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The Hopper

Nelson: Washingtonians rely on the success of state government. Senate Republicans rely on the failure of state government to win elections

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Friday issued the statement below following Senate Republican votes to fire transportation secretary Lynn Peterson:

“It has been clear from the start, the Senate Republican plan for 2016 was to attack our state agencies, attack our state’s public servants and interfere with the good work done by so many of our state employees.

“Instead of focusing on the state’s urgent needs, Senate Republicans continue to look for people to blame.

“Already Senate Republicans have launched a redundant and very expensive taxpayer-funded investigation into DOC, they’re blaming the Health Care Authority for rising prescription drug costs, they’ve proposed a bill to cut hundreds of jobs from the Department of Ecology and now they have fired a capable and dedicated public servant – someone they recommended unanimously out of the Transportation Committee less than a year ago.

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – cut government, undermine government, under fund government and then complain about government.

“Washingtonians rely on state government. Senate Republicans rely on the failure of state government to win elections.

“Focus on our school kids now, save the politics for November.”






February 5th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats unveil the Bring Washington Home Act

Communities throughout Washington are reporting a spike in their homeless population. What has long been a problem is quickly becoming a crisis.

Because of the urgency of this growing issue, Senate Democrats are sponsoring the Bring Washington Home Act, a plan to make targeted investments in programs aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness and help the less fortunate get off the streets.

“Homelessness is not just a problem in cities. It isn’t just a problem in King County or Western Washington. Homelessness impacts every community and it’s getting worse,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, the bill’s prime sponsor. “We must act now and we must act decisively to combat this problem.”

Numbers from last week’s One Night Count are starting to come in. Homelessness is up 19 percent in King County and it’s up a devastating 54 percent in Snohomish County. OSPI just reported that more than 35,000 Washington students don’t have a safe and consistent place to sleep at night.

Senate Bill 6647 will tap into the state’s Rainy Day Fund which is money set aside to be used for emergencies. One percent of existing tax dollars are put into the Rainy Day Fund annually. The fund is projected to be at over $700 million by June of 2017 and over a billion dollars in 2019.

“We can attack this problem at the source and do it in a way that doesn’t raise taxes,” Nelson said. “There is a homelessness crisis in our state. Issues like this is why we have a Rainy Day fund. For the thousands of Washingtonians living on our streets it’s pouring and we can help them.

“We must act now. Inaction only makes the problem worse.”

Nelson was joined by other leaders who voiced support for the plan. Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, Vancouver City Councilwoman Alishia Topper and Julio Cortes, the public relations manager at Cocoon House, a non-profit that provides access to short- and long-term housing for homeless youth in Everett, also spoke for the need to address the homeless crisis in their communities.

Also in attendance were many of the 23 Senate Democrats who signed onto the bill.

The Bring Washington Home Act will make targeted investments in the following programs:

• $18.455 million targeted toward services such as rapid rehousing for people who are mentally ill, chemically dependent and/or chronically homeless.

• $4.625 million targeted for homeless youth; including HOPE beds, the Street Youth program, and funding for the homeless student stability and opportunity gap act (SB 6298 sponsored by Sen. David Frockt)

• $3 million for consolidated homeless grants

• $60 million toward shelter and support services for the homeless and families at risk of becoming homeless

• $95 million toward the Housing Trust Fund for building supportive or other housing, and $5 million for maintenance and operations for housing stock. This $95 million will drive $190 million in housing investments, when those funds are combined with other resources (donations, grant money, tax credits, local funding) used in conjunction with the Housing Trust Fund.

