Unless anything weird happens during her confirmation vote in January, Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) will be Washington's next Speaker of the House. She'll be the first woman and the first lesbian to hold the position.
According to a press release from the Victory Institute, she'll be "one of three openly LGBTQ people currently serving as the leader of a state legislative chamber" and the sixth in U.S. history. All the more reason to mourn the fact that The Stranger never got around to picking a proper lesbian honorific for Jinkins after she won her seat in 2010. Maybe help us out in the comments?
In a statement, Jinkins, who chairs the Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee, said the Speakership will be "the most challenging job I’ll ever have" but feels "humbled and buoyed by the support of members of this caucus."
Representative Laurie Jinkins from the 27th district (Tacoma) is the first female speaker of the House in Washington State history. #KOMONews pic.twitter.com/f2H3IVAydB
— Kara Kostanich (@KaraKostanich) July 31, 2019
The three other contenders for the job were Reps. June Robinson, Monica Stonier, and Gael Tarleton.
In a phone interview, Rep. Noel Frame of Greenwood said she thinks the caucus would have been happy with any of those lawmakers as Speaker, and added that she was extremely pleased with the election process. "It was a super low-fuss, transparent, competitive process that we all felt good about," she said.
Jinkins is stepping up as Frank Chopp, who ran the caucus for 20 years, "steps aside" and continues his role as a representative for the 43rd Legislative District, which runs from Belltown to Broadmoor and up to Green Lake. Chopp has said he plans to run for his seat again, but promises not to "displace" any chairs.
Some Democrats credit Chopp with slowly and methodically growing the Democratic caucus after it was decimated in the mid-1990s. He was strong on housing and mental health care but preferred an incremental approach on issues he apparently didn't think would play well on the east side. (Crosscut has a good list: "criminal justice reform, improved sex education, gun control, and other topics that could be seen as somewhat controversial.") Few if any bills got to the floor without Chopp's blessing, and progressives hope Jinkins will change that dynamic now that she's in charge.
"I was pleased to hear the news" about Jinkins, said education advocate Summer Stinson, president of Washington's Paramount Duty. "Many progressive bills are introduced each session, but House leadership hasn't had the gumption and the courage to bring those bills to the floor in a long time. Jinkins has the opportunity to do that, but her setting that tone right off the bat is going to be crucial."
Jinkins has introduced the capital gains tax in the House for the last 7 years, so you might expect her to push for fairer taxation under Washington's embarrassingly regressive tax code.
Frame said Jinkins "has been deeply steeped in tax policy the entirety of her time in the legislature" and "fundamentally understands the problem" of the state's upside-down tax code. As for the strategy to fix it, Frame said "we'll ultimately have to see how she conducts herself as Speaker," but remains confident that Jinkins will support a more equitable system.
Jinkins also sponsored the Long Term Health-Care Act, one of the most significant pieces of legislation that passed last year. The law imposes a .58% payroll tax to establish a new benefit for Washingtonians who don't have anyone to take care of them when they're old.
Over the phone, Rep. Nicole Macri called her fellow LGBTQ caucus member a "policy wonk" and a "strong progressive" who is "amazingly open to new ideas."
Macri said Jinkins was "instrumental" in helping shepherd landmark eviction reforms through the House last session, and added that the two have "talked a lot about equity, about who is missing from the decision-making table or the policy deliberation table, and about how we as a caucus can work to continually improve how we engage the people who are most impacted by the weighty decisions we make."
She thinks Jinkins will take a "collaborative approach on finding solutions" toward that end, and that "there will be some intent and deliberate action toward how we live out our values around equity, inclusion, and transparency around the legislative process."
Frame echoed those thoughts about Jinkins's collaborative approach, saying her remarks at today's press conference about deferring to her "56 other members" on the House's agenda next session were telling. "She wants to raise up the work of other people," Frame said.