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27 03, 2018

Governor signs ‘people first’ state budget – education funding, tax relief, mental health among top priorities

March 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today signed a 2018 supplemental operating budget (SSB 6032) that directs nearly $1 billion toward K-12 education to finally resolve the McCleary litigation and bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to amply fund public schools.

The budget also provides nearly $300 million over the next four years for mental and behavioral health care to fulfill the state’s legal and moral obligations at our state hospitals and in our communities.

Other major aspects of the budget include more than $400 million in statewide property tax relief in 2019 and funding to make college possible for 22,000 students who qualify for the State Need Grant but have been stuck on a waiting list.

The budget levies no new taxes and leaves more than $2.4 billion in reserves, the most in state history, giving the state a significant insurance policy against an uncertain economy.

“With this budget, we use our state resources wisely and take care of two of the biggest challenges our state faces—ample funding for education and adequate support for mental and behavioral health,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, the Senate’s chief budget writer. “At the same time, we are able to offer property tax relief, greater access to college financial aid, and hundreds of other investments that will put people first and improve lives across the state.”

In total, the supplemental budget adds more than $750 million in net spending to the current $43.7 billion two-year state budget signed in July of 2017.

The new education money will mostly go to fund teacher and staff salaries, as ordered by the state Supreme Court. The state will also increase spending for special education by $97 million over the next four years.

“It’s nearly been a decade since parents and students first took the state to court due to a lack of financial support for basic K-12 education,” said Sen. Lisa Wellman, chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and sponsor of E2SSB 6362. “Today, we mark a major milestone in our effort to provide quality instruction for every student in our state. We have much more to do to support and improve our schools, and we can now focus on those other enhancements.”

The budget is concurrent with Senate Bill 6614, which will give homeowners a one-time 30-cent cut to the statewide property tax rate in 2019, lowering the rate from $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $2.40. The tax cut is made possible by the state’s extraordinary revenue growth and is intended to give households relief from the Republican Property Tax of 2017, the largest property tax increase in state history.

Other key investments include:

  • Opioids: $6.1 million to expand critical programs across the state that address abuse and treatment.

  • Pediatric care: $19.2 million (over four years) for increased pediatric Medicare payments that were elevated under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Needy families: $27 million (over four years) to fund the TANF grant above pre-recession levels, giving struggling families the support they need to get back on their feet.
  • Foster youth: Funding to improve the state’s foster-care system, ensuring more safe and nurturing homes for children.

Click here to find a summary of key investments.

Click here to find budget LEAP documents and summaries.

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

21 03, 2018

‘Putting the Women of Washington First’ bills signed into law

March 21st, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – A package of bills to improve the lives of women throughout the state were signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The “Putting Women First” package runs the gamut from equal pay, to the Reproductive Parity Act, to sexual harassment non-disclosure agreements, to removing barriers for harassment lawsuits, to prohibiting discrimination in employment contracts, to requiring breast density screenings and three-dimensional mammograms.

Below is additional detail on these bills and a quote from each sponsor:

Equal Pay
House Bill 1506, companion legislation to Cleveland’s Senate Bill 5140: addressing workplace practices to achieve gender pay equity by instituting penalties for wage discrimination on the basis of gender and for offering lesser opportunities on the basis of gender, and by prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their rate of pay or benefits with other employees.

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver:

“When I first began fighting for pay equality in 2013, people asked me, ‘Is this still a problem?’ What they didn’t realize is that while the Equal Pay Act of 1943 called for equal pay between men and women for comparable work, the reality is that society has not caught up. Today women earn an average of 79 cents on the dollar compared to men with the same experience doing the same work.”

Reproductive Parity Act
Senate Bill 6219: The Reproductive Parity Act requires almost all health plans to cover all types of reproductive health care without cost sharing. It also requires all health plans that cover maternity care to cover abortion services. The bill was first introduced in 2012.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens: “Washington state has long strived to ensure women control their own reproductive destiny. This law guarantees that right and also helps provide a little more certainty for women in our state. At a time when access to health care and services are at risk all across our country, I’m proud that once again our state has stood up to protect these rights.”

Sexual Harassment Prevention

Senate Bill 5996: Encouraging the disclosure and discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.

Senate Bill 6313: Preserving an employee’s right to publicly file a complaint or cause of action.

Senate Bill 6471: Relating to developing model policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines: “I have been working on addressing sexual harassment for quite some time, and passing this group of bills is great news for the women of Washington. Right now, we are seeing a cultural shift when it comes to what is acceptable in the workplace. Women are demanding a change, and it is incumbent that those with power listen.? The fact that these bills were passed unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans shows how seriously the Legislature is taking this issue.”