February 4th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Ranker: State has lost an ‘incredible leader’ in Harriet Spanel

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, today released this statement on the passing of former Sen. Harriet Spanel, his predecessor as senator representing the 40th Legislative District.
“I am extremely saddened to hear of the loss of Harriet Spanel. She was a dear friend and mentor to me.
“Harriet has been a sounding board and a true mentor on countless issues for me as I have navigated Olympia these past eight years.
“She was a tireless fighter for our communities, our children, the environment and our state. She was a champion for the protection of Puget Sound and oil spill protection laws and was a strong advocate for protecting habitat and ensuring that our fisheries were well-managed and that our fishing industry remained a healthy one.
“After leaving the Senate, Sen. Spanel continued to actively serve the people of the state, having been appointed to several boards and commissions by the governor.
“We have lost an incredible leader and a dear friend.
“She will be deeply, deeply missed.”

February 2nd, 2016|Uncategorized|

Sen. Liias, AG Ferguson unveil bills to reduce student loan debt

College students could gain relief from crushing student loan debt through a trio of bills unveiled today by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, and Attorney Gen. Bob Ferguson.
“Spiraling student loan debt is strangling middle class households and those who aspire to middle-class households,” Liias said. “This affects not only students currently taking out loans but also working adults who are still paying off huge debt as well as future students who face the same pitfalls.”
Liias’ first bill, the Washington Student Loan Bill of Rights, would help students avoid spiraling debt by cracking down on fraud, misrepresentation, inaccuracies and other actions by student loan servicers. SB 6610 would create the position of student loan ombudsman, require loan servicers operating in the state to first gain approval from the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), and grant DFI the authority and provide the Attorney General’s Office the additional tools to conduct investigations and examinations of loan servicers.
“My office is cracking down on student-loan scammers, from unscrupulous for-profit schools to predatory loan adjustment companies,” said Ferguson. “I thank Sen. Liias for proposing a bill that would grant my office additional tools to attack fraud and aid students and graduates.”
The second bill, the Employer Loan Repayment Tax Credit, would give employers a B&O tax credit for helping employees repay student loans. The credit provided by SB 6608 would equal 25 percent of the amount repaid directly to a student loan lender toward principal and interest, with a maximum credit per employee of $1,000 for an associate’s degree, $4,000 for a bachelor’s degree, and $6,000 for a graduate or postgraduate degree.
Anna Nepomuceno, a UW Tacoma student who spoke at the rollout in support of the legislation, told of how her husband’s $100,000 in student loan debt prevents them from being able to purchase a house or car or even qualify for a cell phone purchase. You can watch a video of the rollout here.
The third bill, SB 6609, would increase access to college for undergraduate and graduate students by exploring lower cost loan options by the state such as student loans competitive with federal interest through the use of tax-exempt bonds, which were approved for use by the federal government late last year.
“We have a society that tells us we can accomplish anything we want,” said Nick DeMuro, a UW student who also spoke and questioned whether the toll from his growing student loans would prevent him from finishing his education and becoming a professor. “Then we face the hard reality that this isn’t true.”
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who attended the rollout to lend support from the other chamber, said, “These bills compliment efforts in the House to bring relief to thousands of Washingtonians struggling with student loan debt.”
“Democrats in both the House and Senate see student loan debt as a crisis that demands action,” Liias added. “It is our hope that our colleagues across the aisle will recognize this need with the same urgency that we do.”

February 2nd, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: Latest Republican distraction won’t keep us from fixing education

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Thursday issued the statement below after the Senate Republicans at taxpayer expense hired yet another investigator to address the Department of Corrections computer error:

“Senate Republicans gutted the McCleary education plan early Thursday and later in the day wasted taxpayer money on a duplicative and politically-driven investigation.

“We are all concerned with the Department of Corrections error; we must make sure it never happens again. The investigation is on-going and in good, nonpartisan hands.

“The Senate Republicans have no plan for education. Maybe they could spend a little less time on political theater and a little more on Washington’s one million school kids.”


January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Republicans gut bipartisan McCleary bill

A cornerstone bill to address Washington state’s education funding obligations is at risk of being made irrelevant by amendments that will be proposed by Senate Republicans in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 8:00 a.m.

