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

Monthly Archives: April 2015

Campaign finance bill killed in surprise move

April 23rd, 2015|

In a surprise move, the Senate killed a landmark campaign finance transparency bill that had previously passed the Senate a unanimous 49-0 vote.

SB 5153 had been amended in the House to make technical changes. Rather than bring the bill up for a vote to concur in or reject the House amendments, either of which would have helped move the transparency policy forward, the Senate’s Republican leadership left the bill to die for the 2015 session.

When Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane and the sponsor of the bill, moved to have the bill considered, every member of the Republican caucus reversed their vote from earlier in the session and voted against consideration of the bill.

“This bill is a smart, common-sense step forward to ensure the transparency in our elections that our democracy depends on and voters deserve,” said Billig. “I had appreciated the assurances from the Senate Republican Majority Leader and Floor Leader that they would work with me to pass this bill, and I’m shocked that they suddenly decided to kill the bill instead. No real explanation has been offered. There’s no reason to block transparency unless there is something to hide.”

SB 5153 was endorsed by newspaper editorial boards across the state including the Spokesman-Review, the Seattle Times, the Olympian, and the Columbian.  The bill was also supported by Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“I very recently heard concerns about the bill from some business organizations like the Association of General Contractors who currently use loopholes in our campaign finance transparency laws to hide their funding and activities from the public,” saidBillig. “I understand why they want to keep their political donors secret, but that is not in the best interest of the voters or consistent with the spirit of the voter-approved initiatives that created the Public Disclosure Commission. But the Senate Republicans were willing to accommodate these types of organizations and let the status quo of dark money in our state continue.

“It is so disappointing that the Senate Republicans have decided to stand up for more dark money in politics rather than standing up for the campaign transparency that the voters deserve and a healthy democracy demands,” Billig continued.

The bill would require that non-profit organizations that participate in political campaigns register with the Public Disclosure Commission as incidental political committees and disclose their campaign-related contributions and expenditures, as candidates and traditional political action committees already do. The bill would apply to groups across the political spectrum, from the SEIU-funded Working Washington group that participated in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Sea-Tac to the Grocery Manufacturers Association that campaigned to defeat Initiative 522, both examples from 2013.

Billig vowed to continue working to pass the legislation.

“The bill will have the opportunity to be considered again in special session later this year, and in next year’s regular session if we can’t act this year. I hope that the Republicans can recognize the need for this important good government measure, and bring the bill up for a vote so that we can ensure transparency in our campaigns. I am certainly not giving up the fight to protect our democracy and our voters.”

E-newsletter – To Concur or not to Concur

April 23rd, 2015|

Do You Concur?

In addition to working on the operating budget, we have now focused our attention on the concurrence process. For bills that have passed both chambers of the Legislature in different forms, the House and Senate must work together doing the “concurrence dance.”

When a Senate bill comes back from the House with amendments, the Senate votes “to concur” with the House amendments and the bill goes to the Governor to be signed into law or (rarely) to be vetoed. Or, the Senate votes “do not concur” in which case the bill goes back to the House where they can either “recede” and the bill goes to the Governor in the version that passed the Senate, or the House can”insist” and the bill comes back to the Senate with the House amendments. After several trips back and forth, if there is no agreement, the bill either dies or goes to “conference” to work out the differences.

The three prime-sponsored bills I still have alive, the Sheena Henderson Act, the Expanded Learning Council bill, and campaign finance transparency bill, all came back from the House in amended form. On Thursday, the Senate quickly concurred on the House amendments on two of the bills and hopefully the third bill, campaign finance transparency, will also gain concurrence early this week.

 

Our Favorite Constituent Correspondence of the Week

Last week, I received 25 letters from Mrs. Kruiswyk’s 4th grade class at Evergreen Elementary. The students wrote about many of the things they enjoy at school like art, reading, science and using their imagination. They also discussed some concerns, ranging from difficult tests to the desire for more arts and time for creativity.

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Our staff and I read each letter and were impressed with their stories and thoughtful comments, as well as their penmanship! This kind of feedback is not only fun to receive but also important to me as I make decisions about how to best vote and advocate for all Spokane constituents, even the littlest ones. Thank you to Ms. Kruiswyk and all the students who wrote to me.

