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

Monthly Archives: February 2014

E-newsletter – Dreaming

February 25th, 2014|

The DREAM Act

 

Last week, after three years of work the Legislature passed the DREAM Act. This historic piece of legislation will provide equal access to state-based higher education financial aid without regard to immigration status as long as a student has graduated from a Washington State high school.

 

I was proud to join a bi-partisan coalition in support of the DREAM Act as it passed the Senate on a 35-10 vote.

 

I became even more supportive of the DREAM Act a couple of years ago after hearing about the experience of students from Bridgeport High School and many other similar stories afterwards. Bridgeport is a small, rural school that was struggling. With a new focus on college preparation, this school of mostly migrant workers’ children turned itself around. They ended up with a 100% graduation rate with bright, motivated kids ready for college. However, these students were at a severe disadvantage when it came to college access because they were not eligible for the state’s main financial aid program.

 

As a state, we already invest in these students through the K-12 education system, but we could lose the potential for them to be future doctors, scientists, teachers, engineers and productive tax-paying members of our community if they cannot attend college. Without access to higher education, these kids could end up living a life maxed out with a high school education, which we know statistically leads to them becoming a burden for our community financially and otherwise.

 

There are opponents to this bill but I believe strongly that the DREAM Act is the right thing to do for these students and for the economy of our state. I look forward to the Governor signing the DREAM Act into law on Wednesday.

 

Dark Money

 

Last Tuesday was the cut-off deadline for policy bills and the bipartisan campaign finance transparency bill I introduced – SB 6098 – unfortunately never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.

 

This bill would have closed the biggest loophole in our campaign finance system and require all organizations that contribute money to Washington State elections to disclose their donors regardless of non-profit status.

 

This legislation was supported by our Secretary of State, the Washington Coalition for Open Government, and legislators from across the political spectrum. I know the bill would have passed with a strong bipartisan majority if it had been allowed to come up for a vote on the Senate floor, so I was disappointed that the Senate majority leadership chose to quietly kill this bill by blocking it from a vote.

 

I will certainly be introducing this legislation again in the next session. You can read Shawn Vestal’s column from The Spokesman-Review about this bill HERE.

 

Town Hall Meeting

billig townhall pic

Thank you to the 160 people who attended our 3rd Legislative District Town Hall on Saturday. Rep. Riccelli and I received comments and questions on a range of topics including income inequality, education, campaign finance transparency, early learning, oil trains, and the need for a transportation revenue package. I appreciated all of the thoughtful input from everyone that attended.

 

Whether you were able to make it to the Town Hall meeting or not, I encourage you to stay in touch as we move through the rest of the Legislative session.

 

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 our 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

 

E-newsletter – Oil train safety

February 17th, 2014|

Focus on Safety – Oil by Rail

One of the most pressing and growing safety concerns for our community is the dramatic increase in trains traveling through Spokane carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to terminals in Western Washington.

I have received many comments from constituents who are concerned about this subject and the Spokane City Council has been active in addressing these concerns as well. In fact, Councilmember Amber Waldref traveled to Olympia recently to testify in front of our Energy and Environment Committee regarding oil train safety.

The Bakken oil coming through Spokane by rail is especially flammable and we’ve seen a number of dangerous derailments of oil trains in the U.S. and Canada, including another accident just last week in Pennsylvania. We need to be better prepared since the majority of the state’s laws dealing with oil transportation have not been updated since the 1970s and the state’s planning and many resources for responding to crude oil spills are deployed in Western Washington.

 

On Friday, SB 6524, a bill that seeks to address oil train safety, came to the Senate floor. I do not believe the bill is strong enough in protecting Spokane and the rest of our state. Instead, I spoke in favor of a striking amendment that would require increased transparency of rail shipments so first responders can be better prepared and require a broader look at rail safety throughout the state. The amendment ultimately failed, however, I am hopeful that we will reach agreement on a final version of the bill that adequately addresses these safety concerns and protects our community. You can watch my floor speech HERE.

 

Constituent Visits

Throughout the Legislative session, many visitors from Spokane stop by regarding pending legislation and budget items. One of my meetings with constituents last week was with a group from Eastern Washington University Children’s Center.

These families came to Olympia to advocate for continued funding for high quality early learning programs including ECEAP, Head Start, and early Head Start. I am grateful for their input on this important issue.

I always appreciate visitors from home, and it is valuable for me to hear the first-hand stories regarding important services provided by the state that are shared with me during these visits.

 

Town Hall Meeting

As a reminder, Rep. Riccelli and I will be holding a town hall meeting to hear from constituents and answer questions on Saturday, February 22nd. Topics will include education, transportation, the state budget and anything else you want to talk about.

 

February 22nd, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

The Museum Of Arts and Culture – The MAC Auditorium

Browne’s Addition Neighborhood

2316 W 1st Ave

Spokane, WA

 

I hope you can join us.

