(The Center Square) – A bill introduced by Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, to create the Washington State Commission on Boys and Men to address declines in their well-being may not get a committee hearing again.
Under House Bill 1270, the commission would be directed to focus its efforts on the following areas involving boys and men: education, jobs, careers and financial health, fatherhood, family and relationships, physical and mental health, and the experiences of males in the criminal justice system.
“The declines in overall well-being for boys and men must be addressed, and no one seems to be paying much attention to the fact we have an entire group of people not doing very well,” Dye told The Center Square.
She went on to say, “Last year we had a 37% increase in suicide rates and almost 80% of those are male, and young boys are committing suicide between the ages of 12 and 16.”
“What’s making our boys check out of life before they even get a chance?” Dye asked. “Someone commits suicide because they feel hopeless, worthless and useless.”
“Boys are falling way behind in school, then you look at juvenile crime, drug and alcohol addiction, and enrollment rates at college. Enrollment in higher education has flip-flopped from the 70’s when it was 60% male and 40% female, now it’s the opposite with 60% female and 40% male.”
Dye said many of these boys don’t have a male mentor with increasing numbers of homes run by a single mother. With few men going into professions like education and counseling, she said boys don’t see those role models around them.
Asked this week if HB 1270 would get a hearing, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, replied, “I think you should ask the chair of the [House State Government & Tribal Relations] committee, because we’re very deferential to chairs in deciding which bills they are and are not going to hear.”
“Most committees have more bills referred than they can actually hear or pass, so it’s up to the chair,” she added.
Rep. Bill Ramos, D-Tiger Mountain, is the committee chair. He did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Jinkins was also asked if Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, who has introduced companion legislation in the other chamber in the form of Senate Bill 5830, has spoken to her about the legislation.
“No, but I’m the Speaker of the House,” she retorted.
Pressed further if she has had any conversations about the bill with fellow Democrats in either chamber, she said, “I have not spoken with Chair Ramos about it, no.”
Blair Daly, founder of the Washington Initiative for Boys and Men, held out hope the bill would be heard.
“The Jan. 30 meeting of the State Government & Elections Committee is the last remaining one where SB 5830 could possibly get a hearing, before the policy committee cutoff,” he emailed The Center Square.
According to Daly, 14 legislators have signed on as sponsors of the legislation to create a Commission on Boys and Men. Seven are Democrats and seven are Republicans. Seven are men and seven are women.
“This isn’t about men versus women, it’s about acknowledging declines in this whole group of people and their well-being, and a Men and Boys Commission could come up with solutions so everybody can prosper and excel,” Dye said. “If we don’t turn this around now, we’re not gonna be okay.”
Dye’s bill failed to get a hearing during the 2023 legislative session.