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

Sen. Andy Billig Newsroom

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    Billig: Senate Republicans block construction budget, millions of dollars for Spokane are at stake

Billig: Senate Republicans block construction budget, millions of dollars for Spokane are at stake

OLYMPIA – Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, issued this statement today at the conclusion of the Legislature’s third special session and in response to the Senate Republicans’ refusal to allow a vote on the capital construction budget.

“This has been an unfortunate ending to an otherwise productive legislative session that included historic investments in K-12 education and early learning.

“There was full agreement on the capital budget and it was certain to pass the Senate with a near unanimous majority. The House passed it near unanimously on June 30. All that was needed, was for the Senate Republican leadership to allow a floor vote.

“I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans have decided to block this year’s capital budget because of an unrelated water rights issue. That water rights bill is also important but it should not be artificially connected to the capital budget.

“In addition, there have been numerous opportunities to reach a compromise on the water issue, yet Senate Republicans have insisted on taking a ‘my way or the highway’ approach.

“This brinksmanship by the Senate Republicans has serious consequences. The capital budget would have created more than 19,000 construction jobs, funneled more than $1 billion into public school construction to lower class sizes, and invested $800 million in our public universities and colleges.

“In the Spokane area alone, millions of dollars in investments will be lost for projects and improvements important to our community including:

  • Spokane Family Justice Center at the YWCA.
  • East Central Community Center dental clinic.
  • Renovations to Spokane Community College’s main building.
  • Honor Point Aerospace Museum.
  • Peaceful Valley Spokane River boat access.
  • Emmanuel Family Life Center improvements.
  • EWU Interdisciplinary Science building

“In the end, people – especially vulnerable people – are the ones who are going to suffer the most. Money in this budget was dedicated to tackle the homeless crisis, get kids off the streets, and improve our state’s mental health programs.

“Even though the legislative session officially concludes today, I encourage my colleagues across the aisle to recognize that these projects are too important to our state to be innocent victims of the Senate GOP’s political gamesmanship.

“We have a viable compromise solution to the water rights issue and an agreed upon capital budget that drives our economy and supports our most vulnerable. We can and should pass both by the end of the year.”

July 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|

E News- Education plan passes Senate, finally!

I am pleased to report that we have passed a K-12 education plan that funds our schools and delivers for Washington’s 1.1 million schoolchildren. It does so by supporting important programs aimed at closing the opportunity gap, increasing salaries and salary equity for educators so we can attract and retain the best possible teachers, and maintains local control. I was glad to serve as one of the eight negotiators who helped craft this proposal.

We also passed an operating budget tonight that closely reflects Spokane’s values. It invests in health care, increases access to high quality pre-school, and improves access to college for kids from low-income households. Additionally, it does all this without requiring cuts to our state’s safety net.

Here are a few Spokane budget highlights:

– Funding for medical education in Spokane

– Support for the Spokane River Toxics Task Force

– Significant investments for Spokane Public Schools

– Increased funding for Eastern State Hospital

This was a compromise budget, and a compromise inevitably includes parts you do not agree with. The $7.3 billion dollar investment in our schools is primarily funded by a statewide property tax. I advocated for funding sources that would have better addressed Washington’s regressive tax code.

The negotiation process was intense but I am confident that we have produced a K-12 education plan that will help every child in the state achieve their fullest potential.

For those that are interested in more detail, here are summary documents and the actual bill language for both the K-12 plan as well as the operating budget: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2017/ho1719p.asp

Keep in Touch

I value your input as we work to improve opportunity and prosperity in Spokane and across our state. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have a comment, idea or question.

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

Onward!

Andy

July 1st, 2017|E-News, Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Spokane lawmakers secure $15 million for regional medical education

Spokane lawmakers secure $15 million for regional medical education

OLYMPIA – The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University and the WWAMI Regional Medical Education program will receive a total of $15 million in state funding following the passage of the state’s operating budget that is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee late tonight.

“In Eastern Washington and throughout the state, we are facing a shortage of primary care doctors,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “It is critical we fund our region’s medical education institutions so we can ensure that families in rural, underserved areas have the same access to quality care as their urban neighbors.”

