Billig bills to support children, improve early learning and help election transparency signed into law

May 22nd, 2013|

Governor Jay Inslee has signed into law a series of bills sponsored by Senator Andy Billig, D-Spokane. Two of these bills are focused on one of Billig’s top legislative priorities – expanding opportunities for children through quality early learning programs and a quality foster care system.

Early learning programs are crucial to preparing children for success in school and life, Billig noted. SB 5595, signed into law by the Governor yesterday, will strengthen the state’s largest early learning program, Working Connections Child Care. This program delivers safe, high-quality early learning opportunities for children from low income families and helps their parents get back to work.

“Education is the ladder out of poverty and early learning is the first step on that ladder,” said Billig. “For children to succeed in school and life, they need to enter school prepared to learn. The evidence is clear that early learning is the best investment in our future that our state can make.”

SB 5389 also focuses on children. “We know that it’s in the best interest of children in the foster care system to maintain relationships with their natural siblings when they are living apart,” Billig said.

His legislation directs the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to maintain the maximum possible contact between a child and their siblings. Importantly, it also requires that DSHS, a court or the child’s caregiver not use removal of sibling visitation as a sanction for bad behavior.

“This issue was brought to me by the Mockingbird Society, an impressive group of current and past foster children that advocates for improvements to the foster care system,” said Billig. “The foster care system is tough enough for kids as is. We should make sure that they’re able to develop healthy relationships with their brothers or sisters and that removing that right or threatening to remove it is not being held over kids’ heads as a punishment.”

Both SB 5595 and SB 5389 were signed into law by Gov. Inslee on Tuesday.

The third Billig bill to be signed into law recently was SB 5507, legislation to increase transparency in elections. The bill would require that every voter’s ballot be printed with instructions on how to access campaign finance information on the Public Disclosure Commission website. The Public Disclosure Commission maintains records of contribution and expenditure reports for all state races including statewide offices, legislative offices, local offices and ballot measures. It has stringent reporting requirements and presents its data through an easy-to-use, searchable database.

“The Public Disclosure Commission is a great resource that does excellent work tracking and reporting political contributions to state and local campaigns, but many people don’t know that the information is available or how to access it,” said Billig. “Voters should be able to know who is supporting political campaigns and this bill makes sure that the information is where voters are sure to look – on their ballot. Democracy works best when citizens have access to as much information as possible.”

SB 5507 was signed into law by Gov. Inslee last week.

The fourth Billig-sponsored bill to be signed this year was SB 5458, a consumer safety bill. The legislation will require that any products containing asbestos be clearly labeled to ensure that consumers are informed that the product contains this cancer-causing element.

The measure will require that any asbestos-containing building material must feature a label that clearly identifies it as containing asbestos. The label must be placed on the exterior packaging or wrapping with the product name and description and on the exterior surface of the building material itself.

“People should know if they are buying a product that’s known to cause cancer,” said Billig. “Labeling asbestos products will help people make safe choices for themselves and their families.”

SB 5458 was signed into law April 23. All four bills will go into effect July 28, 90 days after the end of the regular legislative session.

“I’m proud of the results this session on important issues like supporting children, election transparency and consumer safety,” said Billig. “But our work is not done. As the special session continues, I will continue to advocate for a final operating budget that is balanced, responsible and delivers for our state with a focus on building prosperity and expanding opportunities for the citizens of Washington.”