Keeping In Touch

If you have a comment, idea, or question, please let me know. I would love to hear from you! You can reach me by e-mail at andy.billig@leg.wa.gov or by phone at 360-786-7604.

If you know someone who would like to receive their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, tell them they can go to my website athttp://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/billig/ and click on the link to “Sign up for my e-newsletter.”

Onward!

-Andy

E-newsletter – The Budgets are Moving

April 10th, 2015|

Money time!

I believe the Legislature does its best work when we collaborate in a bipartisan manner. I have seen the positive results for the people of Washington State when collaboration is fostered and compromise is found.  With the two main budgets we are working on right now, the capital and operating budgets, we have examples of both the fruit borne by bipartisanship and the challenges presented by a more partisan approach.

 

The Capital Budget

The capital budget was negotiated collaboratively with both Republicans and Democrats trading ideas and coming to a compromise. That means that everyone has items they like and probably some items they don’t like, but overall it represents a collaboration of diverse views of legislators from around the state.

I am particularly pleased that it includes funding for the following Spokane projects: Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant, the Spokane Children’s Theater, the Mission Park Adaptive Youth Baseball Field, the Spokane Women’s Club, Corbin Senior Center, the NEWTECH Skills Center as well as the Valley Tech Skills Center, and funding to help clear housing from the runway crash zone at Fairchild Air Force Base.

The capital budget also includes items I don’t prefer such as a reduction in funds for clean energy programs that have produced results for our region, a re-prioritization of the Wildlife, Recreation and Parks program, and the failure to fund the City of Spokane Cleaner River Faster plan.

The capital budget is the product of compromise, and after weighing the positives and negatives I feel it delivers well for our state and our region. I plan to vote in favor of it in committee today and on the Senate floor tomorrow.

 

The Operating Budget

In sharp contrast to the bipartisanship of the capital budget, the Senate Republican majority decided to proceed on their own and produced a partisan operating budget that passed off the floor of the Senate on a strict party-line vote.

The Senate Republican budget contained some of the spending items that are important to our state but they paid for the budget with unsustainable and expensive gimmicks, including the long-term bonding of $200 million to pay for current year operating budget items. This is equivalent to paying for state government on a credit card.  Their budget funds education with gimmicks, accounting tricks and one-time fund sources, when what we really need is a sustainable plan that we can rely on to pay for a great education for our children for years to come.

I voted no on the Senate operating budget, but I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to reach a more fiscally responsible final compromise that I will be able to support.

 

Budget next steps

Versions of both the capital and operating budgets will have passed both chambers by the end of the week, so now negotiations between the House and Senate will begin. Because the capital budget was bi-partisan in both chambers, the final negotiations should be concluded quickly. By contrast, the operating budget negotiations will take longer but I remain optimistic we will arrive a responsible and balanced final budget agreement before the end of the regular session on April 26th.

 

Our Page

The day-to-day work of the State Senate would not be possible without the Senate pages. Every week, a new group of high school students from across the state help us out by delivering messages, showing guests around and helping to make the Senate floor operate smoothly.

Sen. Billig with page Hailee Muller
I sponsored Spokane-area student Hailee last week and she did a terrific job. When she is in Spokane, Hailee attends Mead High School and volunteers with City Gate Meals Ministry. She loves photography and theater, and someday hopes to be involved with journalism as a political correspondent. Thank you, Hailee, for representing our community so well!

 

Good Bye to our Intern!

Last week, a key member of Team Billig headed back to Spokane. Our intern, Maureen Haeger, completed the academic requirements from Eastern by working in our office and taking classes on legislative affairs.

Maureen stood out with her attention to detail, her positive attitude, and the way she truly listened to and cared about every constituent she worked with. Thank you for all your hard work, Maureen!

 

Keeping In Touch

If you have a comment, idea, or question, please let me know. I would love to hear from you! You can reach me by e-mail at andy.billig@leg.wa.gov or by phone at 360-786-7604.

If you know someone who would like to receive their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, tell them they can go to my website at http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/billig/ and click on the link to “Sign up for my e-newsletter.”

 

Onward!

 

-Andy