WSU’s medical school will admit an inaugural class of 60 first-year medical students starting August 2017 with the goal of producing more primary care physicians for rural and underserved areas in the state. Students will serve in clinics in the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, Everett and Spokane following their first two years of instruction and the inaugural class will be made up entirely of Washington state residents.

“This is a big win for Eastern Washington,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane. “Not only does this keep talented young doctors in Washington, it will be a big economic driver, expanding our economy with increased care and medical research dollars.”

The $10 million secured for WSU’s medical expansion will support the 60 first-year and second-year students.

“This is another important step to getting people access to healthcare for themselves and their families regardless of where in the state they live,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D- Spokane. “I am proud to have worked so hard with the late Dr. Floyd and his team, and Sens. Baumgartner and Billig to pass the policy bill that paved the way for a WSU medical school. I’m also proud of the hard work of the Spokane delegation to secure this funding for medical education for WSU and UW.”

The University of Washington’s WWAMI program will also receive $5 million in state funding. WWAMI trains and prepares physicians to care for patients and communities throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The program has been recognized by the Association of American Medical Colleges with the Outstanding Community Service Award and has been identified as the nation’s top primary care, family medicine and rural medicine training school.

July 1st, 2017|Uncategorized|

E News- Special Session

Sunday was the final day of the 2017 regular legislative session and we have good news and disappointing news to report.

First, the good news. In the final days of session, we unanimously passed a significant and responsible transportation budget. This transportation budget continued funding for important Spokane investments like the North Spokane Corridor and the U-District Gateway Bridge. New funding was also included to help rebuild a pedestrian bridge over the north span of the Spokane River in Riverfront Park.

Now the disappointing news. Senate Republicans have refused to negotiate on a final operating budget, which is the largest piece of unfinished business we have left to do this year. As a result, we are in special session.

Education Policy Progress

While the overall operating budget negotiations have not begun, there is some progress being made regarding education policy. I am back in Olympia this week as one of the education leaders and we are having substantive and productive discussions.

We still have heavy lifting to do, but I remain confident that we can work together to find a solution for Washington’s 1.1 million public school students without balancing the budget on the backs of working families and small businesses. We can only do this if we work together. We have done it before and we can do it again. Stay tuned for updates on our progress throughout the special session.

Future Leaders

Last week we had the pleasure of sponsoring two pages from Spokane, Rachel Boose and Emily Polhamus. Both pages spent a week in Olympia assisting me and the rest of the Senate. They also attended Senate page school to learn about our state government and civic education. Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious and I’m grateful they were able to join us.

Keep 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!

Andy

April 27th, 2017|E-News|

E News- Bottom of the 9th

Working Collaboratively

We are starting the final week of the 2017 legislative session.

In the past two weeks, we have passed meaningful and bipartisan legislation, including:

  • Capital and Transportation budgets.
  • House Bill 1713 – providing Washington’s kids with better mental health treatment and services.
  • House Bill 1234 – a great bill for the women of Washington. It requires insurance carriers to reimburse refills for birth control for 12 months at a time instead of monthly.
  • Senate Bill 5022 – request legislation from Attorney General Bob Ferguson requiring clear debt information for student loan borrowers.
  • Senate Bill 5107 – creating greater access to high quality early learning for the kids that need it most.

Operating Budget

On the operating budget, Senate Republicans have so far refused to begin negotiations on a final budget solution. We’ve shown we can get things done when we work together and we can solve the operating budget challenge too.

That’s not to say it will be easy. Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed new taxes to balance their budget proposals. What’s different is how we choose to invest that revenue.

Currently, there is not an operating budget proposal that will muster the 50 House votes and 25 Senate votes required to go home. What’s most important is that we find a common middle ground that is fiscally responsible, makes our tax code fairer, and delivers for Washingtonians.

Keeping Your Private Info Private

Recently back in D.C., Congress voted to roll back protections that keep internet providers from selling your search history and other personal web related information. That’s why I co-sponsored legislation (SB 5919) that would block this kind of data collection in Washington state. The bill has bipartisan support and I am hopeful we can pass this bill before we adjourn so we can protect every Washingtonian’s right to privacy.

