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Washington lawmakers of color announce their departures. One calls the work place toxic.

Washington lawmakers of color announce their departures. One calls the work place toxic.

Washington state Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley.

2021 was a good year for Washington state’s Legislature. Record-breaking number of legislatorsThere were a record number Black legislators who were all Democrats, and this included a record number of Black lawmakers. State Rep. Kirsten Harris Talley from south Seattle was one of them. She described it as an exciting moment.

I was one of four Black women arriving in parallel to join two Black women already in the area. Harris-Talley said that I saw many people who looked just like me, which is always welcome.

That wasn’t all. Washington Democrats saw an unusual opportunity to quickly make major changes in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer in 2021. They seized this opportunity and passed about a dozen police accountability laws as well as a variety of other racial equality measures. It was described by Washington’s Black Lives Matter Alliance as a spectacular session. Harris-Talley added her own superlative: historic.

Washington state Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley.

Washington state Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley.

Harris-Talley felt that the door to change that was open in 2021 seemed closed in 2022. She felt that Democrats were turning their backs and undoing some work they had done in the previous year on police accountability.

This is not progress. Harris-Talley stated that this is not my calling.

Harris-Talley will be reelected following the 2022 legislative sessions. An op-ed was written by.This was a nearly 25-hundred word resignation letter, according to the South Seattle Emerald. Harris-Talley stated in it that she would not be seeking reelection. She also described the Legislature’s “toxic work environment”.

She wrote that I recognize the signs when leadership is trying to help you or finding a place for you to shut up. These kinds of things started very early.

Retirements in a flurry

Harris-Talley is not the only Black member to resign after a single term. The same goes for Democratic state Rep. Jesse JohnsonFederal Way, one among the architects of the reform agenda in police force. He Cited family reasonsJohnson has a family, including a baby at home and a spouse in medical school. Johnson said that although his experience was different from Harris-Talley, it was still difficult.

Johnson said, “If your work is bold and progressive, it takes a support network around you to really boost you, keep you spirit high because there are a lot of things going on.” InterviewTVW’s Inside Olympia program. “With the police reform I received death threats. I received many nasty emails.”

A Democratic state also allows you to retire from the Legislature after a single term. Sen. Mona Das Kent, who is an Indian American. In a Facebook postDas stated that she was proud of her work in equity and the environment. She said that she is unable to run for reelection because of financial and family concerns.

“I don’t spend enough time with my family. Das also wrote that he finds it difficult to pay my State Senator salary.

Washington legislators currently earn $56,881 per year, plus per diem when the Legislature meets. Although the job is part-time and the Legislature meets only for a few months each year, many lawmakers claim that the job is all-consuming.

Harris-Talley’s Johnson, Das and Johnson are among the roughly two dozen state legislators both Democrats as Republicans who have indicated they won’t run for reelection this election, or are seeking another office. McClatchy reports.

In 2022, all members of the House and approximately half of the state senators will be up for reelection.

While not uncommon, the sheer number of departures has caught the eye of House Republican Leaders. J.T. WilcoxAccording to him, his caucus is losing an uncharacteristic number of members this fiscal year.

One reason for the retirements could be the difficulty of legislating mostly remotely during the COVID epidemic. Some of the newer legislators have never been to a non-pandemic session.

Johnson, who was the first to be elected to the Legislature in 2020 described legislating via Zoom as a lonely experience.

Washington’s current state legislature is home to about 20% of its 147 members of color. This is a historic high. Johnson said that while the departure of three new members of color from Washington’s statehouse is not necessarily a trend, it was something Johnson should be aware of.

Johnson stated that although I wouldn’t call it alarm bells, I believe there is something happening. There are members who want to change the system and see it happen. What we have learned is that politics is slow and a grind-it out process.

Johnson stated that he believes the Legislature should do more to support legislators, including members of color, who see urgent needs within their communities but must navigate a system that slows down change.

A tearful speech

For Laurie Jinkins is Speaker of the HouseA dozen-year veteran of the Legislature, she believes there is a cyclical nature in lawmaking. She stated that while some years are great, others are more achievable. However, the incremental nature of legislating returns.

Jinkins stated, “With police accountability, that’s exactly where we are at: big things get done, then you spend years tweaking and balancing.”

Harris-Talley, who is a Black, queer, and activist, stated that some of the tweaking and balancing this past year felt like giving in to pressures from law enforcement officers and other opponents to the 2021 police reforms. Harris-Talley indicated that she could support some changes, including clarification of which less-lethal munitions officers can use and ensuring that community caretaking calls are attended to by officers. Other proposals were rejected.