Sexual Harassment NDAs
Senate Bill 6068: Shedding light on sexual harassers by removing barriers to lawsuits created by non-disclosure agreements.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle: “In recent months, we have all been struck by the sheer volume and national discussion of prominent sexual harassment incidents across the country. We have seen that powerful perpetrators and enablers on company boards and other entities have hidden behind non-disclosure agreements to prevent the truth about patterns of behavior from coming out. This bill will lead to more truth and justice for victims.”

Breast Density
Senate Bill 5084: Providing women with timely information to improve early detection of breast cancer.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D- Bainbridge Island: “This legislation simply allows a woman access to the same breast health information as her doctor. Knowledge is power, and this legislation will give patients the tools to make smart decisions and ask better questions about their own health.”

3-D Mammograms
Senate Bill 5912: Requiring coverage of tomosynthesis, or three-dimensional mammography.

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D- Bellevue: “About one-in-eight women in the United States can expect to develop breast cancer over the course of their lives. We need to be utilizing and supporting the use of early detection technologies so that we are saving lives and sparing families the tragedy of losing their daughters, sisters, mothers and spouses. This legislation will help ensure that economic circumstance or the type of insurance you have is not a barrier to accessing this life-saving technology.”

19 03, 2018

Access to Democracy bills signed into law

March 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|

TUKWILA – Five bills aimed at increasing voting access, representative government and exposing hidden money in elections were signed into law Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Access to Democracy package – which includes The Washington Voting Rights Act, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, 16-17 year old pre-registration and The DISCLOSE Act – were all part of the Senate Democrats’ early action agenda.

Below is additional detail on these bills and a quote from each sponsor:

Washington Voting Rights Act
The Washington Voting Rights Act will remove barriers in existing law to ensure fair representation as well as authorize a collaborative process so that impacted communities and local governments can reach agreement without resorting to litigation. (SB 6002)

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle: “The Washington Voting Rights Act puts power back into the hands of the people, where it belongs. It will empower disenfranchised communities and people of color to elect leaders who better reflect their concerns and the rich diversity of our state. This is a big step forward in achieving a truly representative government.”

Automatic Voter Registration
This bill provides automatic voter registration when citizens obtain enhanced driver’s licenses or identification cards through the Department of Licensing. Other state agencies that require citizenship will be able to provide automatic voter registration after they assess their capability and receive the governor’s approval. (HB 2595/SB 6353)

Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia: “Voting is a right, not a privilege. A strong government is built on access to democracy, and the right to vote is the key.? Automatic voter registration is one of the major steps Washington is taking to provide the most progressive, secure voter registration and election system in the country. This bill will make registering to vote as easy as saying ‘yes’ for anyone who is legally eligible to vote in our state.”

The DISCLOSE Act
The DISCLOSE Act is a nation-leading transparency effort to ensure campaign finance disclosure by nonprofits that participate in elections. Until now, political action committees must disclose their donors but other nonprofits have been exempt. The result has been a significant increase in campaign dark money flowing through these non-profit groups. (SB 5991)

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane: “Voters have the right to know who’s paying for a campaign. Whatever you care about in your community, whether it be healthcare, education, or any other issue, it is vital to know who is paying to influence those who are making our laws,” said Billig. “The Washington DISCLOSE Act shines a light on dark money, which creates better informed voters, increases accountability, and reduces the opportunity for corruption, all of which results in a stronger democracy.”

Same-Day Voter Registration
In the 2017 general election, voter turnout in Washington hit a record low as only 37 percent of voters cast ballots.? Voter apathy is a disturbing trend nationwide, fueled in part by some state laws that restrict voting rights.?Same-day voter registration could increase voter turnout by up to 10 percent.?This bill will ensure every eligible voter in Washington State can register and vote in person on Election Day. They’ll also be able to register electronically or by mail up to eight days before Election Day.?(SB 6021)

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue: “We have all watched as voter participation has declined by double digits over the past decades, hitting a record low in 2017 with only 37 percent of voters casting a ballot. Today we send a strong signal around our state, and around the country, that when Democrats lead we fight for access to democracy and break down barriers to participation. Every voice matters.”

