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23 09, 2020

Statement from Sen. Christine Rolfes on state revenue forecast

September 23rd, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – State Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, released this statement following today’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meeting:

“Washington’s diverse economy is showing signs of resilience. While we will still face many challenges ahead, there are some extremely positive signals for our state’s financial picture in this forecast and it represents an enormous step in shoring up our state’s projected budget deficit.

“Thanks to action by lawmakers to hold $3 billion in reserves and difficult decisions made earlier this year by the governor to veto legislation and reduce spending, we have a stronger foundation than most states upon which to rebuild. As we continue to support the critical work to address the pandemic, this forecast will help guide us as we prepare to write the state’s 2021-23 biennial budget.

“We know that many households and businesses in our state are struggling and anxious about their own economic futures. That’s why it’s more important than ever to begin to identify bipartisan solutions at the state level. It’s also why it’s critical for Congress to act responsibly and provide timely financial support for state and local governments.

“Our state’s economic challenges will require creative, thoughtful decisions that keep our overarching goals of opportunity, prosperity and equity in mind as we put all options on the table to deliver a sustained recovery for everyone in Washington state.”

2 07, 2020

The Everblue State: Sen. David Frockt on Economic Recovery

July 2nd, 2020|Podcast|

For this episode of the Everblue State, we spoke with Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Economic Recovery. This newly formed committee is designed to help Washington State recover from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the first hearing on June 16, Frockt and the committee heard from economists and Washington’s Employment Security Department about the challenges Washington and the rest of the United States are facing.

17 06, 2020

Statement from Sen. Christine Rolfes on state revenue forecast

June 17th, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, released this statement following today’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meeting:

“Today’s forecast gives us a better understanding of the enormous fiscal challenges facing our state in the months to come. We will continue our work to address the immediate impacts of the pandemic and prepare to make smart, informed budget decisions that will protect households from the continued impacts of a sustained downturn.

“While we remain hopeful that our federal partners will act responsibly and support states with a relief package, it will ultimately be up to us to find a budget solution that works in all corners of our state. Now more than ever, we must forge bipartisan solutions to keep our communities whole and build opportunity, prosperity and equity across the state.

“As our state faces many difficult financial decisions in the coming months, the health and safety of all Washingtonians is paramount. Our shared goal is to strategically align our state for a strong economic recovery, and we have a solid foundation on which to rebuild, thanks in part to a healthy rainy day fund.

“The challenge before us will require everybody’s participation and constructive ideas. The hard work and ingenuity of Washington’s workforce built the nation’s strongest economy over the last decade, and in the months to come I’m confident we will rebuild our economy upon the strong foundation we have forged together.”


14 05, 2020

WATCH: Sen. Frockt shares vision for economic recovery committee on TVW

May 14th, 2020|Uncategorized|

Sen. David Frockt appeared on TVW’s The Impact this week to share his vision for the newly created  bipartisan Special Committee on Economic Recovery.

The committee will hold its first meeting in June and is tasked with making recommendations on COVID-19 recovery legislation in advance of the 2021 legislative session, or before that if lawmakers are called back into session this year.

“If you’re not thinking about jobs in this environment, you’re not thinking about the right things,” said Frockt during the interview.

Frockt (D-Seattle) will serve as the committee’s chair. Republican Senator Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) will serve as vice chair. In total, the seven-member committee will be comprised of four Democrats and three Republicans. Democratic senators will include Sens. Manka Dhingra, Christine Rolfes and Rebecca Saldaña. In addition to Becker, Sen. Tim Sheldon and a yet-to-be-determined Republican will represent the Senate GOP.

You can watch the full interview with The Impact here.

16 04, 2020

Senator John McCoy announces retirement from Washington State Senate

April 16th, 2020|Uncategorized|


McCoy announces retirement from Washington State Senate

OLYMPIA — After 17 years of service in the Washington State Legislature, Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip) announced his retirement on Thursday after submitting a resignation letter to Gov. Jay Inslee. His retirement is effective Friday, April 17.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the people of the 38th Legislative District and our entire state,” McCoy said. “When I first came to the Legislature in 2003 as a member of the House of Representatives, I was humbled to represent such warm and vibrant people in Everett, Marysville and Tulalip. Through changes in committees, leadership roles, and even chambers over the course of my legislative career, it was always an immense privilege to represent my neighbors. I am deeply grateful for that privilege.”

“To my community members: thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to fight for you. Thank you for the chance to work with you and to bring your ideas to life at the Legislature. And thank you for trusting me with such an important job – elevating your voices and building a state where every one of us can thrive.”

