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

Sen. Andy Billig Newsroom

E News- Opening Day 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

January 9th, 2017|E-News, Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Billig re-elected deputy minority leader, continues to serve on K-12 and budget committees

Billig re-elected deputy minority leader, continues to serve on K-12 and budget committees

OLYMPIA – Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, will retain his role as the deputy leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus when the Washington State Senate convenes in 2017. Billig was unanimously re-elected by his colleagues at today’s Senate Democratic Caucus reorganization meeting. As deputy minority leader, Billig will help guide the Senate through what is expected to be a busy and historically important legislative session.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to fully fund our schools and make sure that every child in this state has the resources they need to follow their dreams,” said Billig. “As deputy minority leader, I will continue to work as hard as I can to represent the values and priorities of the people of Spokane. I know that we can produce a responsible budget that helps create opportunities and builds prosperity for the people of Spokane and everyone across the state.”

Billig will also continue to serve on the Early Learning & K-12 Education committee, the Rules committee and the Way and Means committee – the panel responsible for budget and fiscal issues.

“As deputy minority leader, I am fortunate to work on a wide range of issues. But, I am particularly excited to continue my focus on helping children be successful in school and in life, supporting small businesses, and championing campaign finance reform.”

In addition to serving on these committees, Billig serves on the board of the Washington Institute for Public Policy. He is also a member of the Education Funding Task Force which is tasked with producing a recommendation to the Legislature on how the state can resolve the McCleary ruling.

December 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    3rd District Legislators Condemn Hate-Crime Vandalism at Martin Luther King Center

3rd District Legislators Condemn Hate-Crime Vandalism at Martin Luther King Center

SPOKANE – The following is a joint statement from State Senator Andy Billig and Representatives Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli:

“Today it was reported that the Martin Luther King Center was vandalized with a racial slur. We are outraged that recent events have increased hate crimes against people of color and varying religious backgrounds across our country. And we are deeply saddened that we are seeing those same actions in our community. Spokane is better than this.

“No person should feel unsafe in their community. Not because of the color of their skin, their religious choices, or their gender or sexual identity.

“The MLK Center teaches equal respect and treatment of all people, focusing on children and families. They provide free preschool programs, parenting classes, after school programs, and promote the values and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a place of learning and acceptance.

“We seek to expand tolerance and understanding. As leaders, we want everyone to feel free and safe in their community. Actions like this hateful vandalism only set us back. We cannot allow hate to continue to spread, further alienating and dividing this great nation.

“To our fellow citizens of the Greater Spokane area, we are a united community. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. We urge you to stand in support of the MLK Center. The MLK Center is a beacon of hope and it will continue to be. We will overcome this act of hate and prove that the foundation of love that the MLK Center has created in our city will not waver.”

November 15th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Billig to be honored for commitment to early learning

OLYMPIA – In recognition of his commitment to expanding access to and improving the quality of early learning programs for Washington’s children, Sen. Andy Billig, D- Spokane, has been chosen to receive the Early Learning Action Alliance’s Crayon Award.

“We know that cultivating and sustaining high quality early learning programs is an investment that pays off,” said Billig. “Regardless of your economic background, early learning better prepares our kids for school and allows them to develop the tools that lead to a bright future. Early learning is a path out of poverty.”

During the 2016 legislative session, Billig sponsored legislation that will improve accountability and effectiveness in providing services for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities. This followed the 2015 session that saw the passage of the Early Start Act which was co-sponsored and championed by Billig.

“The first five years of a child’s life are so important for their development,” said Billig. “Robust early learning environments and opportunities have the capacity to change the trajectory of a child’s life in such a positive way.”

Billig, the Senate’s deputy minority leader, serves on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and is a board member for Thrive Washington, a non-profit public-private partnership that assists the state in developing a high-quality early learning system.

The Early Learning Action Alliance is a broad coalition of organizations representing a diverse array of nonprofits, professional associations and businesses united by the belief that all children deserve access to high quality early learning opportunities in their first five years of life.

