Monthly Archives: February 2018

23 02, 2018

Senate passes budget to fully fund education, invest in mental health

February 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The 2018 supplemental operating budget (SSB 6032) passed today by the Senate directs additional funding to make critical investments in education and mental health.

“Supplemental budgets were intended to make modest updates to our two-year state budget, but this is not an ordinary supplemental budget,” said Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and chief budget writer. “With this budget, we take care of two of the biggest challenges our state faces—ample funding for education and adequate support for mental and behavioral health.”

The 2018 budget would invest nearly $1 billion into education and bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to amply fund our public schools. The new state money would mostly go to fully fund teacher and staff salaries, as directed by the state Supreme Court, in addition to other targeted investments.

“I see this a major milestone in our ongoing effort to provide a seamless system of education from cradle to career,” said Rolfes. “It’s time to finish McCleary and focus on other enhancements in our classrooms, and other needs in our state.”

The budget also invests nearly $294 million more over the next four years to improve mental health treatment in state hospitals, including funds to address the Supreme Court’s Trueblood ruling, and to address the opioid crisis.

Other investments include 2,500 additional State Need Grant slots, funding to support foster youth, restoration of TANF grants to pre-recession levels, increases in pediatric care, and money to improve school safety.

The budget is concurrent with Senate Bill 6614, which would cut property taxes by 13 percent, tapping the state’s extraordinary revenue growth to shield households from the Republican Property Tax of 2017, the largest property tax increase in state history. The Senate is expected to vote on SB 6614 in the coming days.

“These investments will touch every corner of our state and improve the lives of all Washingtonians,” said Rolfes. “From extra money in their pockets to better classrooms for their kids, this is a budget that puts the people of Washington state first.”

The budget passed on a 25-23 vote and now heads to the House for consideration.

About the Supplemental Budget
Supplemental budgets are passed in even years and allow the state to make mid-course corrections on the two-year budget passed in odd years. It gives the state the opportunity to make critical new investments that keep families safe, provide high-quality teachers, and address other emergent needs like mental health care.

23 02, 2018

Ban on credit freeze fees clears Legislature

February 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – A bill to eliminate the fees that credit bureaus charge customers who want to freeze their credit reports to protect their personal information is headed to the governor following passage yesterday by the House of Representatives.

The House voted 81-15 in favor of Senate Bill 6018. Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, sponsored the bill in response to the Equifax database hack last summer that exposed the private information of more than 143 million Americans.

The bill, which the Senate approved in January by a vote of 46-2, now needs only Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

“This bill is an important, bipartisan consumer protection measure that will make it easier for people to protect themselves and their identities without financial penalties,” Mullet, who chairs the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, said. “Consumers whose sensitive financial data has been exposed through no fault of their own shouldn’t have to pay to protect their credit ratings.”

Senate Bill 6018 received strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, who chairs the House State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee and had sponsored a similar bill, helped shepherd Senate Bill 6018 through the House.

“I don’t think it is right that consumers are paying to protect their data when credit agencies are the ones making that data vulnerable,” Hudgins said. “This measure will ensure that all Washingtonians can protect their identities by freezing their credit without paying a fee to do so. It’s the right thing to do.”

Following the Equifax hack, consumer watchdogs recommended that customers request credit freezes from credit reporting agencies to ensure that the stolen information could not be exploited. A freeze blocks access to a credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts using stolen data.

Credit reporting agencies charge Washington residents $10 to temporarily freeze their credit reports. But a consumer who needs to unfreeze the account to generate the credit report necessary to buy a car, take out a mortgage or open a bank account must pay the fee again to each agency, meaning that those who freeze and unfreeze reports with all three major agencies actually face some $60 in fees.

In addition to eliminating credit freeze fees, the bill requires the state to conduct a study on its impact on consumers and credit reporting agencies.

21 02, 2018

Lawmakers: Residents might want to delay paying property tax

February 21st, 2018|Uncategorized|

Property owners might be wise to delay paying their 2018 property taxes until after the close of the 2018 legislative session in March, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, said today.

“Democrats are working hard to protect homeowners from the worst impacts of the Republican property tax of 2017,” said Van De Wege, a member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee that heard the proposal late Wednesday night. “One of the possibilities is to use the increase in revenues projected by the latest state forecast to transfer funds from the state’s extraordinary revenue growth to offset the size of the tax hikes.”

