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13 01, 2020

The Everblue State: Welcome to the 2020 Session with Sen. Andy Billig

January 13th, 2020|Podcast|

The Everblue State is back for the 2020 Legislative Session with a special episode with Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig.

Billig gives us an update on what Senate Democrats are working on this year, and the issues he hopes the Legislature will tackle in the coming decade. He also takes a retrospective look at his favorite bills in the last 10 years.

As an added bonus, he answers our question about which Senate Democrat he would draft for a minor league baseball team.

Make sure to listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

13 01, 2020

Let’s get back to work in 2020!

January 13th, 2020|Uncategorized|

When Democrats took over the Senate in 2018, we got to work putting people first.

And we did it all on time.

Now the 2020 Legislative Session is here, and we’re ready to get back to work on progressive policies and bettering the lives of Washingtonians.

20 12, 2019

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) on the independent investigation of Rep. Matt Shea

December 20th, 2019|Uncategorized|

“The investigators’ report of Rep. Matt Shea’s involvement in domestic terrorism makes it clear Rep. Shea has no place in the Washington State Legislature. The report’s conclusion is unequivocal and chilling: Rep. Shea is a ‘present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence.’

“I appreciate the expedient and responsible manner in which House leadership has proceeded related to the investigation and I agree with House Republican Leader JT Wilcox that Rep. Shea should resign. I have confidence that House leadership will continue to take the appropriate steps related to Rep. Shea.”

19 12, 2019

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) on today’s Supreme Court ruling on public records

December 19th, 2019|Uncategorized|

“We are still reviewing the court’s decision, but as I’ve said throughout this process, I believe the Legislature should continue to take steps toward greater transparency. Long before this decision came down, we started establishing an institutional infrastructure to help respond to public records requests, store documents and take other measures to increase public access.

“We will be working with Senate administration and legislators in the coming days and weeks to ensure compliance with this decision.”

12 11, 2019

We’re Hiring!

November 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|

The Senate Democratic Caucus is hiring a communications specialist. This is a full-time position with benefits, including health, retirement and leave.

A communications specialist is an experienced communications professional who coordinates media, public and stakeholder activities for Democratic state senators. Successful candidates must be excellent writers who are able to handle multiple tasks, work well under pressure, meet tight deadlines, be proactive and thrive in a team-oriented work environment. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations, communications or a related field.

Applicants should have a passion for the legislative process, excellent political and strategic judgment, and an ability to frame complex political issues into a coherent and simple message. Familiarity with the people, politics and press in the Legislature is a plus.

Find a full job description and application details here.

Interested candidates should apply by Nov. 22, 2019.

31 07, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig’s statement on election of Rep. Laurie Jinkins as Speaker-designate

July 31st, 2019|Uncategorized|

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) released this statement following the election of Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) as the Speaker-designate of the Washington State House of Representatives:

“I would like to extend congratulations to Laurie Jinkins on being elected the next House Speaker by her colleagues today.

“As an accomplished legislator and the first woman to hold the position, she will bring a vital perspective to leadership in the Washington State Legislature. I’ve enjoyed a productive working relationship with Laurie since we joined the House together in 2011. She has a long record of fighting for legislation that puts our state on the path of prosperity by creating opportunity for everybody.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the House leadership team to put people first and make Washington the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

1 07, 2019

Stanford appointed 1st Legislative District senator

July 1st, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Derek Stanford was unanimously appointed state senator for the 1st Legislative District this morning at a joint meeting of the King and Snohomish County councils in Bothell.

“I’m excited to get to work in the Senate, and I’m grateful to the 1st District Democrats and to the Snohomish and King County councils for their support,” said Stanford (D-Bothell).

“It has been an honor to serve the people of the 1st Legislative District as state representative for the past nine years.”

Stanford was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and has been re-elected four times since. In the House, he chaired the Commerce & Gaming Committee and served on the Appropriations Committee and Consumer Protection & Business Committee.