 

June 30th, 2016|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    New law paves the way for improved intervention services for children with disabilities

New law paves the way for improved intervention services for children with disabilities

OLYMPIA – On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that will lead to improved accountability and effectiveness when it comes to providing services for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities.

Senate Bill 5879, sponsored by Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, requires that a detailed comprehensive report be developed about how funds for early intervention services for eligible children are currently being distributed. The bill also calls for a study to find out how to integrate early intervention services with other critical services to better assist children with disabilities and their families.

“We need to do a better job gathering information about how to most efficiently and effectively fund early intervention programs,” said Billig. “This bill will help us fully examine the process by which these dollars are allocated. Fine tuning this process will help us deliver support to children early enough to make a difference and help them overcome some of their developmental challenges.”

Senate Bill 5879 also designates the Department of Early Learning as the lead agency in charge of early intervention services.

“These vital intervention services have the capacity to change the trajectory of a child’s future,” said Billig. “We owe it to those children to ensure these services are delivered in the most effective way possible.”

March 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|

E News- Sine Die

Sine Die

The Legislature is in the final hours of the legislative session. We have yet to pass a supplemental budget but I am optimistic we will have an agreement soon. It is likely that the Governor will call a special session so we can finish our budget work in the coming days.

In this “short” session, we were able to make progress in several areas. We created a new college savings plan for families so that they have more options when investing in their children’s future. We also passed important legislation to close the educational opportunity gap to help give every kid an equal shot at a successful and prosperous life.

Today I joined Sen. Nelson on TVW to discuss the highs and lows of the legislative session. Click here to watch the entire interview.

The impending levy cliff

As we work toward a final version of the budget, one of my priorities is to ensure we address the “levy cliff,” which would require local school districts to automatically lower their levy levels. Failure to address this issue, would create the largest education funding cut in the history of our state.

Charter schools

The Legislature passed legislation today that attempts to resolve the Supreme Court’s ruling that charter schools are unconstitutional.

I am impressed by the work I have seen at Spokane’s two charter schools and want to see them remain open. However, I have concerns about this charter school bill because its constitutionality is still in doubt and another Supreme Court challenge which would lead to further uncertainty for the children who are currently enrolled in charter schools.

This session, I have worked to find a solution that provides educational certainty for the children currently enrolled in charter schools, and ensure that local school boards (and the local voters that elect them) have a strong role to play in any charter schools within their district.

I did not support the charter school bill that passed today but I am hopeful we can take action in the future to ensure these schools have reliable funding and strong local control.

Top prospects

Sen. Billig with staff

This session, we had the pleasure of sponsoring two pages from Spokane, Jackson Snyder and Zachary Deutschman. Zach and Jackson spent a week at the Capitol, helping assist my staff and me. It is always inspiring to have young people from our community come and learn about the role of state government.

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!

Andy

March 11th, 2016|E-News, Uncategorized|

E News- Bottom of the 9th and trivia answers

The legislative session is scheduled to come to a close on Thursday. We are working to come to a final budget agreement before then and I will have a full budget update before the end of the week.

I concur…

In addition to budget negotiations, the next few days will be busy with concurrence votes. For bills that have passed the House and Senate with different amendments, the chambers have to reconcile the differences and pass the bill in exactly the same form before it can go to the governor to be signed into law.

I have one prime-sponsored bill in the concurrence process, Senate Bill 5879. This bill improves the process by which funding for toddlers with disabilities receive state assistance. The House amendments were minor and improved the bill, so I anticipate the Senate will concur.

And the winner is…

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Spokane legislative trivia contest last week. Congratulations to our winner, Sam Cassel, who was selected randomly from among all those who submitted correct answers.