SB 6195 is the result of months long negotiations between both parties in the Senate and House as well as the governor’s office. Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County and Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, were the lead negotiators for Senate Democrats.

“It is extremely disappointing that Senate Republicans will turn a bipartisan agreement into a partisan plan,” said Rolfes. “They commit only to addressing local levies, without a commitment to the state paying its fair share – which is the reason the state was sued in the first place. People following this issue thought the plan couldn’t get weaker. Unbelievably, the Senate Republicans have lowered the bar.”

“I’m disappointed that after participating in a productive bipartisan workgroup, the Senate Republicans have decided to abandon our agreement,” said Billig. “It is our constitutional duty to fully fund education and it’s frustrating that the Republicans don’t see this as an urgent issue, because our more than one million public school kids and their families surely do.”

• Only commits to addressing local funding
• Removes the only commitment in the bill to increase state funding
• Pushes timeline from 2017 to 2018, a non-budget year
• Removes any reference to capital considerations for K-3 class size reductions

You can view the amendment here.

January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|

VIDEO: Sen. Nelson outlines priorities for 2016 legislative session

January 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: House makes education a priority, time for Senate Republicans to do the same

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Monday issued the statement below following the House’s passage of several important bills to address Washington’s education system:

“The House on Monday made it crystal clear – education is the most important issue we must address this year.

“We only have a limited amount of time with which to work. The sense of urgency displayed by the House showed where their priorities lie. I hope the Senate Republicans will follow suit.

“I’m calling on Senate Republican leadership to act quickly on these critical education bills. We owe it to Washington’s one million school kids to address issues like unfair high stakes testing, the state’s teacher shortage and a bill to reaffirm our commitment to take action during the 2017 legislative session in order to fully fund education.

“Our time is limited. I applaud the House for acting so quickly. I encourage Senate Republicans to do the same.”

January 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Billig: Lawmakers should put students ahead of politics

OLYMPIA Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, issued this statement today following the defeat of an amendment to charter school legislation that would eliminate the state charter school commission and permit local school districts to authorize the creation of new charter schools. The amendment would have permitted all nine charter schools that were created by I-1240 to remain open.

“This amendment was about finding a middle ground so that we could provide certainty and stability for the children who attend charter schools.

“Had the amendment been adopted, we would have put local districts and local communities in control while also providing educational certainty for the children currently enrolled in charter schools.

“Unfortunately, because this amendment was not adopted, I fear that this bill will not be able pass the Legislature, be signed into law or withstand a court challenge, which will likely result in these kids being uprooted from the schools of their choice.

“By refusing to compromise and sticking with the more extreme, and likely unconstitutional version of the bill, I have serious concerns that the Republican majority in the Senate is choosing to make this a political issue at the expense of the students. These kids and their families are desperate for a solution that provides them educational stability; the students should be our priority, not political partisanship.

“Despite this setback, I will continue to work to find a way this session to help these charter school students and our more than 1 million public school students find a way to access a world class education that meets their learning needs.”

January 20th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: Focus on education now, save the politics for November

Sen. Sharon Nelson on Thursday urged the Legislature to allow the independent investigators examining the Department of Corrections early release error to continue their job without interference:

“The investigation into the appalling mistakes made at DOC are underway. I look forward to the findings of the former federal prosecutors handling the investigation so that we can fix and prevent situations like this from happening ever again. Unfortunately, based on recent statements made by Senate Republicans, it is clear that politics – not good government – are what’s at play here.

“The Legislature must tackle education funding, address the homelessness crisis that continues to grow in communities throughout Washington and focus on continuing to rebuild our economy. Our classrooms are in desperate need of teachers and we have just 57 days to address these issues. Let’s get to work.

“Our duty to the citizens of Washington is to ensure that government works and to fix it when it doesn’t. That is happening. I urge my Republican colleagues to join us in building a Washington for all, and to save the politics for November.”

January 14th, 2016|Uncategorized|