Pre-Registration for 16 and 17 year olds
The biggest indicator as to whether or not a person engages in government is their status as a registered voter. The aim of this bill is to get people civically engaged early as 16 and 17 year olds, making them more likely to vote once they turn 18. (HB 1513/SB 5110)

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane: “This package of bills will increase transparency and equity in our democracy. By increasing access for more voters alongside clear information, we can have a truly engaged and informed electorate.”

 

 

18 12, 2017

Sen. Hobbs on derailment tragedy: “The Legislature stands ready to do whatever necessary to help the people and communities impacted”

December 18th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Senate Transportation Chairman Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, issued the statement below following today’s tragic passenger train derailment near DuPont, WA:

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the families impacted by today’s train derailment and my sincerest gratitude to the first responders on the scene. Like everyone else, we’re deeply concerned and waiting to learn what caused this tragedy. The Legislature stands ready to do whatever necessary to help the people and communities impacted.”

7 12, 2017

Senate Democrats offer preview of 2018 legislative agenda

December 7th, 2017|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Senate Democrats offered a preview of their 2018 legislative agenda Thursday with the introduction of several bills during the start of the pre-filing period.

Topping the pre-file list is the Voting Rights Act. The bill aims to create more civic engagement and better access to the democratic process throughout Washington. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, failed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate the past five years despite bipartisan support in the House.

Other Democratic priority bills filed so far include:
• The DISCLOSE Act, a bill to improve transparency in elections by reforming the disclosure of secret money (SB 5991);
• A ban on bump stocks, the device used during the Las Vegas mass shooting in October (SB 5992);
• A bill preventing price gouging of prescription generic drugs (SB 5995);
• A bill encouraging the disclosure and discussion of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace (SB 5996);
• Breakfast After the Bell, a program aimed at reducing childhood hunger in our schools (SB 6003);

“These bills, although not a complete list of our agenda, are a good representation of the values of our state and our caucus,” Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson said. “Washingtonians want good government and a thriving economy, they want to reduce gun violence, end childhood hunger, create a safe workplace and address a number of other critical issues impacting their families every day.

“We have work to do, but we also have a tremendous opportunity to do the good work the people of our state sent us to Olympia to do.”

The pre-filing period begins the first Monday in December and lasts until the beginning of session. For a complete list of the bills pre-filed so far, click here. The list is updated daily.

15 11, 2017

Senate Democrats choose Brad Hendrickson as Secretary of the Senate

November 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Brad Hendrickson, a veteran of the Legislature with more than 30 years of service to the state, was nominated unanimously this week by Senate Democrats to serve as the next Secretary of the Senate.

Hendrickson’s candidacy still must be approved by a majority of the Senate. A vote of the body will take place once the Senate reconvenes.

“I’m excited to return to my old home in the Senate and look forward to serving the institution I’ve dedicated my entire adult life to,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson, 57, first came to the Senate as an intern during his junior year of college in 1982. He returned the following year as a legislative liaison for Western Washington University. In 1985, Hendrickson served as a legislative aide in the House. Since then he’s held a variety of positions in areas such as systems and research analysis, as Deputy Staff Director for the Senate Democratic Caucus (SDC) and Director of Accounting and Human Services. He also served a total of 16 years as Deputy Secretary of the Senate beginning in 1993. Most recently, Hendrickson served as Director of Policy and Legislative Relations for the State Treasurer.

“We are so fortunate to have someone with Brad’s extensive legislative knowledge and experience fill this most important role,” said Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson. “Brad’s intimate understanding of the history, tradition and rules of the Senate make him a perfect fit. We are lucky to have him.”

Sarah Bannister will serve as Hendrickson’s Deputy. She began her legislative career in the House before joining the SDC in 2000. Bannister has served on the Secretary’s administrative staff since 2010.

13 11, 2017

Democrats appoint committee chairmanships following switch of Senate control

November 13th, 2017|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Democrats in the state Senate on Monday announced new committee structures, members and chairmanships following a switch in control of the Senate from Republican to a Democratic majority.

“We have a great, knowledgeable team ready to get to work for the people of this state,” Senate Leader Sharon Nelson said. “Our chairs and committee members are passionate about moving Washington households forward. They are also dedicated to good government and are firm in their belief that the committee process serves as a platform for people to interact and be heard by their representatives in Olympia.”

