(360) 786-7604|Andy.Billig@leg.wa.gov

Monthly Archives: January 2014

E-newsletter – Early Learning and Team Billig

January 27th, 2014|

Early Learning

Last session one of the bills I prime-sponsored, SB 5595, created a task force to figure out how to better align the state’s two biggest early learning programs, Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program (ECEAP) and Working Connections Child Care.

Over the Summer and Fall, I co-chaired this task force along with Representative Maureen Walsh from Walla Walla and we are working on several bills based on recommendations from the task force: SB 6067, SB 6068 & SB 6127. All three of these bills seek to improve the quality of early learning services and better integrate the two early learning programs create better access for the kids that need it most.

Our ultimate goal is to help every child arrive at school ready to learn. If we achieve that goal, we’ll close the opportunity gap that low income students now experience and help them to have success in school and in life.

Your 3rd LD Senate Team

Below is a photo of our team (Kristine, Me, Kate and Paul) dropping a bill into the “Hopper”, which starts the bill’s journey to (hopefully) becoming a law.

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Here’s our 2014 line-up: Our session aide, Kate Burke, is a Spokane native and who most recently served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Second Harvest. She’s now starting her own non-profit, Spokane Edible Tree Project, which charts and maps all fruit and nut trees in Spokane County and then harvests and donates them back into the community. Kate is known for cycling, food advocacy, and her love of hip-hop’s golden age.

Our intern, Kristine Kardell, originally hails from Aurora, Colorado but as a senior at Whitworth University she’s made Spokane her home for the last four years. Kristine played volleyball at Whitworth and she’s double majoring in International Studies and Spanish and hopes to go to law school eventually.

Paul, my Legislative Assistant, has been a part of our team for the past three years and he’s the glue that keeps everything together. Paul is an Eastern Washington University graduate and has a long list of community accomplishments, including serving as the Board President for Pedals to People.

I feel very lucky to have such talented people on our team as we work together to serve the people of the 3rd District.

Teletown Hall

Earlier this week, your 3rd District delegation held a telephone town hall to give an update on the session and hear comments from constituents about the issues and legislation most important to our community. Representatives Ormsby and Riccelli and I enjoyed the conversation and it provided valuable feedback for us.

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We had several hundred people on the call but if you missed it, you can listen to a recording of the telephone town hall HERE.

If you didn’t have a chance to ask a question during the town hall and you still have one, you can email or call me. I welcome your input.

Keeping In Touch

Please don’t hesitate to contact our office with questions or comments at any time. You can reach me by e-mail (andy.billig@leg.wa.gov) or by phone at 360-786-7604.

And if you know someone who would like to get their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, please send them to my website at http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/billig/ and click on the link to “Sign up for my e-newsletter” – I’ll be glad to keep them in the loop!

Onward!

Andy

 

3rd district telephone townhall – in case you missed it

January 24th, 2014|

Earlier this week, your 3rd District delegation held a telephone town hall to get in touch with you, our constituents, to hear from you about the legislative session and the issues and legislation that we’re working on for you. Representatives Ormsby and Riccelli and I enjoyed the conversation and it provided valuable feedback for us.

You can listen to a recording of the telephone townhall by clicking the media player below or this link. It is a large file and it might download slowly on some internet connections.

If you didn’t have a chance to ask a question on the town hall, you can email me at andy.billig@leg.wa.gov or call me at 360-786-7604. I work for you, and I rely on your feedback to know what your priorities are and what I need to work on for our district. I look forward to hearing from you, thanks!

 

E-newsletter – Preventing the “Summer Slide”

January 21st, 2014|

Honoring Dr. Marin Luther King

Today on the Senate floor, we honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who dedicated and gave his life in the pursuit of equality and justice for all. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Dr. King:

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

 

Summer Knowledge Improvement Pilot (SKIP)

Did you know that 2/3 of the opportunity gap for low-income students is caused by summer learning loss during their elementary school years? That was the finding of a Johns Hopkins University study and similar results have been seen in numerous other studies.

Here’s a video narrated by NBC’s Brian Williams that explains the problem.

A possible solution could be found through the Summer Knowledge Improvement Pilot (SKIP) program, an extended school year pilot program for selected high-poverty elementary schools to combat academic regression over the summer. The SKIP bill, SB 6163, has been dropped and should have a hearing within the next two weeks.

