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

Budgets include key investments for Spokane

The Senate introduced its budget proposals late last week. The capital budget, which is our jobs and infrastructure plan, provides funds to rebuild a suspension bridge in Riverfront Park, design a new university building at WSU-Spokane, and help build the new Crosswalk teen shelter. Below are a few of the investments in the Senate’s proposed capital budget:

  • Spokane Guild’s School Capital Campaign ($1 million)
  • Crosswalk Teen Shelter and Transitional Housing ($1 million)
  • Don Kardong Bridge on the Centennial Trail ($726,000)
  • Maple Street CHAS Clinical Behavioral Health Expansion ($411,000)
  • Riverfront Park Suspension Bridge Renovation ($500,000)
  • WSU Biomedical and Health Science Building ($500,000)

Operating budget investments

The Senate also released its two-year state operating budget proposal with targeted investments in behavioral health, K-12 special education, early learning, higher education, and investments to protect clean air and clean water. I believe this budget reflects our state’s shared values, and forges a path toward prosperity and improved quality of life in Spokane and throughout our state. I’ll share more details on the operating budget in the coming weeks.

Fixing our upside-down tax code

Washington ranks 50th out of 50 states when it comes to tax fairness. In other words, we have the most unfair tax code in the country. Along with our budget, we have put forward a proposal to rebalance our tax code and reduce the tax burden on lower income and middle-class families. You can watch a video where I explain this plan here.

April 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|

Spokane legislators to host town hall meeting

OLYMPIA – Legislators representing Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District will host a town hall on Saturday, March 16, to provide an update on the 2019 legislative session in Olympia and take questions from community members.

Who: Sen. Andy Billig and Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli
When: Saturday, March 16, 10-11:30 a.m.
Where: The MAC – Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, E.A. Johnston Auditorium 2316 W. 1st Ave.

The Legislature is in the midst of a 105-day session scheduled to conclude on April 28. Lawmakers from Spokane will provide a brief update on budget proposals for the 2019-21 biennium and discuss legislation to address education, clean air and water, local jobs and infrastructure, health care, and many more issues.

March 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Senate passes oil train safety legislation

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate has approved legislation to reduce the risk posed by shipping highly flammable Bakken crude oil across the state.

Senate Bill 5579, sponsored by Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane), passed the Senate Monday on a 27-20 vote. The bill would require facilities offloading or loading crude oil from a rail tank car to meet specific vapor pressure standards.

“This bill about safety – the safety for the workers who unload Bakken crude oil at their endpoint in Washington state, and for the safety for everyone along the route by which it travels from North Dakota. These large shipments of extremely flammable fuel run through the heart of our state, starting with my community in Spokane,” said Billig. “People and their safety must come first. Experts know that highly flammable Bakken oil poses greater risk and it’s time to take meaningful action to reduce the threat of a serious catastrophe.”

SB 5579 reduces level of risk posed by the volatility of Bakken oil by, in the effect, requiring producers to condition the oil to meet safer standards prior to shipment from the Bakken region.

There have been at least 14 events in recent years involving derailments of Bakken crude in the U.S. and Canada, including the Lac-Megantic rail derailment that killed 47 people and the derailment and fire at Mosier, Ore., that necessitated the evacuation of much of the town and narrowly avoided a catastrophic spill into the Columbia river.

While the federal government has adopted so-called packing rules for high-hazard flammable trains, it has not adopted a nationwide vapor pressure standard for crude oil shipped by rail, and has not responded to petitions from multiple states to do so.

Under the bill, a facility may not store or offload crude oil produced from the Bakken region unless the oil has a vapor pressure of less than nine pounds per square inch. Failing to meet the standard could result in penalties of up to $2,500 per day per rail tank car.

“If the federal government won’t act to protect public safety and adopt a safer nationwide standard, we will adopt our own,” Billig said. “There is just too much to lose – for people and our environment.”

The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

March 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Policy cutoff and Shrimp Scampi!

Friday was the first cutoff day of this legislative session. All bills not voted out of their policy committee by Friday are dead for this session. This is part of the legislative whittling process that takes the 1,000-plus bills that are introduced and helps us focus on the measures that have the best chance to pass. This week we focus on floor action and work in the fiscal committees (Ways & Means and Transportation).

Support from our little learners

I always enjoy receiving letters and e-mails from constituents. Their feedback is essential for me to do an effective job representing our community.  I especially enjoy receiving input from the children I represent. Recently, I received letters from students in day care and after school programs. See above for a couple of examples encouraging me to support high-quality early learning and after-school care. Even the youngest advocates can make a difference when they make their voices heard. And, I love that one of them mentioned Shrimp Scampi in their letter!

