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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.”

10 08, 2018

Wenatchee is first city to use new Voting Rights Act to ensure better representation

August 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The City of Wenatchee today became the first local government to use the new Washington Voting Rights Act to change its electoral system to ensure better representation for voters.

The City Council voted to move from an at-large system for electing all seven council members to a hybrid model, keeping two at-large positions and splitting the city into five districts.

The act, which Democrats passed during the 2018 legislative session, permits local governments to restructure electoral districts to avoid costly litigation over gerrymandering that disenfranchises minority populations, allowing communities to elect leaders who reflect their values and the diversity of their neighborhoods.

“Making our democracy accessible to all eligible voters is our fundamental duty, so it’s great to see local officials use the new flexibility that the Voting Rights Act gives them to proactively engage with their community and tailor local solutions to achieve a more-representative government,” said Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who chairs the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee.

9 03, 2018

With Dems in control, voting rights, health care access, gun safety, education, jobs take center stage

March 9th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA — With Democrats back in control, Washingtonians saw a Legislature that fought for their values, putting the focus on issues that will leave a lasting, positive impact on people in communities throughout the state.

“I am so proud of what we have accomplished on behalf of the people of this state,” said Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson. “We put people first and followed through on an agenda that every Washingtonian can be proud of.”

The Legislature adjourned today on time for the first time in four years, passing a balanced budget plan that will make substantial investments in education, mental health and provide property tax relief across the state in 2019.

“We hit the ground running in 2018 and never looked back,” Nelson said. “When we look back at what was accomplished this year, it’s hard to believe all of this happened in just 60 days.”

Policy that passed during the 2018 legislative session includes:

  • Expanded access to Democracy on several fronts by passing:
    • The DISCLOSE Act to expose hidden money in elections (SB 5991);
    • Same-day voter registration (SB 6021),
    • Automatic voter registration (HB 2595),
    • Voter pre-registration (HB 1513);
    • The Washington Voting Rights Act (SB 6002)
  • Passage of the long-delayed 2017 capital construction budget that provides the largest-ever investment in K-12 school construction, 19,000 jobs and badly needed infrastructure projects across the state. (SB 6090)
  • A budget that invests in education, mental health and jobs as well as the final piece of funding to satisfy McCleary, the state’s constitutional obligation to amply fund K-12 education. The budget includes a $2.4 billion reserve, the largest in state history, as a hedge against an economic recession. (SB 6032)
  • A statewide property tax cut, effective in 2019, to give households relief from the Republican Property Tax of 2017. (SB 6614)
  • A ban on bump stocks, the device used in the Las Vegas massacre to give a semi-automatic rifle the rapid-fire capability of a machine gun. (SB 5992)
  • Adding domestic violence harassment to the list of conditions that prevent people from being able to buy a firearm. (SB 6298)
  • Legislation to allow anyone struggling with mental illness to place themselves on a firearms do-not-purchase list. (SB 5553)
  • Equal pay legislation to help close the wage gap between men and women in our state by offering protections for workers who are paid less, or are offered lesser career advancement opportunities on the basis of gender. (HB 1506)
  • A pair of bills that strengthen protections against sexual harassment in the workplace (SB 5996, SB 6471)
  • First state in the nation to pass state-level Net Neutrality policy (HB 2282)
  • Consumer protection from unfair fees charged by financial institutions to freeze and unfreeze credit accounts when information is breached as in the notorious Equifax debacle. (SB 6018)
  • The Reproductive Parity Act to make sure women have the option of choosing the healthcare choices that are best for them and their families. (SB 6219)
  • Separate bills requiring health care providers to cover the cost of 3-D mammograms (SB 5912) and requiring doctors to inform and assist patients who have high breast density, to better detect early signs of breast cancer. (SB 5084)
  • A requirement that all health plans sold in Washington state cover the same preventive services required by federal law in the Affordable Care Act, such as disease screening and contraception (HB 1523)
  • The Student Loan Bill of Rights, to protect college students from fraudulent and predatory practices by lenders that saddle students with spiraling debt. (SB 6029)
  • A ban on conversion therapy, the practice of applying physical and mental discomfort to try to force LGBTQ minors to conform to a gender identity other than which feels appropriate for who they are. (SB 5722)
  • Expansion of Breakfast after the Bell, a program that has been shown to improve student performance by making sure kids start the school day able to concentrate on their classes instead of grumbling stomachs. (HB 1508)
  • The phasing out of Atlantic salmon net pen farms that threaten the health of our water and native fish populations. (HB 2957)
  • The Dream Act 2.0, to expand access to higher education for students who are DACA recipients. (SB 5074)
  • Standing up for workers made sick because of conditions at Hanford (HB 1723)
  • Efforts to reform juvenile justice that include reducing recidivism and racial disproportionality (SB 6160); and expanding juvenile court jurisdiction (SB 6550)
  • Combatting homelessness by raising the document recording fee from $40 to $62. (HB 1570)
  • Prohibiting housing discrimination by stopping landlords from turning away potential tenants who rely on Section 8 vouchers, Social Security or veterans benefits. (HB 2578)
  • The Fair Chance Act. Ban the box legislation to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity for employment (HB 1298)
7 03, 2018

