,

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and family. With December around the corner, the 2024 legislative session will be here before you know it.

I wanted to update you on a few issues in this email update. Below you will find:

  • I continue to build support for the varied and unequal learning circumstances many Washington students face on a daily basis.
  • An overview of some the work sessions and tours I participated in related to my legislative committees.
  • An update on the latest crime report related to retail theft in Washington.

If you have any questions about these issues or the upcoming legislative session, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Education policy

I continue to hear from many of you about House Bill 1044, the legislation I prime-sponsored that would provide funding for small school districts through a grant process based on need. Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, is a co-sponsor. We authored an op-ed that recently was published in The Spokesman-Review. This is a statewide issue impacting many schools in all corners of our state. Despite the strong support the bill received in the Legislature last session, it is critical we share our story around the state. This should help us get the bill through the legislative process in the 2024 session. Click the link below to read our op-ed.

Capital Budget Committee tour

When the Legislature adjourns, the committees legislators serve on will often hold meetings or committee work tours around Washington state to get a firsthand look at some of the issues that may come before the committee in the upcoming session.

The House Capital Budget Committee I serve on recently completed a career and technical education tour. I, along with three other Republican committee members, visited Lower Columbia CollegeCascadia Tech Academy (operated by nine local school districts and located in the Evergreen School District), and Prairie High School (Battle Ground School District). It gave us a firsthand look at the development of facilities for career and technical education (CTE). To read our new release on the tour, click here.

Rep. McEntire getting some work done on the CTE tour.

Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee tour

The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee toured higher education institutions in the Spokane area.

At Spokane Falls Community College, we visited the Orthotics and Prosthetics program, and at Spokane Community College, we got a peek at the nursing simulation classrooms, the HVAC/electrical program and toured technical education lab spaces. Seeing students get hands-on experience in labs and CTE-related classes was inspiring. We have a labor shortage in many CTE related fields.

On the second day of the tour, there were presentations from the University of Washington – Gonzaga University Health Partnership on their efforts to provide access to medical education for citizens in the Northwest and increase the number of primary care physicians.

The Western Governors University discussed its online nursing programs and health care degrees. And, Gonzaga University provided an overview of the Rural Nursing Workforce Consortium.

Rural patients are finding it more difficult to access health care resources. They are facing critical issues that include:

  • Shortage of rural health care professionals;
  • Rural areas have fewer practicing registered nurses compared to urban;
  • 19.3% of Washington’s populations reside in rural areas; and
  • Only 8.6% of nurse practitioner’s work in rural communities.

Other presentations and stops on the tour included the UW-EWU Dentistry program, WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals, and the WSU College of Medicine.

Finally, we went back in time with a visit to the One Room School House. It represents EWU’s beginnings in 1890 as the first institution in Washington for teacher instruction.

The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee goes ‘old school.’

Education facilities

Rep. Jim Walsh and I toured the Oakville School District held by the Washington Association of Maintenance and Operation Administrators (WAMOA). The Oakville Middle and High School has 147 students in grades 6-12, including an alternative school of 23 students.  

This school is unique as the K-12 school district has a balanced calendar.  The 2023-24 school year started on Aug. 15, and the first quarter ended on Oct 27. There was an intersession from Oct. 16-20.  The second quarter ends on Jan. 19, with a two-week winter vacation from Dec. 18 to Jan. 2.  The third quarter ends on March 29 with an intersession from Feb. 20-23.  The fourth quarter ends on June 18, with an intersession from May 20-24.  Six weeks is the longest stretch of school without an intersession. This is the first year of the school district using this calendar. It will be interesting to hear what students, parents and the educators think of the format after a full year of it being in effect.

Reps. McEntire and Walsh with Oakville School District staff.

As part of the WAMOA tour, we also visited the Elma School District. According to the district, a number of juniors and seniors are involved in work-study programs off campus, with approximately 56 students in the Running Start program at Grays Harbor College.  The school has a strong vocational program in business, home and family, wood, metal, welding and agriculture.

Reps. McEntire and Walsh visit Elma schools.

Washington leads the nation in retail theft

A recent Forbes study shows Washington state is impacted by retail theft more than any other state in the nation.

The Forbes Retail Theft Index found that Washington gets 48% more reported retail thefts than the state should based on its population. Only the District of Columbia and North Dakota, which both have much smaller populations than Washington, had a larger Retail Theft Index figure.

Washington also was the third-worst state when it comes to the total value of stolen goods per resident, with $347 being lost for each resident of the state. Pennsylvania and California were the only two states with a higher total, and the study’s average was $173.

Only the District of Columbia sees a larger proportion of larceny thefts per 100,000 residents than Washington. The 24% rise in larceny thefts from 2019 to 2022 is also the second-largest in the nation behind Vermont, per FBI crime data. 

Forbes also cited U.S. Chamber of Commerce data from 2021 that shows Washington lost an average of $78 per resident in tax revenue due to retail theft, ranking fourth among the states.

This study continues to shed light on the increased crime problem in our state. Two other reports this year also shared very concerning information.

In July, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released its Annual Crime in Washington Report, which indicated homicides and violent crime are up in Washington, with auto thefts soaring. In fact, our state experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s. 

In October, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released information on more than 11 million criminal offenses that were reported in the U.S. in 2022. According to its data, violent crime across the nation decreased by about 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021. However, the violent crime numbers in Washington actually increased about 1.06%.

These reports are a testament of our need to strengthen our public safety policies. It also shows we need to have more law enforcement officers serving the people of Washington state. Washington has the lowest number of police officers per capita in the country and needs more than 7,000 officers commissioned than we do right now.

House Republicans will continue to push solutions to improve public safety and make our communities safer. Go to our priorities page and click on the “making communities safer” section.

Following the legislative session

With the 2024 legislative session rapidly approaching, I urge you to follow the action. Below are some websites and links that will help you stay engaged this legislative session.

  • My legislative website | Here you can find contact information, biography, news releases, email updates, videos, radio appearances, and much more.
  • The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator.
  • Capitol Buzz – Daily news clips | Daily news clips.
  • TVW | The state’s own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
  • Legislature’s website | Bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments. Your input and feedback are important to me as we move forward.

It is an honor to serve the people of the 19th District!

Your Humble Servant,

Joel McEntire

State Representative Joel McEntire, 19th Legislative District
409 John L. O’Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7870 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000