The proposal comes in response to the 2017 session, when Republicans used their majority control of the Senate to insist on meeting the state’s constitutional duty to fund K-12 education by passing the largest property tax increase in state history. Democrats sought other solutions, such as closing tax loopholes on corporations or imposing a capital gains tax on the wealthiest 1 percent of Washingtonians. Republicans refused to budge, taking the state to within hours of a government shutdown before Democrats relented to avoid the expense and chaos of a shutdown.

Having won majority control of the Senate this year, Democrats now seek ways to shield households from the tax increase. If people pay their property taxes in advance, Van De Wege said, the state has no mechanism to refund that money.

“I would caution people to consider waiting,” Van De Wege said. “We’ll finish our work in Olympia by March 8, and taxes aren’t due until April 30. If we succeed in cutting property taxes, everyone should benefit. But it’s impossible to refund taxes that have already been paid.”

19 02, 2018

Senate Democrats call for property tax cuts, education funding in budget

February 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Senate Democrats unveiled their 2018 supplemental operating budget plan on Monday—a budget that will cut property taxes by $403 million while still meeting the critical needs of our state with significant investments in education and mental health.

“This budget represents a responsible and thoughtful approach in spending our state’s resources,” said Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and chief budget writer. “We have seen substantial gains in our economy, but we also recognize the growing needs of Washington’s 7.5 million residents. I’m proud this budget makes targeted investments without any new taxes. It’s a document based on a vision of healthy families, safer communities and an economy that works for everyone across the state.”

The 2018 Supplemental Budget Proposal will make key investments in following areas:

  • Tax relief ($403 million): The extraordinary growth of our economy gives the state an opportunity to reduce the property tax burden on communities across the state. This budget cuts state property taxes by 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2018, from $2.70 to $2.39.
  • Education: This budget will at long last bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to amply fund our public schools. An additional $1 billion would fully fund teacher and staff salaries as directed by the state Supreme Court, in addition to other targeted investments.
  • Mental health: The 2018 budget fulfills our moral and legal responsibility to provide adequate support for those in our society who need mental health treatment. The budget invests nearly $300 million more over the next four years for state hospitals and the opioid crisis.

Other investments: The 2018 budget makes a number of other key investments:

  • 2,500 additional State Need Grant slots
  • Funding to support foster youth
  • TANF grant is restored to pre-recession levels
  • Funding increases for pediatric care
  • Funding for improved school safety

“These investments will touch every corner of our state and improve the lives of all Washingtonians,” said Rolfes. “From extra money in their pockets to better classrooms for their kids, this is a budget that puts the people of Washington state first.”

About the Supplemental Budget
Supplemental budgets are passed in even years and allow us to make mid-course corrections on the two-year budget passed in odd years. It gives the state the opportunity to make critical new investments that keep families safe, provide high-quality teachers, and address other emergent needs like mental health care.

16 02, 2018

Senate passes Dhingra bill to provide property tax relief for seniors, veterans

February 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Senate yesterday unanimously passed legislation introduced by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to provide property tax relief to those who can least afford an increase—senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and veterans who reside in areas with a high cost of living.

“Affordability is a huge problem in the 45th Legislative District and surrounding communities,” Dhingra said. “Seniors and people on fixed income, many of whom have called the 45th home for decades, are being priced out of their homes.”

Under current law, the senior property tax exemption is calculated based on statewide income thresholds, which do not account for the disparate cost of living in different counties. Senate Bill 6251 will change eligibility to be based on each county’s median household income.

“Simply put, current exemptions do not account for regional difference,” Dhingra said. “This bill fixes that.”

Senate Bill 6251 passed with a vote of 47-0.

14 02, 2018

Senate approves sweeping bill to expand rural broadband access

February 14th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – With lightning-fast Internet and 5G service just around the corner, the Washington Senate approved a sweeping bill Wednesday that paves the way for expansion of high-speed broadband services in rural and underserved areas of the state.

Senate Bill 5935, sponsored by Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, establishes high-speed broadband service for all of Washington as a high-priority state concern. The measure responds to concerns that less-lucrative markets will be bypassed as commercial providers race to install high-speed broadband systems. Sheldon’s bill creates a new Office on Broadband Access under the state Department of Commerce, establishes an advisory task force, and launches a study of the ways the state can encourage deployment and remove barriers to service.

“The Legislature has come to recognize the importance of high-speed Internet service to our state’s economic competitiveness,” Sheldon said. “As senator from the state’s most-rural district, I want to make sure none of us are left out.

“Good broadband service is just as important to rural areas as it is to cities — if not more so, as we encourage work-from-home as a way to reduce traffic congestion. We need to do everything we can on the state level to ensure this coming broadband revolution benefits all the communities of Washington.”

Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, the chair of the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee and a cosponsor of the bill, added: “The most important thing for economic growth in the rural parts of our state is high-quality, affordable access to broadband. Too many of our small communities and rural areas are still without it and changing that is a top priority for the Senate Democratic Caucus and many others across the aisle. The federal government recognizes the importance and for many years there’s been talk about it at the state level, but now we’re boldly developing a system to move forward.”

SB 5935 follows federal standards in setting a target for high-speed service of at least 25 megabits per second for download speeds, and upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second. The Office on Broadband Access will coordinate with local governments, public and private entities and utilities to develop broadband deployment strategies. It will develop a model ordinance for local governments for permitting of new facilities, and will study the possibility of tax credits to encourage deployment in underserved areas.

The office also will develop a grant program for local governments and make recommendations for grant projects. Other provisions of the bill require cities to develop a permitting process for new telecommunications facilities and to generally prohibit conditional land-use permits except in cases of large facilities or conflicts with community design standards. Rural port districts and the Kitsap Public Utility District would be allowed to offer broadband service.

12 02, 2018

Senate passes bills to help youth in foster care or facing homelessness

February 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Senate today overwhelmingly approved three bipartisan measures to help children and youth who are in foster care or experiencing homelessness.

Senate Bills 6222 and 6223, sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, would expand extended foster care eligibility and improve educational opportunities and outcomes.

Senate Bill 6274 , sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, would create a new pathway to earn post-secondary credentials and degrees through college or apprenticeship programs in the Passport to Careers program.

“Improving the educational and overall circumstances of youth in foster care has been a key priority for me for years and it was one of the reasons that led me to elected office,” Carlyle said. “Each year, hundreds of young adults exit the foster care system and are left to make their way forward in life without the support networks that many of us take for granted. They absolutely need and deserve our support.

“Similarly, youth in foster care or experiencing homelessness deserve an equal shot at the education they need to adequately prepare for their future. We have to do better at coordinating programs and policies that affect them and to ensure accountability.”

“We need to put our children on the best path to success, whether it is in software development and clean technology or in teaching, the arts and human services,” Ranker said. “However, not everyone learns the same way or sees college as the best path forward for their success. We need to help children find the right path to success through college or apprenticeship learning.”

Senate Bill 6222 would grant young people access to the Department of Social and Health Services’ Extended Foster Care (EFC) program until the age of 21. Eligibility is currently capped at age 19. Youths would no longer need to have been in foster care at age 18 to utilize the program and they would be allowed to un-enroll and re-enroll an unlimited amount of times, subject to certain conditions, instead of only once. Senate Bill 6222 passed unanimously.

Senate Bill 6223 would require state departments and agencies to work with aligned non-governmental organizations to create a plan to facilitate educational equity between children and youth in foster care and their peers in Washington’s general student population, and to close disparities between racial and ethnic groups. The bill would require similar action with respect to children and youth experiencing homelessness. The bill passed on a 45-2 vote.

Senate Bill 6274 would expand the innovative and wildly successful Passport to College Promise program that Carlyle helped create in 2007 as a citizen activist prior to winning election to the Legislature.

The bill would create a Passport to Careers program with two pathways. The first would incorporate the Passport to College Promise program and expand it to include people who have experienced homelessness and those who have spent time in a tribal or federal foster care system. The second pathway, the Passport to Apprenticeship Opportunities, would establish a program of financial assistance to allow foster youth or youth who have experienced homelessness to pursue registered apprenticeships. That bill passed on a 35-12 vote.

“There is a huge need to expand access and opportunity for children, particularly those who do not have the ease of access and support of most families,” Ranker said. “With stronger services to guide children through junior high school and high school, these children will have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”

All three bills now head to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

12 02, 2018

Senate Democrats to hold town hall meetings Feb. 17

February 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA — Legislators will be holding town hall meetings with constituents in person across the state in February. Town hall meetings are chance for community members to meet with their state leaders, ask questions, and get an update on the 2018 legislative session.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17

Nearly 500 people attended the 43rd District Town Hall last year.

