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

Monthly Archives: January 2017

E News- Oil Trains, Kids and Voters!

January 24th, 2017|

 

We are now in the third week of this 105-day legislative session. In the Senate alone, there have already been over 300 new bills introduced since the beginning of session and many more are expected to be filed in the coming weeks. Here’s an update on some of the bills I have prime-sponsored.

  • Oil Train Safety: The oil trains moving through downtown Spokane at up to 50 miles per hour (the current federal speed limit) pose a unique threat to public safety because of the elevated tracks they travel on, which is why I introduced Senate Bill 5098. This bill would allow cities such as Spokane to set lower speed limits for trains that are carrying hazardous materials like Bakken crude oil. We are currently waiting to see if SB 5098 gets a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee.
  • Improved Early Learning Access: Senate Bill 5107 would make it easier for local municipalities, school districts and non-profits to amplify the state’s early learning investments and create greater access to high quality early learning for the kids that need it most. The bill had a great hearing last Thursday and is waiting for a committee vote.
  • Young Voter Registration Equality: Again this year, I introduced this voter pre-registration bill. Senate Bill 5110 would allow 16 or 17 year olds to pre-register to vote. This would give young voters the same access to “Motor Voter,” the most effective way to register voters, as older voters have.
  • K-2 School Suspensions: Young students who are expelled or suspended are up to 10 times more likely to drop out of high school and face more difficulties down the line. From 2013 to 2016, the number of suspensions and expulsions for these young students has increased 39.8% to a statewide total of 8,800 incidents. That’s why I sponsored Senate Bill 5155, which would encourage school districts to use proven restorative and preventative practices when a child is having a problem and prohibit the use of suspensions for K-2 students for more than the remainder of the day.
  • Campaign Finance Transparency: As long as I serve in office, I will be resolute in my efforts to make our elections more transparent and more accountable to voters. So far this session, I’ve introduced two bills tackling campaign finance reform – Senate Bill 5108 and Senate Bill 5219, Both bills would help to instill accountability and transparency by closing campaign finance disclosure loopholes.

Tele-Town Hall

I want to encourage you to participate in a telephone town hall hosted by my 3rd Legislative District seatmates and me.

Under this tele-town hall format, thousands of constituents will receive telephone calls just before 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, asking if they would like to stay on the line and participate. Participants may ask questions for their lawmakers and hear our answers to other questions as well.

If you would like to participate, you may call in at 877-229-8493 and enter the ID code 116276.

Sign Your Student Up to be a Page

Do you know a student between the ages of 14 and 16 interested in civic participation? Sign them up to be a legislative page. During this unique one-week hands-on experience, pages:

  • Deliver important messages to legislators.
  • Work in the Senate or House chambers during floor debates.
  • Learn about state government.
  • Participate in mock debates.

Click here or call my office at 360-786-7604 if you would more information.

Keeping in Touch

If you have a comment, idea or question, please let me know. I would love to hear from you!

You can email me at andy.billig@leg.wa.gov or call me at 360-786-7604.

Onward!

Billig continues to champion campaign finance reform

January 12th, 2017|

Olympia – Transparency and accountability are at the heart of campaign finance legislation introduced today by Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane.

Senate Bill 5108 would help curb the practice of moving money from one political action committee (PAC) to another for the purpose of obscuring donor transparency.

Currently, PACs are required to list their top five donors on campaign advertisements so voters can understand who is sponsoring the advertisement. But certain PACs have found a loophole to disguise their donors’ identities by moving money to subsequent shadow PACs that do not have any real donors to disclose.

“The public has a right to know who is funding elections in our state. Voters of this state are thirsty for information and transparency,” said Billig. “This isn’t a partisan issue. There are players from across the political spectrum who are trying to stay in the shadows and find loopholes to hide their money. It’s time to shine a light on these activities so voters can make informed decisions.”

When talking about the need for strong public disclosure, Billig notes that an additional reason for disclosure is to raise the level of discourse in election advertising.

Billig quoted the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who said, “Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which … exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.”

In addition to SB 5108, Billig will again be introducing the Washington State DISCLOSE Act, Billig’s signature campaign reform legislation that has been blocked by the Republican Majority in the Senate three years running.

The DISCLOSE Act would require non-profit organizations participating in state and local political campaigns to disclose their contributions and expenditures. Currently, some non-profits are funneling undisclosed money into political campaigns.