This bill creates a pilot program for 10 schools in Washington State to extend their school year by 20 days. Schools will participate on a voluntary basis for three years and then a study will evaluate the extended school year’s effect on student success and ability to close the opportunity gap.

To apply as a SKIP pilot school, a school district must create a detailed plan for the extra 20 days, which includes input from the community. In addition, at least 70% of the staff at the school must support the idea before the district applies to be part of the pilot program.

 

Tele-Town Hall Meeting

Please join Rep. Timm Ormsby, Rep. Marcus Riccelli and myself when we host a tele-town hall this Wednesday at 6:15pm. We will each give a brief overview of our perspective on the Legislative session and then spend most of the time answering your questions.

Constituents in the 3rd Legislative District will receive a phone call at 6:15pm inviting them to stay on the line to participate in the town hall. Anyone who does not automatically receive a call can also join in by dialing the toll-free participant number to listen in on the event and ask questions. The call-in number is 1-877-229-8493 and you have to enter 18646 to participate.

 

Keeping In Touch

I welcome your input on pending legislation or any other issue important to our community.

Please don’t hesitate to contact our office with questions or comments at any time. You can reach me by e-mail (andy.billig@leg.wa.gov) or by phone at 360-786-7604.

And if you know someone who would like to get their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, please send them to my website at http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/billig/ and click on the link to “Sign up for my e-newsletter” – I’ll be glad to keep them in the loop!

Onward!

Andy

 

Billig Introduces Summer Knowledge Improvement Pilot Program

January 15th, 2014|

Legislation introduced by Sen. Andy Billig would begin the Summer Knowledge Improvement Pilot (SKIP) program, an extended school year for selected high-poverty elementary schools to combat academic regression over the summer. The bill was introduced with a strong bipartisan list of cosponsors.

“There are mountains of evidence that summer learning loss is a major factor in the opportunity gap that many low income children face at school,” said Billig, D-Spokane. “Academic regression over the summer vacation has a disproportionate impact on low-income students, and stepping up to address this problem is an important part of closing the opportunity gap that already holds too many students back.”

SB 6163 would authorize a pilot program to provide state funding for 20 additional student learning days at the beginning or end of the 180-day school year for up to 10 high-poverty elementary schools. Eligible schools would be those that have at least grades K-5 and where 75 percent or more of the students qualify for the free and reduced-priced lunch program.

To apply, a school district must hold a public meeting to receive input from parents and the community on a plan for the extra days. The district’s plans must include best practices and evidence-based strategies to be implemented over the extra 20 days for all students enrolled in the school and evidence that the plan has been agreed to by the principal of the school and at least 70 percent of the certificated and classified school staff who work in the building at least two days per week.

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy will evaluate the pilot program and report to the governor and the Legislature.

Sen. Billig worked with the education advocacy organization League of Education Voters (LEV) to develop the legislation. Closing the opportunity gap through policies like the SKIP program is a top priority for LEV.

“This is an important bill and we were glad to work with Sen. Billig on it,” said Frank Ordway, LEV’s Director of Government Relations. “The opportunity gap in this state is far too wide and we need to take immediate proven approaches to closing it.”

“If our goal is to help all children succeed, we must close the opportunity gap,” said Billig. “Since summer learning loss is such a significant contributor to the gap for low income children, an extended school year very well  may be the most effective, and cost-effective solution. Beginning SKIP as a pilot gives us a chance to review and evaluate this program and find the best way to deliver on that potential.”

Campaign finance transparency reform introduced by Billig

January 14th, 2014|

Legislation introduced today by Sen. Andy Billig would bring increased transparency and accountability to Washington’s campaign finance system.

“The people of Washington should know who’s paying for political campaigns in this state, and we all count on a robust and transparent campaign finance reporting system to make that happen” said Billig, D-Spokane. “Recently we’ve seen examples from both sides of the political spectrum of non-profits participating in elections in a huge way without disclosing their donors. When groups are spending large sums of money to influence an election, the people need to know where that money is coming from.”

Disclosure of campaign donors by 501(c)4 and other non-profit organizations has been a concern for campaign transparency advocates all over the nation and the issue came barreling into Washington State during 2013.  Last year, the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association (GMA) avoided disclosure for donors after they spent over $11 million to fund a committee opposing Initiative 522. It was only after the discovery of a specific fundraising e-mail that the attorney general was able to require disclosure. Without that e-mail, current law would not have required the GMA to disclose their campaign donors. Also in 2013, Working Washington — a registered nonprofit — raised more than $250,000 in support of the SeaTac minimum wage initiative but did not release the names of its donors during or after the November election.