Keep in Touch

I value your input as we work to improve opportunity and prosperity in Spokane and 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

April 17th, 2017|E-News|

E News- Capital Budget: Investing in Spokane

Last week, the Senate released our bipartisan 2017 capital budget. This budget is a big win for Spokane. I am proud we were able to secure funding for the following projects and improvements in the 3rd Legislative District and greater Spokane area:

  • Spokane Family Justice Center at the YWCA.
  • East Central Community Center dental clinic
  • Renovations to the south wing of Spokane Community College’s main building.
  • Honor Point Aerospace Museum
  • Peaceful Valley Spokane River boat access
  • EWU Interdisciplinary Science building

In addition to these important projects, the capital budget invests $1.1 billion in school construction and public education investments throughout the state, including $7.4 million to support the remodel work at Franklin Elementary.

The House capital budget will be released soon and I know my 3rd LD seatmates will have many of these same projects and more in the House budget proposal.

The next step will be to negotiate between the House and Senate capital budgets. I will work hard to ensure funding for these Spokane projects remain in the budget as we move toward an agreement on this year’s final capital budget.

Advocacy Matters

The Senate Republican majority’s operating budget released two weeks ago initially included a damaging provision that would exclude at-risk three year olds from the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). Early learning programs, like ECEAP, provide services that are proven to change the trajectory of a child’s life.

At the public hearing on the budget, stakeholders and concerned citizens presented data and personal stories showing how this cut would be detrimental to kids, families and the state as a whole. Because of their hard work and passion, the cut was reversed.

I thought the most persuasive testimony came from Shauniece Quins who shared how ECEAP helped her and her son get back on their feet. You can watch her moving testimony by clicking here.

Foreign Donor Legislation in the News

Earlier this session, I introduced legislation to deter foreign influence in our elections. Senate Bill 5570 would require corporations donating to campaigns in Washington state to certify that their ownership is comprised of less than 50 percent foreign nationals.

While I am disappointed this bill is not moving forward this session, I am glad to see this issue is gaining national attention. Earlier this month, Stateline news of the Pew Charitable Trust reported on my efforts to tackle this problem. You can read the article by clicking here.

Thanks Cassandra!

This week, we bid farewell to our legislative intern, Cassandra Barret, who is heading back to Eastern Washington University to finish her degree.

Cassandra was a key member of Team Billig. Every day, she inspired us with her positive attitude and can-do spirit. Cassandra listened to and cared about every constituent she worked with. Thank you for all of your hard work, Cassandra! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Keep in Touch

I value your input as we work to improve opportunity and prosperity in Spokane and 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

April 3rd, 2017|E-News|

E News- Fly, Fly Away…

Thank you to everyone who attended our town hall meeting in Spokane. It was exciting to see democracy in action with nearly 400 people in attendance sharing their legislative and community priorities.

If you were not able to attend the town hall, please don’t hesitate to call or email me anytime about the issues that matter most to you.

Now, I am excited to get back to work representing you as we enter the second half of this 105-day legislative session.

This week the Senate Republican’s budgets should be released. Next week House Democrats are scheduled to introduce their budgets. Stay tuned.

Complying with Federal Travel Requirements

If you have been in an airport recently, you may have noticed signs indicating that your Washington state driver’s license may soon not be valid for air travel due to the federal REAL ID Act.

To bring our state into compliance, legislation was recently voted out of the Senate that will allow Washington state’s enhanced driver’s licenses to be used for federal identification purposes. The price for these enhanced licenses will be reduced from the current levels, making them more accessible.

Regular driver’s licenses will still be available for drivers who do not care about air travel or who would rather use their passports when they fly.  The bill is currently in the House but I expect it to pass this session.

Levy Cliff Bill is a Win for Students and Schools

After weeks of negotiations, the Senate was finally able to pass the levy cliff bill – legislation that allows school districts to continue collecting local taxes at the current rate for another year. If we failed to extend this deadline, schools across the state would have had to slash their budgets by more than $350 million. Spokane schools, for instance faced a loss of $14 million in school funding.