“As long as I serve in office, I will be resolute in my efforts to make our elections more transparent and more accountable to voters,” said Billig. “I believe in putting your money where your mouth is. To the people and organizations who intentionally seek ways to disguise their money, my question is, ‘What are you afraid of? Why don’t you want voters to know who you are? What are you trying to hide?’”

  • Permalink Gallery

    Billig: ‘Oil trains traveling on Spokane’s elevated tracks pose unique threat’

Billig: ‘Oil trains traveling on Spokane’s elevated tracks pose unique threat’

January 11th, 2017|

Olympia- More than a mile of elevated train tracks run through the heart of downtown Spokane, and travelling on those tracks are trains hauling oil cars loaded with highly volatile Bakken crude oil.

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, believes hauling oil on elevated tracks poses a safety hazard unique to Spokane and he wants to grant local authorities the ability to lower the speed limit of these trains to cut down on the possibility of a derailment.

“A derailment in Spokane’s downtown corridor would have drastic consequences,” said Billig. “A serious derailment and the ensuing explosion would result in the loss of life and would reportedly cost more than $700 million for clean-up and rescue efforts. Even a minor derailment could be a potential catastrophe. Downtown would most likely have to be evacuated which would hamper commerce, shut down nearby schools and hospitals, and force the city into gridlock. Added to the unique safety situation in Spokane is the potential ecological harm that could be caused if the oil made it into the Spokane River which flows directly into the Spokane aquifer – the single source of drinking water for more than 500,000 people.”

Under Billig’s Senate Bill 5098, certain cities or the state Utilities and Transportation Commission would be allowed to establish reduced speed limits for trains that pose a local threat provided it is not incompatible with federal law and does not unreasonably burden interstate commerce. Currently, under federal law, trains can travel upwards of 50 mph through Spokane.

“With elevated tracks running through such a densely populated area, we must take every precaution to ensure the safety of our residents,” said Billig. “I cannot emphasize enough how potentially dangerous this situation is. Spokane and other similar cities must be allowed to protect its citizens by lowering these speed limits. If not, we are simply inviting a disaster.”

E News- Opening Day 2017

January 9th, 2017|

Today marks the beginning of the 2017 legislative session and I am excited to get back to work.

Throughout session, I will be sending newsletters like this one to keep you up to date on the issues we are tackling that directly affect you and Spokane. If you know someone who would like to receive their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, please forward them this email and tell them to click here to sign up.

Working for you

Today I was sworn in to begin my second term in the Senate serving the people of Spokane and in mid-December I was re-elected by my colleagues to serve as the deputy minority leader. I enjoy this role because it allows me to help guide the Senate while keeping the priorities of the people of Spokane at the forefront of our discussion.

I am also eager to continue to serve on the Early Learning & K-12 Education committee, the Rules committee and the Ways & Means committee – the committee responsible for writing the budget.

Funding our schools

During the interim, I served on the Education Funding Task Force which was tasked with producing a recommendation to the Legislature on how the state can fully fund our schools as ordered by the state Supreme Court.

My Democratic colleagues on the panel and I put forward a proposal that recommends we build new schools across the state, place high-quality educators in all classrooms and give 1.1 million Washington school kids the opportunity to learn and to achieve their fullest potential. Click here to see our proposal. Frustratingly, our Republican colleagues failed to submit a proposal. Still, I remain optimistic that we will find a responsible bipartisan solution that meets our Constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education and focuses on student success.

Meet the crew

Leading our team again this year is Kate Burke, my legislative assistant. Kate is the key to our success in representing the people of Spokane and we are lucky to have her.

Born and raised in Spokane, Kate is a familiar face in our community. She has served on the board of directors of Project Hope Spokane for four years and is the founder of the non-profit Spokane Edible Tree Project. Kate has also just been voted to serve on the board of YWCA of Spokane.

Our session aide for this year is Reed Simock. This is Reed’s second year with our team, having joined the office last year as an intern. Reed studies political science and history at Washington State University and has attended more than his fair share of Cougar football games. His mom Debbie is a proud subscriber of this newsletter.

Lastly, our intern this year is Cassandra Barrett, a senior at Eastern Washington University. Cassandra was born and raised in Spokane. She is looking forward to serving our constituents and learning how she can help make Spokane an even better place to live.

Keeping in touch

Please keep in touch throughout the legislative session. I value your input as we work to improve opportunity and prosperity in our state. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have a comment, idea or questions.

You can reach me by email andy.billig@leg.wa.gov or by phone at 360-786-7604.

Onward!

Andy