Three things you might not know about the Washington State Legislature

I recently had the chance to meet with Lisa Brown, the state’s new commerce director. We took a photo in front of a portrait of Reba Hurn, another former Spokane state senator. Hurn became the first woman elected to the Washington State Senate in 1923.
  • Though this is my first year as Majority Leader, it is certainly not the first time that someone who represents Spokane County has held the seat. Most recently, Mark Schoesler in the 9th LD, who is currently the Senate Minority Leader, held the position and Lisa Brown, who has recently been appointed as the Director of Commerce, was the Majority Leader for eight years.
  • In Washington we have a citizen legislature, which means that in addition to each member’s work for their constituents, many also sustain another job during interim. In the Senate, we have first responders, union organizers, and small business owners, who all bring a wealth of perspectives to the lawmaking and legislative process. With our freshman class of senators, we have added a computer engineer, a community organizer, an early childhood education administrator, a small business owner and more!
  • Last week we continued a tradition in the Senate of new members offering a small gift to their colleagues upon their first speech on the Senate floor. People often highlight a product from their district or something that is special from their background. For my first speech in the Senate in 2013, I handed out Spokane Indians Baseball hats.

Town Halls

Thanks to those people who participated in the 3rd Legislative District telephone town hall. We received a lot of great questions and feedback. If you missed it, you can listen to the event here

I hope to see you in person at our 3rd Legislative District Town Hall on March 16 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the MAC – Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, 2316 W 1st Ave.

February 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Legislative update: What is a ‘guber’

Every year, the governor asks dozens of people from all over the state to serve on boards, commissions, and in agency leadership positions. These “gubers”, as they are affectionately called in Olympia, require the approval of the Senate with a simple majority vote just like regular legislation.

Regina Malveaux, the CEO of YWCA Spokane, was recently appointed to the Washington State Women’s Commission and stopped by our office in Olympia. Established by the Legislature in 2018, the commission will focus on solutions to address inequality for women in the workplace and in society overall. Regina’s “guber” will be on the floor for the Senate’s consideration soon. Thank you for stepping up to serve, Regina!

Bill update: Reducing property crimes

One of the bills I am sponsoring this year, SB 5492, received a hearing in the Law & Justice committee last Thursday. This legislation would help reduce recidivism for people who commit vehicle related property crimes by implementing community supervision at the end of their sentence. Supervision helps to provide access to a full range of services, including drug and alcohol treatment, housing, education, and job training. Washington state is the only state that does not have supervision for property crimes, which is one of the reasons we have had difficulty reducing our property crime rate. The next step for this bill will be a committee vote, which will hopefully happen soon.

February 11th, 2019|E-News|

Join us for a telephone town hall on Feb. 12

Sen. Billig and Reps. Ormsby and Riccelli of the 3rd Legislative District will give a brief update on the 2019 legislative session on Tuesday.

Who: State Sen. Andy Billig, State Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli What: Telephone town hall
When: Tuesday, February 12, 6 – 7 p.m.

The majority of the live town hall discussion will focus on answering questions directly from constituents. Under the telephone town hall format, thousands of constituents will receive automatically generated telephone calls to their homes in the 3rd Legislative District at 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 12. Constituents may ask a question by pressing *3 on their phones during the call. A volunteer screener will take their question, and the legislators will answer as many questions as they can get through during the one-hour call.

Those constituents whose questions are not addressed during the live call have the option to leave a voicemail for the legislators with their question or comment. Constituents who do not automatically receive a call may join the conversation beginning at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12 by calling 877-229-8493 and entering the ID code 116276 after the prompt. Those with mobile phone numbers can sign up online to ensure they receive a call on Feb. 12.

February 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|
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    Remote testimony, early bill action & support for clean energy

Remote testimony, early bill action & support for clean energy

Last week the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee (the committee that oversees the administration of the Senate) approved a plan I put forward in conjunction with Sen. Mike Padden to make the Senate’s remote testimony pilot project permanent and to expand it. The Washington State Senate is one of only a handful of legislative chambers in the country that regularly allows remote testimony.

Early action on the Senate floor

The full Senate took its first significant votes of the session last Wednesday. A measure to clarify Initiative 940, a voter initiative that updated Washington’s deadly force statute, passed unanimously. Gov. Inslee will sign this important public safety legislation today.

The Senate also adopted a Joint Resolution that codifies the Legislature’s new code of conduct. The goal of this new code of conduct and the policies that support it is to provide a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for everyone who works in, or visits, the Legislature. The new policy has been developed over the past year by a team of staff, lawmakers and others who work in and around the Legislature.

Support for clean energy

As always, I enjoy having constituents from Spokane visit us in Olympia. Among the many visits last week was this group of 27 Spokane residents who came to the Capitol to advocate for the passage of SB 5116, the 100 percent clean energy bill. The bill passed out of the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee and now heads to the Ways & Means Committee.