 

Thank you, Emily

Senator Billig with Page Emily Borske

I was proud to sponsor Emily Borske from Mt. Spokane High School as a Senate page last week. An honors student, Emily is impressive and it was a pleasure to have her as part of our Senate team. Even though the page application period has closed for this session, I encourage students to take advantage of this wonderful program for next session and our office is happy to help facilitate the application process.

 

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 delegation to hold townhall meeting February 22

February 17th, 2014|

With the legislative session halfway over, Sen. Andy Billig and Rep. Marcus Riccelli will be holding a townhall meeting to hear from constituents and answer questions on Saturday, February 22. Topics will include education, transportation, job creation, the state budget and others. The meeting will be at:

 

Saturday, February 22

10 AM – 11:30 AM

The Museum Of Arts and Culture – The MAC Auditorium

Browne’s Addition Neighborhood

2316 W 1st Ave

Spokane, WA

 

Constituents are encouraged to come with questions and their feedback on the issues before the legislature.

 

For more information, contact the offices of:

Sen. Andy Billig, 360-786-7604

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, 360-786-7888

 

Clean water legislation passes Senate

February 12th, 2014|

Legislation passed today on the floor of the Washington state Senate on a 48-1 vote would help keep the water in the Spokane River and waterways around the state clean.

SB 6086, sponsored by Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, would reduce purchasing by state agencies of products containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

PCBs are toxic chemicals used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications such as insulation, paints and some plastics. PCBs are a probable carcinogen and may have serious non-cancer health impacts, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the manufacture, processing and distribution of PCBs was partially banned in 1979, the use of PCBs still occurs, particularly in many yellow printing and paint pigments.

“We know PCBs are hazardous to human health, and these long-lasting toxins can run off into our rivers and contaminate the fish we eat and water we swim in,” said Billig. “Responsible stewardship of the environment should start with the state itself, and reducing the use of this toxin by state agencies will stimulate demand for PCB-free products and set an example for other users to follow.”

Under SB 6086, the Department of Enterprise Services would establish a purchasing and procurement policy that provides a preference for products and products in packaging that do not contain PCBs. Unless it is not technically feasible or cost effective, no state agency may purchase products or products in packaging that contain PCBs above the lowest concentration that can be reliably measured.

“Like many of the bills we work on in Olympia, this idea was brought to me by a constituent,” said Billig. “I’m glad that we have people in our district working hard for a fishable and swimmable Spokane River. The first bill I passed in the Legislature was also a clean water bill to keep our river safe and clean, and I plan to continue working on this important issue.”

The bill will now go to the House for consideration.

E-newsletter – Cut-off week

February 10th, 2014|

“Cut-off” Week

Last week was committee “cut-off” week in Olympia. The legislative schedule provides for certain cut-off dates that serve as a funnel narrowing down the number of bills to be considered this session. If a bill did not pass out of committee by the cutoff date, it is dead for this session. The only exception to these cut-off dates are bills directly related to the budget. The cut-off process is essential for the effective operation of the Legislature but it makes for some tense days for citizens, stakeholders and legislators who watch their bills pass or die.

All of the priority bills I am prime-sponsoring made it out of committee before the cut-off deadline, including SB 6098 (Increasing Campaign Finance Transparency), SB 6163 (Addressing the educational opportunity gap by reducing summer learning loss), and SB 6086 (described below).

 

Bill Update – SB 6086

Last interim, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the impressive work being done in our region to keep the Spokane River clean. One of the most pressing problems is locating the sources of Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a known carcinogen that can create human and fish health hazards in the Spokane River and waterways around the state.

There are a variety of sources of PCBs, some of which are completely unknown. However, one easily identified source of PCBs is found in yellow dyes used in some paint and printing inks.

For example, there may be PCBs in the yellow paint used on road centerline stripes which could degrade from wear and the sun and then be washed by rain into the Spokane River.

As a step toward reducing PCBs in the environment, I introduced SB 6086, which will require state agencies to avoid purchasing products containing PCBs. The passage of this bill will be a small step towards creating a cleaner Spokane River. SB 6086 was “pulled” from the Rules Committee last week and is on the Senate floor calendar, eligible to be considered for a full Senate vote.

 

Town Hall Meeting

 

billig townhall postcard

 

With the legislative session nearly halfway over, Rep. Riccelli and I will be holding a town hall meeting to hear from constituents and answer questions on Saturday, February 22nd. Topics will include education, transportation, the state budget and anything else you want to talk about.

 

February 22nd, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

The Museum Of Arts and Culture – The MAC Auditorium

Browne’s Addition Neighborhood

2316 W 1st Ave

Spokane, WA

 

We do our job of representing our community best when we hear directly from you and I encourage everybody to attend.

 

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