While I am relieved we resolved this immediate problem, an even larger challenge looms: meeting our constitutional obligation to fully and fairly fund our schools. I continue to be one of the eight legislators participating in the four corner education funding negotiations and remain hopeful that the Legislature will agree on a bipartisan education funding solution that helps every student achieve their fullest potential.

Keep in Touch

I value your input as we work to improve opportunity and prosperity in Spokane and 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

 

March 20th, 2017|E-News|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Billig: Levy cliff bill is a win for students and schools, now let’s look forward and fully fund K-12

Billig: Levy cliff bill is a win for students and schools, now let’s look forward and fully fund K-12

Olympia- Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, issued the following statement today regarding the passage of Senate Bill 5023, commonly known as the levy cliff bill. Billig played an instrumental role in the negotiation process that resulted in the bill finally being brought to the floor for a vote:

“I’m certain that families, teachers and administrators in Spokane and across the state are feeling a sense of relief now that the levy cliff bill has passed – I’m relieved too.

“Schools in Spokane stood to lose more than $14 million in funding.

“This bill not only provides a sense of certainty for our teachers, families and students, it is a testament to what we can accomplish when we put our political differences aside to do the right thing.

“Often when people think about government, they think about D.C. and gridlock.

“But in this state, we have proven that we can work together to find common ground.

“With that said, it’s time to put this issue behind us and look forward. After all, this is only a small step towards meeting our constitutional obligation to fully and fairly fund our schools.

“I am confident that if we use the same spirit of cooperation we saw today, we can negotiate and finalize a complete education funding solution that helps every student achieve their fullest potential.

# # #

 

For more information: Jon Fowler, Senate Democratic Caucus – 360-786-7535

March 9th, 2017|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Senate Majority blocks Billig’s campaign finance legislation

Senate Majority blocks Billig’s campaign finance legislation

OLYMPIA – Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, released the following statement after the Republican Senate majority blocked his motion to bring the DISCLOSE Act (Senate Bill 5219), his signature campaign finance transparency legislation, to the floor for a vote:

“Prior to my motion, Senate Republicans brought to the floor politically divisive legislation they claimed would lead to greater transparency and accountability in our elections.

“In response to their expressed desire to address the glaring loopholes of our elections process and the funding of political campaigns, I moved to bring SB 5219 up for a vote so we could have a broader and more productive conversation about ways to make our democracy stronger.

“Their refusal to consider SB 5219 paints a clear picture that they are not interested in accountability and fairness in our elections.

“This is now the fourth year in a row that the Republican majority in the Senate has blocked this transparency bill from moving forward.

“This is especially frustrating because this bill would address a nonpartisan issue.

“The disclosure loophole that this bill would fix is being exploited by groups across the political spectrum. Ultimately, this bill benefits not one party or another but the citizens of our state. They deserve to know where the money is coming from in political campaigns.

“Instead of playing political games and masquerading them as campaign finance reform, let’s get busy reforming our campaign financing process so we can shine a bright light on players from across the political spectrum who are trying to stay in the shadows.”

Background: http://sdc.wastateleg.org/billig/2016/02/18/billigs-campaign-transparency-bill-blocked-in-the-senate/

 

March 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|

E News- Town Hall Meeting on Saturday!

It’s hard to believe, but we are now halfway through this 105-day legislative session. Tomorrow represents a big deadline with the “House of Origin” cut-off. All Senate bills not passed out of the Senate by 5 pm tomorrow are dead for this year unless they are directly related to the budget.

Spokane Town Hall

I hope you can join my seatmates and me this Saturday at our town hall in Spokane. Town halls provide an open forum where we can hear directly from you about the issues that matter to you most and answer your questions. We will cover education funding, transportation, tax fairness, human services, health care, and more.

Town Hall Meeting Details:

  • Saturday, March 11, from 9:30 to 11 a.m.
  • Washington Cracker Factory/Terrain, 304 W Pacific Ave.

Keep in Touch

I hope you can join us for a discussion at next week’s town hall, but you don’t have to wait to see me in person to get in touch. If you have a comment or question, feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Onward!

March 7th, 2017|E-News, Uncategorized|