The Legislative Building in Olympia on Monday, the opening day of the Washington Legislature. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Legislative Building in Olympia on Monday, the opening day of the Washington Legislature. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

With a slew of new faces, Legislature begins 2019 session

Lawmakers will debate climate change, the mental health system and taxes over the next 105 days.

OLYMPIA — The 2019 legislative session began Monday with a lot of new faces in the House and the absence of a familiar one in the Senate.

State lawmakers are primed to spend the next 105 days tackling issues such as climate change and the death penalty, mental health and homelessness, public schools and the presidential primary. The top priority will be enacting a new two-year budget to take effect July 1.

Twenty-two new House members were to be sworn in Monday, including four in the Snohomish County delegation: Democrats Jared Mead of Mill Creek, Dave Paul of Oak Harbor and Lauren Davis of Shoreline, and Republican Robert Sutherland of Granite Falls. They are part of one of the chamber’s largest and most diverse classes of newcomers.

In the Senate, the county’s delegation is getting one new face — Democrat Jesse Salomon of Shoreline.

The Senate Democratic Caucus is suddenly looking to fill one seat, as well. Sen. Kevin Ranker of Orcas Island resigned Friday amid an investigation of alleged misconduct toward a state agency official with whom he was once intimate.

This year begins with Democrats with larger majorities in both chambers after gaining seats in the November election.

They will enjoy a 57-41 advantage on Republicans in the House and 28-21 in the Senate. A year ago, Democrats had only a two-seat edge in the House and a one-seat majority in the Senate.

Teaming with Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, Democratic lawmakers are pushing an ambitious agenda that includes toughening climate change regulations, transforming the state’s mental heath system, expanding access to health care, protecting orcas, strengthening gun control laws, boosting public school funding, reducing homelessness and promoting construction of affordable housing.

Washington’s strong economy is expected to generate several billion additional dollars since adoption of the last budget. But Inslee has said that additional revenue is not enough to make progress on many of the items on the agenda. His proposed budget contains nearly $4 billion in new and higher taxes, which Republican leaders in both chambers have said they oppose.

Inslee’s budget wsere to be the subject of public hearings in the House Appropriations Committee Monday afternoon and in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

The governor is scheduled to deliver the State of the State address Tuesday to a joint session of the Legislature. It will begin shortly after noon and will be televised and streamed live by TVW.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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