She gave an example of a new product. Police force use billShe felt it was creating “a new stop-and-frisk standard” in Washington. Harris-Talley offered a response to the bill when it came up for a February vote. Tearful speechOn the House floor, he predicted that the change would lead to more deadly encounters between police and civilians.

Harris-Talley stated that the law is too close to where excessive force by officers can lead to the loss of a loved ones home.

Families of the police officers who were killed The bill was also rejected. Rep. Johnson opposed it. He was informed by police that 2021 changes had taken away their ability use reasonable force to detain suspects of a crime. This was before probable cause had been established.

[Police]Johnson stated in the TVW interview that there were people with reasonable suspicion of a crime who were literally running away or walking away from their investigation and could not continue their investigation.

A feeling of betrayal

Harris-Talley said that House Democratic leadership pressured Harris to withdraw two proposed amendments for the use of force bill in return for a promise that a police-related bill regarding high-speed pursuits would not be up for a vote. Harris-Talley stated that she did withdraw her amendments but that the House Democratic leadership refused to honor the agreement and brought up the matter. pursuit billVote anyway

Harris-Talley wrote, “That was the day that I learned that integrity wasn’t part of the culture in this caucus.”

She described feeling betrayed and othered, as well as being dismissed and ignored.

I’ve been in many workplaces where my colleagues have sabotaged me. In an interview, she stated that I had also left those workplaces.

When Jinkins was asked to respond, he didn’t address Harris-Talley’s accusations of betrayal or sabotage. Jinkins stated that it was a lesson about “how people experience different things”.

Jinkins said, “I think what I have to do is take that commentary, that critique in, then figure out how I can help us do better.”

Jinkins, who is the first out lesbian Speaker in the House, stated that her caucus is committed working on equity and diversity issues. She said that majority Democrats passed racial justice bills and equity bills this year, and she also wrote a supplemental budget which relied on an equity tool for directing state spending.

See Also

The Legislative Black Caucus of (LBC), Harris-Talley vice chairs, was inaugurated at the 2022 session. 15 priority bills and resolutions identified. Seven of them passed, and eight failed.

Two of the 10 LBC members are now leaving the Legislature. Rep. Jamila Taylor, chair of the caucus issued statements praising both legislators.

“It’s an honor to have been able to help lead the LBC along with Rep. Harris Talley as we strive to ensure that the experience, needs, and solutions for Black people throughout the state are represented, prioritized in our legislative process, and made tangible in our policies and legislation,” Taylor said.

In a Separate statementTaylor praised Johnson as her 30th Legislative District seatmate for having “worked diligently [to] not only pass historic legislation on police accountability, but also to place victims of police violence in discussions that ensured laws met the goal of rebuilding trust among communities.”

Johnson is open to running for public office in the future, or returning to the state Legislature. Given the state’s size and complexity, Johnson would like to see Washington adopt a full time legislature like California or Michigan. However, this could prove to be difficult to sell to voters. It would require a constitutional amend.

Johnson stated, “If not, I think we need to just set aside money and time for more support systems.”

Legislative pay increases

In the meantime, Democratic Lt. Governor. Denny Heck Recently,He plans to push for a “materially” higher salary for legislators to compensate for the time commitments and responsibility state lawmakers have.

Heck stated that it was fair and just. These 147 people are part of the $60 billion plus corporation’s board of directors. They serve our interests in everything, from roads and education to social services for the poor.

Heck said that a higher pay would likely mean that more candidates will be able to afford to work in the Legislature.

Washington legislators’ pay is determined by a citizen salary commission.

Wilcox, a House Republican leader, said that Washington already pays its lawmakers More than most statesHe stated that his caucus was wary of salary increases.

Talking to House Republicans about pay generally will reveal that it can be a sacrifice to have a job. However, it is very insensitive to complain about our pay when so many of the people we represent are struggling, Wilcox stated.

A call to transformation

Harris-Talley expressed her disapproval of the legislative environment in her op ed. She said that she felt “blessed” to have served during the “most progressive moment in state politics I can recall” and praised several of her legislator colleagues of color.

She wrote that “many individuals are pushing for changes in the culture of the Legislature, and let’s be clear, the people leading that work are doing it and are women or People of Color who have one’s back.”

Harris-Talley urged House Democratic Caucus members to invest in the LBC and staff, and to replace Pat Sullivan, the long-serving House Majority Leader, with a leader of color to bring about “long-overdue transformation.”

She wrote that Democrats will soon see significant changes that should be embraced and embraced as opportunities. To meet this moment, the leadership must make some important decisions and move forward.

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