McCoy leaves behind a legacy of steady leadership and commitment to serving his community. He brought a career in military service and years as a computer technician and business leader to his work at the Legislature, culminating in a lawmaker who effectively advanced economic development and equality of opportunity for his district. His work is characterized by tireless advocacy for Native American and rural communities, expanded access to high-quality education, and environmental sustainability.

Before McCoy became one of the longest serving Native American legislators in the state’s history, he led efforts to bring better telecommunication infrastructure to the Tulalip Tribe, of which he is a registered member. He also helped bring to fruition the Quil Ceda Village shopping, casino and hotel complex, a triumph of community that ultimately earned him the Puget Sound Business Journal’s Executive of the Year award.

During his subsequent five terms in the Washington State House of Representatives, McCoy fought for students, for the environment, for a healthy economy and for tribal communities. He sponsored policy that expanded support for students struggling with behavioral and emotional health needs, protected water rights and access, deterred wage discrimination and protected immigrant workers, and integrated comprehensive tribal history and culture education into teacher preparation programs.

After he was elected to the Washington State Senate, he led victories like the passage of the Native American Voting Rights Act to expand voting rights access in tribal communities, and passage of a groundbreaking dental therapy bill to expand dental care on reservations. He also established Native American Heritage Day, honoring tribal history the day after Thanksgiving, and got the Kelsey Smith Act signed into law, requiring wireless-telecommunications providers to provide call-location information for cell phones in emergency situations.

In a letter to his Senate colleagues on Thursday, McCoy wrote: “It has been the greatest honor to serve the people of Washington alongside you. It has been a gift to advocate for marginalized and disenfranchised Washingtonians, to lift up the voices of our sovereign tribal communities, to expand access to – and quality of – education and health care, and to do so with a team of dedicated public servants.”

McCoy was elected by his colleagues to serve as chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus in 2016, and most recently served on the Natural Resources Committee, the Agriculture, Water, Trade and Economic Development Committee, and the Rules Committee. McCoy’s retirement will allow him to spend more time with his wife, three daughters, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His four-year Senate term that began in January 2019 will be filled by a temporary appointee, who will serve through this November’s election. The appointee will be chosen by the Snohomish County Council from a list of three names submitted by the district’s Precinct Committee Officers. Candidates wishing to serve the last two years of the Senate term may file during the week of May 11-15.


For information:

Hannah Sabio Howell, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

For interviews:

Sen. John McCoy, 360-786-7674

18 03, 2020

Billig: Governor has Legislature’s full support

March 18th, 2020|News Release|

OLYMPIA – Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said the Legislature took steps before adjourning last week to swiftly support coronavirus response efforts by Gov. Jay Inslee, including the release of $200 million in emergency funds appropriated by the Washington State Legislature to help fund the state’s COVID-19 response.

The funds will be used for hospital surge capacity, testing, and other efforts at local health departments. The Legislature also authorized immediate funding that may be used for shelter needs related to COVID-19, which the Department of Commerce is already in the process of distributing to counties and cities.

“Leaders in the Legislature will continue to coordinate with the governor’s staff and our partners in local governments to mitigate both the health emergency and the economic crisis that is unfolding in our state,” Billig said. “I admire the work of the governor and his staff under difficult circumstances, and his important warning for all of us to do our part to stay away from public gatherings and slow the spread of coronavirus. In concert with his efforts, state leaders will continue to take any and all actions we can to protect the people of our state.”

Before the Legislature adjourned last week, lawmakers approved other key measures to protect Washingtonians during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Ensuring people receiving unemployment insurance can continue to do so even if they can’t meet the work search requirement due to quarantine.
  • Supporting businesses that rehire employees who had to go on unemployment insurance because of the coronavirus emergency.
  • Reimbursing nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response.
  • Allowing school employees to maintain health insurance eligibility for the rest of the school year even if they come up short of required work hours because of the coronavirus state of emergency.
  • Giving flexibility to the State Board of Education to allow high school seniors to graduate this year if they were on track before the emergency declaration.

“Public health is our first priority, with mitigating the economic impacts from this outbreak not far behind,” Billig said. “I know Washingtonians will remain resilient during this difficult time, while at the state level we’ll continue to do our part to deliver all the resources necessary to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe.”