2018 budget agreement increases education funding, cuts taxes

March 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Budget leaders in the House and Senate today announced a 2018 supplemental operating budget plan that will provide property tax relief while directing additional funding to K-12 education, mental health care and college financial aid.

The budget plan includes no new taxes and complies with the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement. It leaves $2.4 billion in reserves at the end of the current budget cycle, the largest balance in state history.

“This budget tackles two of our state’s urgent needs — ample funding for education and adequate support for mental and behavioral health,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “It’s a plan that balances our needs with fiscal discipline while also providing tax relief for people across the state next year. For the last decade, we have worked to improve funding for our schools, and this budget is another milestone. It’s time to finish McCleary and focus on other enhancements in our classrooms and other needs in our state.”

Senate Bill 6614, which runs concurrent with the budget, provides $391 million in tax relief in 2019 with a one-time state property tax rate reduction of $0.30 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“If we had known last year what we learned last month – that projected revenue is much greater than expected – we could have waited to increase the state rate and decrease local rates at the same time, instead of putting so much on taxpayers in 2018,” said Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, prime sponsor of the measure. “This bill will reduce the impact of the 2018 property tax increase on the residents of Washington.”

“This state’s reliance on property taxes has reached a breaking point and I’m glad Democrats have led on providing this tax relief to homeowners across our state,” said Rep. Kris Lytton, D-Anacortes, chair of the House Finance committee. “This short-term relief must be followed by a strong look at our regressive tax code and how we can take the burden off working and middle class families.”

The budget invests nearly $1 billion in education and brings 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.

“A decade-long odyssey is finally coming to an end. This supplemental budget will fully fund teacher compensation and address the final piece of the McCleary lawsuit,” said Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’re able to make these investments while also significantly reducing the State Need Grant backlog, improving our mental health system, providing much-needed property tax relief, and leaving Olympia with healthy, stable reserves. This is a great budget for the people of Washington.”

The budget also invests $306 million more over the next four years to improve mental health treatment in state hospitals and community treatment centers.

It also phases in full funding of the State Need Grant over the next four years, includes key investments to support foster youth, funds TANF grants above pre-recession levels, and increases funding for pediatric care.

Click here to find budget documents and summaries.

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. This year, the state had the opportunity to make critical new investments that provide high-quality teachers, and address other emergent needs like mental health care and college financial aid.

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.

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.

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.”

11 02, 2018

Senate votes to increase protections for victims of domestic violence

February 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to increase protections for victims of domestic violence.

Senate Bill 6298 would add harassment to the list of domestic violence crimes that prohibit a convicted batterer from possessing a weapon.

“More than half of all women murdered with guns in the United States were killed by intimate partners or family,” Dhingra said. “We are helping to protect survivors of domestic violence and ensuring they don’t become causalities.”

In the state of Washington, nearly all individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses lose their right to possess a firearm until that right is restored by a court of law. SB 6298 will ensure the state holds all perpetrators of domestic violence equally responsible, including those convicted of harassment.

“Crimes of domestic violence are some of the hardest to prosecute, and the most deadly call that law enforcement officers respond to,” Dhingra said. “This bill will help us keep weapons out of the hands of those who are likely to misuse them. The legislation is very narrowly tailored to impact only those individuals who have been convicted in our courts.”

The legislation is supported by the City of Seattle, the City Attorney’s Office, the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

SB 6298 passed in the Senate by a strong bipartisan vote of 34-13.