Billig’s SB 6098 would require that any organization making expenditures in political campaigns of $100,000 or more for statewide elections or $20,000 for local or legislative elections to follow the disclosure requirements for political action committees, regardless of their non-profit status. Those disclosure requirements include filing a statement of organization and monthly campaign finance reports with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

“We have more campaigns spending more money than ever, and organizations shouldn’t be able to hide their donors because of non-profit 527 and 501(c) designations,” said Billig. “Everyone should be held to the same fair and transparent standard.”

The bill contains other needed fixes to Washington’s campaign finance laws. It updates reporting requirements to reflect the new primary date, which was moved up in 2011, to ensure donor transparency throughout the campaign cycle. It also cleans up the statutes by deleting unnecessary and duplicative language.

Political contributions by text message would be allowed under new Billig legislation

January 14th, 2014|

Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) would develop and adopt rules for making contributions to state and local electoral campaigns through text message under new legislation proposed today by Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane.

“Updating our campaign finance laws to reflect modern technologies will broaden participation in the election and campaign process, which leads to a healthier democracy,” said Billig.

“We’ve seen charities and nonprofits successfully solicit donations via text message in recent years, and since 2012, people have been able to make contributions to federal electoral campaigns through text messages. By making text message contributions an option for state and local campaigns, we can make the election process more accessible for people, especially young people, who often use their phones as their primary means of communication and commerce.”

SB 6097 directs the PDC to adopt rules by 2015 allowing text message contributions to both political candidates and ballot proposals. These new rules will limit text message contributions to $10 per text and $50 total per candidate or ballot proposition in a single election cycle.

E-newsletter – Opening Day!

January 14th, 2014|

Opening Day!

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The 2014 Legislative Session was gaveled to order earlier today by Lieutenant Governor, Brad Owen who also serves as the President of the Senate.

The state Legislature operates on a two-year cycle. In odd numbered years, we have a 105 day “long” session when we create two-year budgets for operating, capital and transportation in addition to consideration of policy bills.

In even numbered years, like this one, we have a 60 day “short” session. During short sessions we make adjustments (usually relatively minor) to the two-year budgets and consider a variety of policy bills.

Just like Opening Day of the Spokane Indians season, there was a lot of ceremony and a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. However, we seemed to be missing the sunshine, hot dogs, and OTTO the Spokanasaurus, all of which I normally enjoy on Opening Day for my other job!

Committees

During Senate floor action today, my committee assignments were confirmed. I am pleased to announce I will now serve on the Senate Ways and Means committee. This is the committee that writes and oversees the $33.6 billion two-year state operating budget so it is an important assignment as we work to protect and invest in Spokane and our entire state.

In addition, I will continue to serve as a member of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education, Rules, and the Energy, Environment & Telecommunications committees, as well as be a part of the Senate Democrats’ leadership team as Minority Whip.

Campaign Finance Transparency

In each weekly newsletter, I will highlight a policy bill or two that we’re working to pass this session. Among my priorities for this session is passing legislation that increases campaign finance transparency and accountability.

The bill, which does not have a bill number yet because it won’t be introduced until tomorrow, will require disclosure of all significant contributors to campaigns in Washington State.  Some non-profit groups are excluded from Washington’s statutory definition of “political committee.”  As a result, some of these organizations are participating significantly in Washington State elections without disclosing their sources of funds or spending as is required of political committees.

Transparency and accountability of campaign contribution are essential components for a fair, responsible and healthy democracy. We have excellent campaign finance laws in this state, but this non-profit group exclusion is a large loophole that needs to be closed.

In case you missed it, the Spokesman-Review ran an editorial in support of this bill. Check out the editorial HERE.

Keeping In Touch

I am honored and humbled to serve as your Senator. As I work on your behalf, it makes me more effective when I receive input from constituents on bills, budget items, state government, or other community issues of concern.

Please don’t hesitate to contact our office with questions or comments at any time. If you have feedback, I’d like to hear from you. You can reach me by e-mail (andy.billig@leg.wa.gov) or by phone at 360-786-7604.
And if you know someone who would like to get their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, please send them to my website at http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/billig/ and click on the link to “Sign up for my e-newsletter” – I’ll be glad to keep them in the loop!

 

Onward!

Andy