Primary state response websites:

Washington State’s official COVID-19 site: www.coronavirus.wa.gov
Washington State Department of Health: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus
Washington Employment Security Department: https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19


11 03, 2020

Takko secures $700,000 to cut traffic congestion in Aberdeen

March 11th, 2020|News Release|

The City of Aberdeen will receive $700,000 for the US 12 Highway-Rail Separation Project, thanks to a provision added to the Legislature’s final transportation budget by Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview).

The money will fund preliminary work for an overpass and roundabout to raise South Chehalis Street above US 12 and Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, where train traffic regularly causes congestion and backups on US 12.

The number of freight trains traveling along this corridor has significantly increased over the past 15 years and is predicted to continue growing in the coming decades.

The Port of Grays Harbor, at the western end of the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, is the closest port to Seattle with direct access to the ocean and is crucial for transporting timber, agricultural products, and autos, among other goods.

“This funding is crucial because it keeps this project moving and positions us competitively for big federal transportation grants,” said Takko. “Having more freight trains on the tracks is a sign of a strong economy — a good problem to have — but we need the overpass to cut down on traffic jams when those trains come through town.”

Without this funding, the project would miss a key deadline and the planning process would need to be restarted, setting the work back by months and costing an additional $300,000. The state’s $700,000 will help get the project construction ready by 2023, which will make it more competitive for federal INFRA and BUILD grant programs.

Local support for the project is strong. The City of Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, and the Port of Grays Harbor together have committed $700,000 to match the state’s appropriation.

A 2019 cost-benefit analysis calculated that this project will return a benefit of $1.72 for every $1.00 invested.

11 03, 2020

Legislature doubles funding to respond to coronavirus

March 11th, 2020|News Release, Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Legislature approved the 2020 supplemental operating budget today as the 60-day legislative session ended on time. In a late addition, lawmakers increased emergency coronavirus funding from $100 million to $200 million.

With the passage of House Bill 2965, a total of $175 million will be directed to state and local public health agencies and the remaining $25 million will be transferred into the newly created COVID-19 unemployment account to help businesses and workers disrupted by the pandemic.

“It’s crucial that the people of Washington have the full support of the Legislature behind them during these challenging times,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “Even after we leave Olympia today, we will be collaborating closely with Gov. Inslee’s office to ensure they have the resources and authority they need.”

The COVID-19 unemployment account will mitigate costs for businesses due to an expected increase in unemployment insurance claims.

The increased coronavirus funding was the only major change from the budget agreement reached between the House and Senate on Wednesday (see original press release immediately below). The Legislature finished its work on time for the third straight year and is scheduled to return next January for a 105-day session.


OLYMPIA – Budget leaders in the House and Senate today unveiled a $1 billion, 2020 supplemental operating budget that provides an additional $160 million to address housing and homelessness as well as $100 million to support the state and local response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The budget plan includes no new general taxes and complies with the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement. It leaves $3 billion in total reserves at the end of the biennium, the largest balance in state history. Over the four-year outlook, the reserves are expected to grow to $3.6 billion.

The budget includes significant new investments in childcare and early learning programs to address the immediate needs of working households.

“This budget will make progress on urgent needs across our state — public health, housing, childcare and climate resilience,” 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. We’ve done our best to prepare our state for an uncertain, volatile economy.”

The budget adds a just over $1 billion in new spending to the $52.4 billion, two-year budget passed by lawmakers last April.

“This budget makes prudent and responsible investments where they are needed most. We confront the scourge of homelessness and commit significant resources to combat the coronavirus outbreak,” said Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane), chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

The additional $100 million in coronavirus funds fulfills a request by the state Department of Health.

“We continue to strengthen our foundational public health investments. This budget ensures our health departments have the resources they need to respond to any public health threat,” Rolfes said.

More than $150 million will target the immediate shelter needs of the state’s growing homeless population and support new affordable housing programs.

“Across our state, too many people are living in their cars or on the street. This budget ensures that more of our neighbors will be able to find and maintain safe, affordable housing,” said Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett), vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Other highlights of the budget include additional funding for K-12 education, climate resilience, rural health clinics and nursing homes.