“I’m proud to have played a part in passing historic legislation during my tenure in the House, from increasing school funding and expanding voting rights to fighting climate change and protecting workers,” he said. “I believe that everyone deserves an equitable opportunity to pursue their dreams. Together, we can tackle the greatest challenges we face and leave our state in better shape for our children. I look forward to continuing this work in the Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig applauded Stanford’s appointment.

“It is my pleasure to welcome Sen. Stanford to our caucus. He brings with him a long, accomplished record of serving his constituents and a wealth of knowledge that will benefit the Senate and our state.”

This year, Stanford was the author of a major law that bans excessive non-compete agreements in Washington state, as well as legislation regulating the cannabis industry and preventing pets from being used as collateral for loans.

Stanford earned a PhD in Statistics at the University of Washington, following an MS in Mathematics at Claremont Graduate University and a BS in Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College.

Currently, Stanford runs a small business specializing in analytics solutions and statistical consulting. Previously, he has served as director of analytics at companies specializing in fraud detection and customer insights. He has also worked as a research scientist at a software company, where he served as principal investigator on a research project for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

29 04, 2019

Majority Leader: A lot to be proud of in a historic session

April 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) released this statement following the adjournment of the 2019 legislative session, the first 105-day session to end on time since 2009 and the second year in a row the Legislature has adjourned as scheduled:

“In the two years since Democrats retook control of the Senate, we have worked hard to pass legislation that puts people first and ensures more people have access to a quality education, health care, clean air and water and create an overall better quality of life.

“We finished our work on time. We made sure diverse voices were heard throughout the legislative session. And we will continue to ensure every Washingtonian has an opportunity to succeed.

“This year we made historic investments in health care, behavioral health, higher education and the environment — and kept our promise to Washington’s 1.1 million students through additional investments in schools in every corner of our state.

“We committed our state to a path toward 100% clean energy, adopted the nation’s first public health care option, and became the first state to adopt publicly-funded long-term care.”

“We tackled criminal justice reform, election transparency and access, workers rights, the rights of immigrants, and public safety.

“For the first time since I’ve been in the Legislature, we made meaningful reforms to our state’s broken tax structure, ensuring that new investments in programs that benefit all Washingtonians won’t be disproportionately paid for by low- and middle income families.

“We made meaningful steps to ensure that the wealthiest Washingtonians start paying their fair share, but I will be the first to say we still have miles ago to fix our broken tax code.

“I am so proud of our team and the work we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished for each and every Washingtonian.”

29 04, 2019

Legislature passes ‘Putting People First’ state operating budget

April 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Legislature passed a 2019-21 operating budget plan and revenue plan on Sunday, making critical investments in behavioral health, affordable housing, education, and the environment.

“This is a responsible and optimistic budget that includes broad investments to meet critical needs across our state. We are transforming our behavioral health system and making historic investments in education, which is the bedrock of our communities,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“This is what putting people first looks like,” said Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’re making significant investments in special education and behavioral health, helping families stay in their homes and out of poverty, and expanding college access and opportunity to more families across Washington.”

Highlights of the $52.4 billion two-year operating budget include:

Behavioral Health: The two-year budget will make significant investments in continued efforts to reform and improve the state behavioral health system.

  • $47 million to expand community behavioral health beds and services.
  • $92 million in this biennium to ensure the stability of state hospitals and the safety of patients and staff.
  • $74 million in this biennium to comply with the Trueblood court ruling.

Affordable Housing: In addition to the state capital budget, the state operating budget makes key investments in housing programs and services.

  • $15 million focused on permanent supportive housing and youth homelessness.
  • $14.5 million for the Housing and Essential Needs Program, which helps people with disabilities who are struggling to find or maintain housing.

Education: This budget fulfills the bipartisan promise made by the Legislature to fund health care coverage for school employees through the School Employee Benefits Board (SEBB) program. This investment will cost $328 million in this budget and $837 million over four years.

  • $155 million for additional special education funding ($294 million over four years).
  • $61 million for additional levy assistance for areas with low property values.
  • $12 million for paraeducator training.
  • $2.5 million additional funding for student mental health and safety.

