This week’s Newsmaker Interview is with Freshman Republican Representative Sam Low who serves the 39th Legislative District (much of Northern Snohomish County and Skagit County that is East of I-5). The representative also serves on the Snohomish County Council. Representative Low is a member of the powerful House Rules Committee, as well as the Transportation Committee, the Housing Committee, and the State Government/Tribal Affairs Committee.
The Snohomish County native shared his thoughts on his first legislative session which included the passage of a few bills he sponsored. Representative Low expressed his disappointment in the Democrats’ watered down version of police pursuit reform and for the liberal drug possession measure which local officials say will not help their communities (28 mayors just sent a letter expressing their concerns). He discussed his organ transplant legislation which proponents claim will save many lives. The representative is hopeful that the still unreleased budget may contain some good news for his district. He stated his disappointment in the Democrats eroding parental rights and also passing further gun restrictions which he believes the courts will rule is unconstitutional. And finally, Representative Low provided Shift readers with a glimpse of what is already on his 2024 legislative session wish list.
First of all, what are your thoughts as you near completion of your first term in the legislature? What have been the key lessons you have learned that will make you more effective in serving your constituents in Olympia?
I think I have come through my first session very effectively. I came in with the idea of working across the aisle to accomplish things, and I feel like I have done that. I think I have built some strong relationships to hopefully build on what I have done this year and do more in the years to come.
I learned other things this first year, such as the many nuances involved in the process. For example, in addition to the two bills I got to the Governor’s desk – House Bill 1271 (organ transplant) and House Bill 1031 (Medal of Valor), I had another bill (House Bill 1504)about requiring schools to ensure kids get at least 30 minutes of recess. My bill in the House was a companion bill (Senate Bill 5257) to one in the Senate. This policy was worked heavily in both chambers, and in the end, leadership decided that the Senate version would be what we call the vehicle – or the version that gets to move forward – and that is okay. I believed in this policy, and it is now sitting on the Governor’s desk. It does not matter that the bill to get to him does not have my name on it because it is about the policy not whoever the bill’s sponsor is.
At the beginning of the legislative session it appeared that many Democrat legislators had learned from their past mistakes on police pursuit legislative and were willing to pass meaningful reform. That enthusiasm appears to have faded during the session. What are your thoughts on the current police pursuit legislation?
On pursuits, I think we took a small step forward, but there are a lot more steps forward that we need to make. I don’t think any of us are saying it needs to go back to what we had before, but there has got to be a fair balance for the people of my district and the people of Washington. What we passed out of the Legislature lacks that balance. We are number two in the nation for car thefts. We are seeing car thefts spike out of control because there is no enforcement, and the criminals know there is no enforcement, and for us as legislators to ignore that is a dereliction of duty.
Many local officials in Snohomish County have called for tougher drug possession laws. Do you think the current legislation will do enough to help local law enforcement get drug addicts into treatment?
At the moment, we still don’t know what the final Blake bill will be that passes out of the Legislature. Right now, the House version is basically nothing. Hearing from my mayors in Skagit and Snohomish counties – they would like to see something closer to the Senate version that we had that made drug possession a gross misdemeanor and had a stick to with the carrot. We need to ensure that our cities and counties have the right tools to effectively address the drug crisis on our streets that is getting worse by the day. If we can’t pass an effective policy, this going to be another wasted session on top of the last two.
You wrote a bill (HB 1271) to help those waiting for organ transplants. It passed both chambers of the legislature. What will this bill do?
House Bill 1271 is about saving lives – and doing it safely. It allows vehicles transporting lifesaving organs under life-or-death circumstances for the patient waiting for that organ to operate with emergency lights and sirens with drivers trained to operate safely in that manner. I appreciated the process of getting this bill passed as it allowed me to see the different perspectives on this and drill down on the smallest of tweaks that can make a difference in getting your bill across the finish line.
What are your thoughts on the budget? If you could, what would you do to improve it?
The operating budget has not been released to us yet. On the capital budget, it appears like we got some really good projects spread across the district – I think it may be one of the best budgets that the 39th has seen in a long time, but that is all I can really say on that right now.
What would you say is the biggest disappointment of the session?
I think the biggest disappointment is the parental rights bill. I am also very disappointed that we did not do what we needed to fix the pursuit issue, and we likely won’t see what we need on drug possession done either when all is said and done. I am also unhappy to see further erosion of Second Amendment Rights with policies that will most assuredly going to end up in legal challenges that will ultimately cost taxpayers. I would suggest that money could be better spent on investing in behavioral health and education resources so we actually get to the underlying issues behind the violence we see.
As the 2023 session is winding down, are there legislative ideas you already have for 2024?
We need to do something to get property tax relief for our seniors. I have too many seniors being taxed out of their homes. I would like to see that tackled in the next year or two. Skagit and Snohomish counties both still have transportation issues that need to be addressed, such as the Trestle, projects in Marysville and especially the transportation needs in our rural areas in the 39th District. We have had a lot of struggles in the rural areas for years, and I understand our focus on the urban areas, but we can’t just ignore the rural areas.
To learn more about Representative Sam Low and to contact his office, please visit his official website.