Highlights of the 2020 Supplemental Budget Proposal

  • $100 million to cover costs associated with the coronavirus outbreak, including a dedicated call center, monitoring, testing and support for local health jurisdictions.
  • $160 million to address homelessness and affordable housing, including:
    • $60 million in one-time funding to shelter homeless adults, families and youth across the state.
    • $15 million (per year) for the state’s Housing and Essential Needs program.
    • $40 million for the state’s Housing Trust Fund.
    • $10 million in rapid-response funding to help more individuals stay in their homes.
    • $15 million (per year) for permanent supportive housing.
    • $5 million for maintenance and preservation.
  • $50 million to address the climate crisis by investing in communities and projects to enhance mitigation and resilience.
  • $153 million to the state Department of Children and Families to reduce childcare rates for working families ($65M), strengthen the foster care system ($52M), expand early learning programs ($15M), and other increases.
  • $172 million for K-12 education in the form of local levy assistance ($46M), counselors in high poverty schools ($32M), special education ($2M), pupil transportation ($41M), paraeducator training ($14M), student mental health and safety ($3M), and other increases.
  • Health care: Investments in primary care physician rate increases ($10M), rural health clinics ($34M), family planning ($8M), foundational public health ($17M), and other increases.

Other budget items of note include:

  • $51 million to help meet the increasing demand for the state new Paid Family Leave Program
  • $18 million to support struggling nursing homes by increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates.
  • $25 million for wildfire suppression and prevention.
  • $24 million for operations at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • $2 million for enhanced election technology and security.
  • $4 million for state parks.

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

7 03, 2020

Bill mandating comprehensive sexual health education in public schools heads to Inslee’s desk

March 7th, 2020|Uncategorized|

A bill requiring comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE) in all public schools by the 2022-23 school year received final approval from the Washington State Senate on Saturday, and now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.

The Senate had previously passed the bill, but because the House passed the bill with an amendment, it required another vote from the Senate. The Senate concurred with the House’s changes with a 27-21 vote.

Senate Bill 5395, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), would:

  • Require age-appropriate, medically accurate CSHE to be taught once from kindergarten to 3rd grade, once from 4th to 5th, twice in 6th to 8th, and twice in 9th to 12th.
  • Teach the concept of affirmative consent to older students so they can better recognize inappropriate behavior and their right to reject it.
  • Define CSHE and specify that curricula for kindergarten to 3rd grade must meet social and emotional learning standards.
  • Uphold the right of parents to review the curriculum and opt their children out of any portion of the instruction.
  • Require schools to notify parents when CSHE will be taught.
  • Establish new requirements for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to provide technical assistance so that districts can effectively implement the new standards.
  • Require CSHE curriculum to include information about affirmative consent.

“The hard work that we put into this bill — in both the House and Senate — is well worth it because it will improve safety for children statewide,” Wilson said. “We must ensure that our kids have the tools and knowledge they need to recognize and resist inappropriate behavior. This important education will help prevent younger kids from being targeted by pedophiles, and help teens who feel pressured to have sex.”

“It also helps students stay healthy in consensual relationships,” Wilson added. “Studies consistently show that the most effective programs include comprehensive sexual health or HIV education — or both — and the comprehensive approach is proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and STIs.”

Wilson noted that young people ages 15–24 represent one-fourth of the sexually active population but acquire half of all new STIs.

SB 5395 does not mandate any statewide curriculum. Instead, the bill gives local school districts the flexibility to determine what will best meet the needs of their students and families. All information must be appropriate and must meet existing state K-12 Health and Physical Education Learning Standards.

The goal of this legislation, Democrats argued during floor debates, is to give Washington students the tools they need to engage in safe, consensual relationships as adults, in addition to teaching them skills to identify and prevent sexual abuse.

The bill initially passed the Senate on Jan. 22 with a 28-21 voted, and passed in House on March 4 with a 56-40 vote. Now that the Senate has concurred on the House amendments, the bill is eligible for signing by the governor.


4 03, 2020

Senate fast-tracks $100 million for coronavirus response

March 4th, 2020|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA — As more cases of coronavirus are being confirmed in Washington state, including the nation’s first known fatalities, the Washington State Senate today approved a $100 million funding package to ensure a comprehensive response from state and local public health organizations.

“The safety and health of our neighbors is paramount, and it’s important we give our state and local health departments the support they need to respond to this outbreak,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, (D-Spokane). “We have excellent public health systems in our state, and I’m pleased we have found a bipartisan path forward to help address this crisis.”

“It’s important to the people of Washington that we get ahead of the curve on this, and stay ahead of the curve,” said Republican Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville). “This is a lot of money, but no one knows the full scope of this situation. The cost to our state will be much higher if we don’t manage this well.”

House Bill 2965 passed the Senate unanimously and will now head back to the House of Representatives for a final vote before Gov. Inslee can sign it into law.

The Senate amended the legislation to ensure Washingtonians can access unemployment benefits without meeting the work search requirement if they are under quarantine or isolation during the outbreak.

The conditions provided by this amendment expires June 30, 2021.