1st District
• Senator Palumbo, Representatives Kloba and Stanford
• When: 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
• Where: Cascadia College (18345 Campus Way NE, Bothell, WA)

5th District
• Senator Mullet, Representatives Rodne and Graves
• When:
o 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. at Greater Maple Valley Community Center (22010 SE 248th St, Maple Valley, WA)
o 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Blakely Hall at Issaquah Highlands (2550 NE Park Dr, Issaquah, WA)
o 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. at North Bend Library (115 E 4th Street, North Bend, WA)

11th District
• Senator Hasegawa, Representatives Hudgins and Bergquist
• When: 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. at
• Where: King County Office of Emergency Management (3511 Northeast 2nd Street, Renton, WA)

21st District
• Senator Liias, Representatives Peterson and Ortiz-Self
• When: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
• Where: Great Hall at Meadowdale High School (6002 168th St SW, Lynnwood, WA)

27th District
• Senator Darneille, Representatives Jinkins and Fey
• When: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
• Where: Evergreen Tacoma (1210 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA)

29th District
• Senator Conway
• When: 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
• Where: Cafeteria of Bates Technical College, South Campus (2210 S 78th St, Tacoma, WA)

33rd District
• Senator Keiser, Representatives Orwall and Gregerson
• When: 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
• Where: LiUNA! Laborers Local (242, 22323 Pacific Hwy S, Des Moines, WA)

41st District
• Senator Wellman, Representatives Senn and Clibborn
• When: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
• Where: Somerset Elementary Gymnasium (14100 SE Somerset Blvd, Bellevue, WA)

43rd District
• Senator Pedersen, Representatives Macri and Chopp
• When: 1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.
• Where: Seattle First Baptist Church (1111 Harvard Ave, Seattle, WA)

45th District
• Senator Dhingra, Representatives Goodman and Springer
• When: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
• Where: Lake Washington Tech. (11605 132nd Ave NE, Kirkland, WA)

48th District
• Senator Kuderer, Representatives Slatter and McBride
• When: 10:30 a.m.
• Where: Redmond City Hall council chambers (15670 NE 85th St, Redmond, WA)

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22

22nd District
• Senator Hunt, Representatives Dolan and Doglio
• When: 6:30 p.m.
• Where: South Puget Sound Community College Lacey Campus (4220 6th Ave SE, Lacey, WA)

SATURDAY, MARCH 10

32nd District
• Senator Chase
• When: 10 a.m.
• Where: Edmonds Senior Center (220 Railroad Avenue, Edmonds)

11 02, 2018

Senate passes automatic voter registration

February 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, to implement automatic voter registration at Washington state agencies.

“Voting is a right, not a privilege,” Hunt said. “We need to make voting as easy as possible for every citizen in Washington and that starts with registration. We now have the technology to make it seamless, so why wouldn’t we? Automatic voter registration will increase the opportunity to register and vote without endangering the security of the election process.”

Under Senate Bill 6353, Washingtonians who apply for or renew an enhanced driver’s license at the Department of Licensing will automatically be registered to vote, starting in 2019. This bill also directs public assistance agencies as well as the Departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Military to implement automatic voter registration or show a legitimate reason for exemption.

“It is our most fundamental duty to make sure our democracy is accessible to every single eligible voter,” Hunt said. “This legislation is just one more bill in a larger push to expand access to democracy in every corner of our state.”

In addition to automatic voter registration, the Senate passed legislation to strengthen campaign finance laws to clearly show who pays for political advertising on every ad.

These bills are part of the Senate’s Access to Democracy package that also includes the Washington Voting Rights Act, Same Day Voter Registration, and the DISCLOSE Act.

Washington is leading the nation in expanding access to democracy and automatic voter registration is key to that effort. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 34-13.

11 02, 2018

Hasegawa’s wrongful death legislation moves off the Senate floor

February 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Bob Hasegawa’s, D-Beacon-Hill, released the following statement today following passage of legislation to allow non-residents to receive compensation in wrongful death incidents.

“Washington is one of three states in the nation that excludes non-residents from receiving compensation in wrongful death cases. The current ‘wrongful death statute’ was adopted in 1917 to prevent the wives of Chinese coal-miners from obtaining wrongful death compensation.

“This old statute is a clear example of legislation rooted in anti-immigrant and refugee sentiment. This law was wrong in 1917 and has no place in our society in 2018. Anti-Asian racism should no longer be engrained into the fabric of our legal system. I am proud that this piece of legislation moved off the Senate floor.

“I introduced SB 6015 to overturn this archaic law, a relic from the past rooted in bigotry that still promotes injustice today. I also want to help ensure the parents of victims lost in the Ride the Ducks Seattle crash receive the justice and compensation they deserve. The pain and suffering of the victim’s families should not be exacerbated because of their residency status.

“We all deserve to be treated fairly under the law, no matter what our residency status is. Ride the Ducks Seattle should not be allowed to hide behind this statute to avoid public accountability and responsibility, which should be decided by the courts.

“Passing this law helps remove racist holes in our state laws.”