We had a nice response and appreciated everyone playing along. Here are the correct answers to our legislative trivia questions…

1) Senator Reba Hurn from Spokane was a groundbreaking pioneer as the first woman in the Washington State Senate. She served in the Senate from 1923 to 1930. The Senate changed their customary address once she was elected. “Gentleman of the Senate…” became “Senator Hurn and gentleman of the Senate….”

reba hurn1

2) House Bill 1489, passed by the legislature in 2011, eliminated unnecessary phosphorous in lawn fertilizer to help reduce harmful algae blooms in the Spokane River and waterways throughout the state.

3) My colleague from the 6th Legislative District, Sen. Michael Baumgartner, was the only other Spokane area Senator who voted for the U-District Bike and Pedestrian Bridge and the rest of the transportation infrastructure package last year.

Campaign finance transparency

For the third year in a row, my bill to curb the flow of “dark money” into political campaigns (SB 5153) was blocked from moving forward by the Senate majority. I am disappointed that this bill was not allowed to the Senate floor for a meaningful debate.

Despite this setback, I will continue to work with concerned citizens and other elected officials to ensure we make progress on campaign finance transparency next session. The citizens of our state deserve no less than a healthy and fair democracy.

To learn more about the bill, I encourage you to read this article that was published last week in the Spokesman Review.

I couldn’t do it without them

Sen. Billig with staff

Sen. Billig with staff

As the session winds down, I would like to take a moment to thank our wonderful staff. Kate, Erin, and Reed worked hard to serve the citizens of our district and keep the office running smoothly and efficiently. I have been so impressed with the three of them individually and with their teamwork together. Thank you!

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!

Andy

 

 

March 8th, 2016|E-News, Uncategorized|

E News- The homestretch & pop quiz

Dear friends and neighbors,

We are entering the homestretch of the 2016 legislative session that is scheduled to wrap up by the 60th and final day on March 10.

A successful town hall meeting

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Thank you to everyone who attended our recent 3rd Legislative District town hall meeting. We had over 250 in attendance and I appreciated all the input on issues of importance to Spokane. It was a productive and substantive conversation. If you have any further comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Your feedback is essential as we work to represent you and the entire Spokane community.

Securing funding for YWCA

Last week, the Senate voted on the Supplemental Capital Budget. At first I was disappointed that funding was not included for the Spokane Family Justice Center at the YWCA. This collaborative effort that includes police, prosecutors and domestic violence advocates has been effective in reducing domestic violence in our community.

As the budget came to the Senate floor, I offered an amendment to add $75,000 to the budget for completion of the Family Justice Center’s physical space. The full Senate passed the amendment and I am hopeful that this funding will be included in the final capital budget negotiated by both the House and Senate.

Spokane legislative pop quiz

To honor my favorite city, I decided to have a little fun this week by sponsoring our very own Spokane legislative trivia contest.

Please respond with your answers to the following questions. Everyone who answers correctly will be entered into a drawing to receive a Spokane gift bag full of locally procured treats. Just hit reply to this email and list your answers.

Ready? On to the quiz:

1)       In 1923, this Spokane senator became the first woman elected to the Washington State Senate. What was her name?

 

2)       One of the first bills that I was able to pass when I arrived in the Legislature six years ago created a significant new protection for the Spokane River. What specifically did the bill do?

 

3)       Which senator from Spokane joined me in voting for the U-District bike and pedestrian bridge and the rest of the 2015 Transportation Revenue Package?

Good luck!

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!

Andy

 

March 2nd, 2016|E-News, Uncategorized|

Billig’s campaign transparency bill blocked in the Senate

OLYMPIA – With an important legislative deadline looming, an attempt to bring a bipartisan campaign finance bill to the Senate floor for a vote was blocked by Senate Republicans today. This marks the third year in a row that the Republican majority has blocked this bill from moving forward.

“I’m disappointed and somewhat shocked that this legislation, which has bipartisan support, has again been prevented from receiving a thoughtful debate,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, the legislation’s sponsor.

Billig noted that earlier in the legislative session he had worked with some of the groups that opposed the bill and prepared an amendment that would have addressed many of their concerns. Even after these good faith efforts were made, the Senate Republican majority still blocked his move to bring the bill up for a vote.