Committee chairs and vice chairs are listed below in alphabetical order. See the chart below for the complete list of committee members:

• Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks – Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (Chair); Sen. John McCoy (vice chair)
• Economic Development & Trade – Sen. Maralyn Chase (Chair); Sen. Dean Takko (vice chair)
• Early Learning & K12 Education – Sen. Lisa Wellman (Chair); Sen Christine Rolfes (vice chair)
• Energy, Environment & Technology – Sen. Reuven Carlyle (Chair); Sen. Guy Palumbo (vice chair)
• Financial Institutions & Insurance – Sen. Mark Mullet (Chair); Sen. Bob Hasegawa (vice chair)
• Health & Long Term Care – Sen. Annette Cleveland (Chair); Sen. Patty Kuderer (vice chair)
• Higher Education & Workforce Development – Sen. Kevin Ranker (Chair); Sen. Guy Palumbo (vice chair)
• Human Services & Corrections – Sen. Jeannie Darneille (Chair); Sen. Manka Dhingra (vice chair)
• Labor & Commerce – Sen. Karen Keiser (Chair); Sen. Bob Hasegawa (vice chair)
• Law & Justice – Sen. Jamie Pedersen (Chair); Sen. Manka Dhingra (vice chair)
• Local Government – Sen. Dean Takko (Chair); Sen. Guy Palumbo (vice chair)
• State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections – Sen. Sam Hunt (Chair); Sen. Patty Kuderer (vice chair)
• Transportation – Sen. Steve Hobbs (Chair); Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (vice chair)
• Ways & Means – Sen. Christine Rolfes (Chair); Sen. David Frockt (vice chair /Capital Budget lead)

13 11, 2017

Senate Democratic leadership posts switch from minority to majority

November 13th, 2017|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Following the results of the 2017 election and a shift in the Washington State Senate from Republican to Democratic control, leadership within the Senate Democratic Caucus will continue mostly unchanged.

Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, will be Senate Majority Leader, having served as Minority Leader since 2014.

“We have a great team in place, one representative of Washington’s values and its diversity and one that cares deeply about the people of this state,” Nelson said. “Our entire caucus is ready to get back to work and is humbled by this opportunity.”

The Senate Democratic Leadership team is as follows:

• Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Vashon Island, Majority Leader
• Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, Deputy Majority Leader
• Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, Majority Caucus Chair
• Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, Majority Vice Caucus Chair
• Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, Majority Floor Leader
• Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, Assistant Majority Floor Leader
• Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, Majority Whip
• Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, Assistant Majority Whip
• Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, President Pro Tem
• Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, Vice President Pro Tem

16 08, 2017

Nelson: “Washingtonians will continue to fight every day for a world of inclusion and against a world of division”

August 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus in the wake of the racist violence in Charlottesville, VA and the unacceptable and inadequate response from the president:

“Washingtonians will continue to fight every day for a world of inclusion and against a world of division.  Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK, the alt-right and hate groups of every stripe are outnumbered not just in our state but in our nation. We shouldn’t have to denounce these people – their actions and words do that. But absent leadership from the top rungs of our national government, it is imperative for anyone with even a small platform to stand up and say that we will not accept racism, anti-Semitism and hate in our country and our state.

“We will not be intimidated. We will continue to move forward together. We will continue to fight for a world of inclusion and speak out against hate – even when leaders in the other Washington won’t.  We will fight for the Washington Voters Rights Act.  We will fight for our friends and families — regardless of their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, their religion, the address at which they live.

“We honor the memory of Heather Heyer and the people who were injured in the racist violence in Charlottesville and we send our love to their families.  We, as Washingtonians, will not accept that racism and bigotry is our country’s new normal. There is nothing normal about what’s happening at this moment in our history.

“Washingtonians will stand up to prejudice in all its forms – whether it comes cloaked in white hoods or originates from this White House — and we will lead that effort.”

20 07, 2017

Nelson: Senate GOP failure on Hirst and capital budget mar otherwise positive outcomes for Washington

July 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session:

“Almost without exception, the 2017 legislative session was a victory for Washington.

“There were major victories in terms of record investments in education, the establishment of the most progressive paid family leave program in the nation and a budget that protects the most vulnerable among us and invests in our state’s shared priorities.

“I had hoped we could end on a high note and pass a capital budget and a fix to the Hirst water issue. Unfortunately for every Washingtonian, Senate Republican leadership ensured neither issue would be resolved.

“Senate Republicans will defend the indefensible. They will continue to manufacture a narrative that links Hirst to the capital budget that simply doesn’t exist. The fact of the matter is this was a sloppy attempt at political hostage taking with no plan on what to do beyond the initial kidnapping.

“Senate Republican leadership bungled this from start to finish and the people of this state ended up without solutions to urgent problems throughout their communities. No capital budget, no Hirst solution, only excuses from Senate Republicans.”