House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, is greeted on the floor of the House as she arrives to be sworn in Monday, the first day of the 2020 session of the Washington Legislature at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, is greeted on the floor of the House as she arrives to be sworn in Monday, the first day of the 2020 session of the Washington Legislature at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington lawmakers convene 60-day legislative session

The new speaker of the House, Democrat Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, is a woman and gay — both firsts in the state.

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington state’s first female speaker of the House was sworn in Monday as lawmakers returned to the Capitol to convene a 60-day legislative session.

Democratic Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma is also the first gay lawmaker to take the role presiding over the chamber. She succeeds Frank Chopp, the state’s longest-serving speaker and the second-longest-serving speaker in the nation. Chopp, who is still a member of the Legislature, announced he was stepping down from his leadership position last year after serving in the role for more than two decades.

Jinkins and more than a dozen other lawmakers were wearing white in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. She said that the fact a lesbian woman is now holding the House gavel is another broken barrier, “but it won’t be the last.”

“Today represents another step toward inclusion, toward more seats at the table,” she said.

Washington is now the eighth state to have a woman in the top spot in the House and the second state to have a gay speaker of the House, joining Oregon.

Leaders in the House and Senate this year are tasked with writing a supplemental budget to make changes to the current two-year state budget. They will release their supplemental budget plans in coming weeks and will work to negotiate a final budget before the session concludes mid-March.

Democrats hold a 28-21 majority in the Senate and a 57-41 edge in the House.

Jinkins said that she visited nearly every member of the House — both Democrat and Republican — in recent weeks.

“These visits made me really optimistic about what we can accomplish together,” she said. “The title of my role might be speaker, but as I view it, my primary job is to listen. I promise to listen to every one of you, even when we disagree.”

Lawmakers in both parties have said that addressing homelessness will be a priority this year. About 10,000 people in the state are without shelter, and more than 11,000 live in temporary housing, according to the most recent annual report from the state Department of Commerce.

Another issue lawmakers are facing is transportation funding after an initiative passed that lowered annual vehicle registration costs. It is currently on hold pending a legal challenge. A few dozen protesters gathered outside the Capitol Monday, calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to uphold the ballot measure.

Meanwhile, embattled Republican Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane Valley returned to the Capitol Monday amid calls for his resignation in the wake of a December report that found he was involved in anti-government activities. Shea has refused to resign, even as House Republicans moved quickly to suspend him from the state House Republican Caucus. He has been removed from his House committee assignments, his seat on the House floor was moved to the back of the chamber and he can’t use House Republican staff.

Jinkins has said that Shea should be expelled by the House if he does not resign but noted that Democrats alone cannot expel Shea and would need the votes of nine Republicans to reach a two-thirds majority. Rep. J.T. Wilcox, the Republican leader from Yelm, has said he believes it is up to the voters of Shea’s Spokane Valley district to decide whether to kick him out.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Algae bloom is seen in June 2018 in Budd Inlet, at the southern end of Puget Sound in Thurston County. (Department of Ecology)
Human-caused ‘dead zones’ threaten the health of Puget Sound

Wastewater treatment plants account for about 70% of the excess nutrients.

West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle. Photo courtesy of King County
Wastewater spills into Puget Sound, Lake Washington

About 20% of the 10 million gallons of untreated water was sewage, and 80% was stormwater.

Police: Thief berated mom for leaving kid in car he stole

“He actually lectured the mother for leaving the child in the car and threatened to call the police.”

Coho runs expected in the ocean and in Puget Sound dropped significantly in 2020. (Mike Benbow, file)
Time running out for Northwest salmon species, report says

Habitat restoration projects have not kept pace with ongoing habitat loss, especially in urban areas.

Hollie Jordan surveys her father's service station that was destroyed by wildfire, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Malden, Wash. "This was filled with work and life and memories and it's all gone," said Jordan. (AP Photo/Jed Conklin)
State Rep.: Trump is blocking federal aid because of Inslee

It’s been more than four months since a wildfire tore through two towns in Eastern Washington.

Democrats in the Washington State House are proposing to pay for transportation improvements partly by raising the gas tax by 18 cents. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)
Gas tax increase part of Dems’ massive transportation package

An 18-cent gas tax hike and a fee on carbon emissions would raise $25.8 billion for new roads and more.

12 arrested after blocking I-5 lanes in Seattle

During the protest, the group painted the letters “BLM” on the pavement.

A sign in set up to alert that the vaccine station at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, is by appointment only, on Monday, Jan. 18, 2020 in Monroe, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Inslee: New vaccination phase includes everyone 65 and older

The move to Phase 1b means more than 200,000 Snohomish County residents are eligible for the vaccine.

Members of the Washington National Guard stand at a sundial near the Legislative Building, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Governors in some states have called out the National Guard, declared states of emergency and closed their capitols over concerns about potentially violent protests. Though details remain murky, demonstrations are expected at state capitols beginning Sunday and leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington National Guard members activated for inauguration

The extra security comes in the wake of the insurgence at the U.S. Capitol last week.

Most Read