“It’s becoming clear to me that the Senate Republicans are comfortable with allowing dark money and secret political donations to continue to influence Washington state elections,” said Billig.

The bill, SB 5153, 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 “dark money” into political campaigns.

SB 5153 would also require disclosure of the organizations’ top 10 largest sources of funds that are greater than $10,000 and any additional donors in excess of $100,000. It would not require an organization to file with the Public Disclosure Commission until the organization has spent or contributed at least $25,000.

“Washington has good disclosure laws but there is a glaring loophole that needs to be closed to strengthen our Democracy and this bill would do just that,” said Billig.

The limits of Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws have been made clear in recent years. In 2013, political committees on both sides of the aisle used their non-profit status to avoid disclosure of millions of dollars in donations. In another example, the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association avoided disclosure for donors after spending over $11 million to fund a committee opposed to Initiative 522. It was only after the discovery of a specific fundraising e-mail that the attorney general was able to require disclosure. Also in 2013, Working Washington — a registered nonprofit — raised more than $250,000 in support of the SeaTac minimum wage initiative but did not release the names of donors.

In 2014, when an independent organization spending money in a legislative election was able to use its non-profit status to avoid disclosing its donors, it drew outcry from numerous legislators. SB 5153 would have applied in all of these cases and required timely disclosure of donors.

“This isn’t a partisan bill, it doesn’t benefit any particular party,” said Billig. “Unfortunately, the disclosure loophole that this bill hopes to address is being exploited by both Democrats and Republicans. Ultimately, the people this bill benefits the most are the citizens of our state. They deserve to know where the money is coming from in political campaigns.”

February 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|

E News- Cutoff Day & Town Hall

We are fast approaching another important legislative milestone. After 5pm today, any bill that hasn’t been passed out of their chamber of origin (House or Senate) will not continue to move forward this session, unless it is necessary to implement the budget.

Here’s an update on some of the bills I have been focused on this session.

Full funding of basic education

Senate Bill 6195, which was created as a result of the governor’s bipartisan education funding task force that I served on, is a plan to meet our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. This bill passed out of the Senate yesterday.

Campaign Finance and Expanded Voter Access

Last week, Senate Bill 5153, which would add additional transparency to political donations, was brought one step closer to a vote in the Senate when it was pulled from the Rules Committee to the Senate floor calendar.

We are also trying to make progress to expand voting access. House Bill 1294, which would allow young citizens to pre-register to vote starting when they turn 16, passed out of the House. So did House Bill 2682, which would allow automatic voter registration.

I am a sponsor of the Senate version of both of these voter access bills. The Senate versions did not move forward but I am hopeful the Senate will take action on the House bills before the end of session.

College Savings

Senate Bill 6601 would authorize the creation of the Washington College Savings Plan account, which will help families save for college. SB 6601 was passed out of the Senate yesterday. It now heads to the House.

Homelessness

To combat the rising homeless crisis in our state, I have co-sponsored Senate Bill 6298 and Senate Bill 6647. SB 6647 would implement and expand a variety of proven tools to address homelessness while SB 6298 specifically targets student homelessness. Both bills are stuck in the Senate Ways & Means Committee but may still have a chance to pass as they are connected to the budget.

Spokane Town Hall

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With the legislative session flying by, the other 3rd District legislators and I will hold a Spokane town hall meeting on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 10 a.m. This meeting is a perfect opportunity for constituents to provide feedback and get their questions answered on a variety of topics including education funding, job creation, health and wellness, transportation improvements, etc.

Town Hall Meeting Details:

  • Saturday, Feb. 20 from 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Northeast Community Center— 4001 N. Cook, Spokane

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.

Due to election-year restrictions, we had to restart our e-newsletter distribution list. If you or someone you know would like to get their own copy of my weekly e-newsletter, please forward them this email and tell them to click here to sign up.

Onward!

Andy

 

February 17th, 2016|E-News, Uncategorized|