No state worse than WA for jump in drug-overdose deaths

Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers Aug. 24, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, click here.

Let’s hear it for firefighters, others battling area wildfires

Dear friends and neighbors,

Over the past week, firefighters and others have heroically battled two wildfires in parts of Spokane County, including the Oregon Road Fire near Elk in the northern part of the county. Firefighters also have worked hard to contain the Gray Fire affecting the Medical Lake area. The governor last weekend declared a state of emergency due to the wildfires. 

A special thank-you goes to all of the professional and volunteer firefighters who are working so hard in high heat and difficult conditions to try to contain these dangerous wildfires. Their courage, determination and toughness are to be admired and commended. Thanks also to those who have helped in other ways, including providing food, water and other needed supplies to those affected by the fires.   

Fire trucks have been a key part of the effort to subdue wildfires in eastern Washington.

On Wednesday morning I attended three meetings regarding the Oregon Road fire. During the first meeting, at Deer Park City Hall, federal and state officials discussed the extent of the fire and the resources deployed to battle and contain it: 876 people, 43 fire engines, nine bulldozers, 38 water tenders and six helicopters. Not surprisingly, they noted the half-inch of rain that fell Wednesday helped tremendously.

Next was a community meeting at Riverside High School that drew 300 people, where it was announced that the Oregon Road fire had burned more than 11,000 acres. Riverside School District Superintendent Ken Russell was there, as was Spokane County Undersheriff Michael Kittilstved and Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns. Afterward Superintendent Russell asked me to attend another meeting about whether to delay the start of the school year in the Riverside School District. Here is the link to the story that Riverside School District put out yesterday in which it is postponing its start date for school.

Below is state and local resource information below to use and share as we navigate this disaster.

Please do not hesitate to contact my district office at 509-921-2460 if you are having trouble reaching a state agency for assistance.

If you have questions about how to participate in state government this year or thoughts to share on anything in this e-newsletter, please give me a call or send me an email.

Thank you, as always, for the honor of serving as your state senator!

Best Regards,

Senator Mike Padden

WA has fastest drug-overdose death-rate increase in U.S.

Our state has a serious and growing problem with drug-overdose deaths.

New statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Washington’s fatal drug-overdose situation is even grimmer than a month ago.

For the third straight month, the CDC has issued a report that finds Washington having the negative distinction of seeing the fastest drug-overdose death rate increase of any state in the country. According to the CDC, Washington has seen a nation-leading 28.4% increase in drug-overdose deaths between March 2022 and March 2023 (up from 23.9% for the period between February 2022 and February 2023). Oregon ranks second at 19.6%, followed by Nevada (19%) and Alabama (14%). The national average is a miniscule 0.1% increase.

But, according to the latest CDC report, Washington now leads the country not just in the percentage increase in deaths, but also the number of increased deaths (688 more than in the prior 12-month period). The full CDC report can be viewed here.

The CDC figures illustrate the effect of Washington’s decriminalization effort because they show the rise in drug deaths between 2021 and 2023, as the liberalized drug law took effect.

The 2021 Blake ruling by the state Supreme Court declared Washington’s felony drug-possession statute was unconstitutional because it criminalized possession even when a person did not knowingly have drugs. The Democrat-led Legislature responded that session with a law that reduced the criminal penalty for illegally possessing hard drugs to a misdemeanor – a change not directed by the court. As a result, many police agencies ceased enforcement efforts.

By eliminating the threat of jail time, the 2021 law eliminated incentives for addicts to enroll in drug-treatment programs. It also eliminated a tool used by law enforcement in sweeps of homeless camps.  

The punishment under the new drug-possession law (called the “Blake fix”), approved by the Legislature during a one-day special session in May, is basically a hybrid between a gross misdemeanor and a misdemeanor. It will not be an effective deterrent for drug offenders.

The new law took effect on July 1, and no benefit has been seen yet. More must be done to combat drug use and overdoses, including tougher punishment for using hard drugs, before even more lives are lost.  

State has collected nearly $1 billion since cap-and-trade auctions began  

Throughout the summer, Washington has been in the unenviable position of being either #1 or #2 for worst gasoline prices in the nation. According to AAA’s state-by-state gas price averages, California topped the nation with regular gas at $5.259 a gallon as of yesterday, while Washington was second at $5.063.

The top reason for these exorbitant gas prices is Washington’s “cap-and-trade” program, which took full effect this January. According to a recent Capital Press story, gas prices here are up $1.25 a gallon just since then, while prices nationwide have fallen by 70 cents over the past year.

Only California and Washington have a cap-and-tax law. It is not a coincidence that no other state has gas costing at least $5 a gallon. In fact, no other state is even close to $5 a gallon for gas.

The cap-and-trade law allows the state Department of Ecology to auction “carbon allowances.” The Capital Press goes on to report this month’s auction of carbon allowances brought Ecology’s year-to-date auction proceeds to a staggering $919.5 million. That is nearly $1 billion of your money being taken by the state for a program that is extremely unlikely to NOT reduce global carbon emissions at all. This is why I voted in 2021 against the bill that created the cap-and-trade program.

Lawsuit filed against new state law that weakens parents’ rights

A legal organization run by a former adviser to President Trump is challenging the new state law which allows shelters to notify state authorities but not parents when a young person seeks refuge to pursue what the law’s supporters call “gender-affirming care” or “reproductive health services.” Democrat majorities in the Legislature approved Senate Bill 5599 earlier this year. No Republican legislators supported the proposal, which took effect in July, because it weakens parents’ rights.  

America First Legal, headed by Stephen Miller, filed its lawsuit on behalf of eight Washington parents and two nonprofit groups that oppose this so-called “care” of children – International Partners for Ethical Care, Inc. and Advocates Protecting Children. The lawsuit argues the new law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. 

The Washington State Standard story on the lawsuit is here.

Recent events and meetings

Meeting with “future big-leaguer” Jack Murray at August 16 Spokane Indians game.

Over the past several weeks, I have attended a number of meetings and events in the 4th Legislative District or nearby. Here is a recap of them:

  • Attended the city of Spokane Valley’s “State of the City Luncheon” at the Centerplace Regional Event Center on July 26.
  • Attended the Regional Small Arms Range and Training Facility tour in Medical Lake on August 8. The event was hosted by Spokane County Sheriff Nowels and Spokane Valley Police Department Chief Ellis.
  • Attended the Conservation District open house on August 10.
  • Attended the Spokane Indians baseball game against the Tri-City Dust Devils on August 16. In what was an exciting, back-and-forth contest, the Indians won 5-4 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. During the top of the fifth inning, I was a guest in KGA radio’s booth during its broadcast of the game. You can hear the audio of that brief appearance here.
  • Took a tour of Spokane International Airport on August 18 to see the latest changes and improvements there.
  • Attended the Modern Electric board meeting yesterday.

Contact us!

If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. During the interim we are conducting business from our district office in Spokane Valley. We are here to serve you!

Phone: (509) 921-2460

Email address:

PLEASE NOTE: Any email or documents you provide to this office may be subject to disclosure under RCW 42.56. If you would prefer to communicate by phone, please contact Sen. Padden’s Olympia office at (360) 786-7606.

To request public records from Sen. Padden, please contact Randi Stratton, the designated public records officer for the Secretary of the Senate and Senate members.