28 11, 2018

Senate Democrats elect most diverse leadership team in state history

November 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats will be led by the most diverse leadership team in the history of the Washington State Legislature when lawmakers return to Olympia in January for the 2019 legislative session.

The Senate majority leader hails from Spokane on the east side of the Cascades. The two deputy leaders are women of color from distinctly different cultures and backgrounds. The caucus chair is a Tulalip Tribe member who has long served as the Legislature’s leading authority on tribal issues.

“I think it’s fair to say that a Washington legislative caucus has never had the benefit of this diverse a range of representation,” Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said. “It’s one thing to talk about someone else’s needs and another thing altogether to have lived them. No one needs to explain Eastern Washington priorities to me; I’ve been fighting for them ever since I was elected to the Legislature.”

Similarly, the caucus chair needs no primer on tribal issues. Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip) has been the Legislature’s foremost arbiter of tribal concerns since he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2003.

One of the two deputy leaders, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), is a former labor organizer who worked with farmworkers in eastern Washington. The other, Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), is a prosecutor who has led community-wide efforts to prevent domestic violence in King County. Both broke barriers upon entering the Senate: Saldana became the only Latina in the chamber, while Dhingra became the first Sikh woman ever elected to a state legislature. Both say they understand intuitively whether aspects of state laws meet or fail the unique needs of Washingtonians of color.

“The Legislature is full of smart, insightful elected officials who can write strong, sensible laws, and our knowledge is further enlightened by our personal life experiences,” Saldaña said. “Representation matters, and when we apply a more diverse range of experiences to our work, we wind up with better laws that apply more fairly and equitably to the very diverse communities that make up our state.”

“In addition to serving as deputy leader, Saldaña will serve as vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and serve on Labor & Commerce as well as the new Housing Committee.

“As a King County prosecutor in my day job, I have the benefit of a specialized skill set that increases my awareness of the legal ramifications of any legislation I touch,” Dhingra said. “In the same light, I know that when women of color advance into leadership roles, we flourish. We uplift our communities. We uplift us all.”

In addition to her leadership duties, Dhingra chairs the Senate’s new Behavioral Health Subcommittee. She will also serve as vice chair of Law & Justice and serve on the Health & Long Term Care Committee.

“Our life experiences allow us to do far more than represent a particular point of view,” McCoy said. “I can look at a proposed law and know readily if it might violate tribal sovereignty or cause other problems unique to tribes. That results in legislation that is better grounded, laws that are more fair, and communities that are healthier.”

In addition to his leadership post, McCoy will serve as vice chair of the Environment & Tourism Committee. He will also serve on Early Learning & K-12 as well as on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks.

“We may do our work during the legislative session here in Olympia,” Billig said, “but we are focused on the needs of the very diverse people and communities that make up our state.”

SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS 2019 LEADERSHIP TEAM
Majority Leader: Andy Billig (D-Spokane)
Deputy Leaders: Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond); Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle)
Caucus Chair: John McCoy (D-Tulalip)
Floor Leader: Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo)
Whip: Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah)
Vice Caucus Chair: Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle)
Assistant Floor Leader: Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue)
Assistant Whip: Claire Wilson (D-Federal Way)

PENDING A FULL SENATE VOTE IN JANUARY:
President Pro Temp: Karen Keiser (D-Federal Way)
Vice President Pro Temp: Steve Conway (D-Tacoma)

28 11, 2018

Senate Democrats prioritize affordable housing, mental health care and the environment in new committee structure

November 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|

RENTON – The issues of housing affordability, homelessness and mental health care will receive intensified scrutiny in the 2019 Washington State Legislature.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday adopted a structure that includes two new committees that prioritize these areas – the Housing Stability & Affordability Committee chaired by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) and a Behavioral Health Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond).

“I’ve heard from people across the state, and these two issues consistently rise to the top,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane). “Every community, and really every family, has in some way been touched by a mental health crisis and the intersection between that issue and our state’s housing and homelessness crisis is clear as glass. The creation of these new committees will enable us to intensify our efforts to create solutions in these areas while providing Washingtonians more opportunity to articulate their needs.”

The Senate is also restructuring environmental oversight by creating a committee whose primary focus is environmental health through improved water quality, oil spill prevention and other measures to protect our state’s ecosystems. Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) will chair the new Senate Environment & Tourism Committee. As the name suggests, committee members will also work to boost our state’s tourism industry.

The Senate Energy, Climate and Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), and the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, chaired by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), are the existing environment-focused committees. These committees will address a variety of issues from climate change to telecommunications to water rights.

“The environmental health of our country and our state have reached a critical tipping point,” Billig said. “Washingtonians want and deserve action on this critical concern. It’s up to us to lead on this issue and accomplish what the other Washington can’t or won’t.”

Click here complete list of committees and membership.

12 11, 2018

Billig elected Senate Majority Leader

November 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|

TUKWILA – Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, will be the new Senate Majority Leader in the Washington State Senate, following a vote among Senate Democrats on Monday.

Billig will take over immediately as Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, prepares to retire after more than a decade of service in the Legislature, including five years (2013-18) as leader of the Senate Democrats.

Billig has served in the Senate since 2013 and was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2011. Billig is the only Democrat in the Senate representing eastern Washington, but he’s not the first Spokane Democrat to lead Senate Democrats in Olympia. Former state legislator Lisa Brown previously held Billig’s seat and was majority leader from 2005-13.

In the Legislature, Billig has been a leading voice on early learning and was instrumental in forging compromise on the state’s education funding challenge. Billig has also been a fierce advocate for campaign finance reform. Earlier this year, he sponsored and passed the DISCLOSE Act, which exposes the source of hidden contributions in campaigns and closes campaign finance disclosure loopholes.

Although a handful of 2018 election results are too close to call, Billig is poised to lead a larger majority of Democrats in the Senate next year. In 2018, Democrats took back a slim 25-24 majority after five years of Republican control. In the short 60-day session, Democrats made progress on a bevy of issues that had stymied in a split Legislature, including education funding, voting rights, net neutrality, women’s health and LGBTQ rights.

“I’m extremely eager to build on the success we had in 2018. I am humbled to lead this diverse and talented group of senators. This caucus recognizes that bipartisanship and viewpoints from every corner of Washington are crucial in moving our state forward,” Billig said. “We welcome new members whose energy and passion will help Senate Democrats continue to put people first and tackle the issues Washingtonians care about most – affordable health care, tax fairness, public education, mental health, public safety from gun violence, climate change, and more.”