Inslee lays out priorities ahead of legislative session

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OLYMPIA — Governor Jay Inslee spoke at the Associated Press Legislative Preview on Thursday to address his agenda for the 2019 legislative session.

Inslee began by discussing climate change, early education reform in relation to the McCleary decision, mental health, caring for Washington’s orca population and increased broadband access throughout the state.

“We are going to have success in creating a robust broadband access because we know access to broadband is so important,” said Inslee. “Not just to rural economic development for small towns but for access to healthcare, for access to educational opportunities. This probably is the most important thing we can do in rural economic development.”

Inslee also addressed funding behavioral health programs and hopes legislators can create an overall plan to address mental health. Prior to Inslee’s address a panel discussed how they plan to approach mental health in a bipartisan manner. The panel included House Speaker and Fourth District Rep. Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, 39th District Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Wolley, 45th District Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, and Ninth District Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax.

“I would say that I think the one goal we need to come out of this session is a plan because this is a long-term problem. It’s not going to get done overnight,” said Schmick.

“I think we also need to make sure that we’re focused on every community across the state and that we make it better and make it safer in those communities because I don’t think the people feel safe,” he added.

A variety of specific ideas to address a slew of mental health issues were discussed by the panel but no major bills have been filed on the subject ahead of the session. The 2019 legislative session begins on Monday, at which time 28 new legislators will be sworn in. The new crop of lawmakers features 17 Democrats and 14 women.

During his speech on Thursday Inslee also hit on a question that has been discussed for quite some time now: a possible presidential run. In early December discussion intensified over Inslee’s potential candidacy after he hinted at it during an interview that came out in The Atlantic magazine. On Thursday the governor reaffirmed his commitment to Washington, as he was questioned heavily on Thursday about trips to early primary states, without confirming or denying a run for the White House.

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