Did you know?

Spokane County is home to a Health Sciences and Services Authority (HSSA), established by the Legislature in 2007. The HSSA provides grants for Spokane researchers pursuing innovative solutions to society’s most pressing public health concerns like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), diabetes, substance addiction, and infectious diseases. Find out more about the HSSA here. I have teamed up with Sen. Jeff Holy on SB 5569, which will extend the program for 20 more years.

February 5th, 2019|E-News|

State Senate expands remote testimony program

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate has approved a bipartisan proposal from Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) and Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) to make permanent and expand a program that further opens public access to state government by allowing remote video testimony in legislative hearings.

In recent years, a Senate pilot project developed a system enabling people across the state to testify over high-speed internet connections for a limited number of committee hearings. The proposal approved on Tuesday by the Senate Facilities & Operations Committee will make this system permanent and expand its use.

In addition to the existing program becoming permanent, it will expand this year. Starting in 2019, the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee will become the first legislative panel to offer remote testimony for every hearing.

“Technology offers us an opportunity to open up the doors of government to more people across the state,” said Billig. “Everyone should feel like they can have their voice heard in Olympia, regardless of where you live.”

The proposal also calls for further study to identify the next steps in the program’s expansion.

In 2018, remote testimony was used in 21 hearings. There are now 16 available sites throughout the state offering remote connections. People have testified remotely from cities such as Ellensburg, Pasco, Spokane, Wenatchee and Walla Walla.

“Our democracy is stronger when more people are involved, and this offers another method to weigh in on pertinent issues without driving to Olympia,” Billig said.

Available remote testimony sites:

Bellevue College
Bellingham Technical College
Central Washington University
Clark College (Vancouver)
Columbia Basin College (Pasco)
Confluence Technology Center (Wenatchee)
Everett Community College
North Eastern Washington ESD (Spokane)
Peninsula College (Port Angeles)
Skagit Valley College (Mt. Vernon)
Spokane Community College Newport
Spokane Community College
Spokane Falls Community College
Walla Walla Community College
Washington State University – Spokane
Wenatchee Valley College

January 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Spokane comes to Olympia

We are starting the third week of the legislative session and still very much in the committee phase when bills receive initial hearings to see if they have enough support to advance to the Senate floor for a full vote. There have already been 685 bills introduced in the Senate alone; 674 in the House. This is also a time of the session with a lot of constituent visits. I come away from these meetings with a better understanding of the issues impacting our community. This week I met with the students from Eastern Washington University’s School of Social Work, high school students, educators from local school districts, small business owners, and local realtors from Spokane.

Celebrating Early Learning


Earlier this month, I was honored to receive the Crayon Award from the Early Learning Action Alliance for our work on expanding access to high quality early learning opportunities in Washington state. Child brain development research and in depth cost-benefit studies have shown that investing in high-quality early learning is one of the smartest choices our state can make for our children and our future.

Priority Bills

I wanted to highlight a priority piece of legislation that can help people prepare for their long-term care costs and live with dignity through their senior years. The Long-Term Care Trust Act is a bipartisan bill that would set up a public long-term care benefit that Washington workers would pay into, and eventually benefit from later in life to deal with age-related issues, chronic illness, or disability. The number of seniors living in Washington is growing rapidly, making up 15 percent of the entire population. The Trust Act will also strengthen our state’s finances by slowing the growth of Medicaid and preserving our limited dollars for those who need it the most.

January 28th, 2019|E-News|

Kicking off the 2019 session

On Monday, we welcomed our newly-elected members to the Senate and hit the ground running! This year, I will be serving on the Ways & Means, Environment, Energy and Technology, and Rules Committees in addition to my role as Senate Majority Leader. I dive into some of the goals and challenges facing the Legislature in this TVW interview from the first day of session. 

Billig’s Bills

Typically the Majority Leader only prime sponsors a few bills since, in effect, I will have a hand in working on every bill moving through the Senate. However, I will be introducing a couple of bills that are particularly important to Spokane, including a bill that will increase the safety of oil trains that pass through Spokane and a bill to help reduce property crime. More details forthcoming in a future newsletter after the bills start their journey through the legislative process.

Welcome to the team

We are happy to have Morgan Rockey join our office as our 2019 session intern. Morgan is a junior studying political economics at the University of Washington. She is originally from Elma, Washington, where both her parents work for the school district. At the UW, she is involved in the Greek community and has worked as an instructor and mentor to first-year students.

Keep in touch

I am honored to represent Spokane in the Legislature and encourage you to stay in touch with our office throughout the session while we are in Olympia. You can reach me by email at andy.billig@leg.wa.gov or by phone at (360) 786-7604.

Onward!

Andy

January 18th, 2019|E-News, Uncategorized|