Workforce Education InvestmentCreates a new Washington College Grant to make public college tuition-free in Washington state for families earning less than $50,000 per year, with partial scholarships for families up to state’s median income, and significantly invests in community colleges.

It addresses demand through targeted investments by bringing together students, parents, higher education institutions, workers, and businesses. To pay for the investments, the Legislature increased B&O rates on businesses that rely on a highly-educated workforce.

  • Expands access to the Washington College Grant (formerly the State Need Grant).
  • Makes career pathways a priority by expanding programs that guide students through community and technical colleges or apprenticeships and increases counseling.
  • Increases capacity at the public community and technical colleges and four-year institutions for high-demand programs, such as computer science, engineering, nursing, and other high-demand fields.

Other investments:

  • $35 million to expand Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) slots and rate increases.
  • $62 million for rate increases for community residential services providers (long-term and developmental disabilities care).
  • $31 million to improve habitat and protect Orcas.
  • $9 million to eliminate the backlog in testing sexual assault kits.
  • $24 million in state general funds to increase our wildfire response and address natural disasters.
  • $4.5 million to expand rural broadband.

While the state economy has resulted in additional revenue over the current two-year budget, existing expenses have outpaced that revenue growth. The state faces an additional $5.8 billion in expenses over the last two-year budget, most of which ($3.9 billion) comes from the bipartisan education funding agreement reached in 2017.

The state’s revenue growth over that same time was $4.5 billion. Therefore new revenue was needed to make critical investments in behavioral health, housing, higher education, and the environment.

Revenue is added by changing the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) rates for property sales over $1.5 million. Washington’s current REET rate is a flat rate regardless of the value of the transaction.

The Progressive Real Estate Excise Tax proposal would result in more than 80% of real estate sellers receiving a tax cut while another 18% would see no change in the rate. The remaining sellers, those selling real estate valued at $1.5 million or higher, would see a rate increase.

The budget includes a business and occupations tax increase on the very largest and most profitable global banks. Other revenue includes an increase in the B&O rate for firms that provide international investments services.

28 04, 2019

Senate’s capital budget proposes life-changing investments in infrastructure

April 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|

The Washington State Senate today approved a two-year capital budget that would invest in priority infrastructure across the state in the areas of behavioral health, affordable housing, education and the environment.

The budget passed with a unanimous vote.

“The bipartisan support of this budget highlights the investments it makes on behalf of all Washingtonians,” said Sen. David Frockt, vice chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and the Senate’s lead capital budget writer. “The capital budget supports our schools, improvements to our behavioral health system, the environment, and other values that are so key to the Washington way of life.”

The budget invests $120 million in community based behavioral health investments, helping patients transition to care in their own communities.

It also includes $33.2 million for predesign, planning and design of a new, 150-bed behavioral health teaching facility at the University of Washington Medical Center. This project has broad bipartisan support and is seen as a critical component of Washington’s long-term strategy to create a new paradigm for mental health treatment in Washington State. 

“Washington is transitioning to a behavioral health system that helps and protects our most vulnerable neighbors, and this budget supports that,” Frockt said. “Our investment in the Housing Trust Fund compliments that investment — particularly a $35 million investment in housing with behavioral health supports.”

The budget includes $175 million in affordable housing loans and grants through the Housing Trust Fund. Allocations within the Housing Trust Fund include:

  • $10 million for high-quality modular housing to transition people out of homelessness quickly.
  • $35 million for supportive housing and case management services for people living with behavioral health disorders.
  • $10 million for competitively awarded grants for state matches on private contributions to fund affordable housing
  • $10 million for housing preservation grants
  • $5 million for housing veterans
  • $5 million for housing to serve people with disabilities

The capital budget invests about $148.4 million in toxics cleanup, prevention and stormwater assistance to local governments.

Additional environmental investments would prevent wildfires and help the orca population. Forest hazard reduction would receive $14.2 million. The budget contains funding spread across a variety of projects that would aid orca recovery, including habitat restoration.

The $63 million invested in state parks would expand Washingtonians’ options for outdoor recreation. About $3 million of that funding would go to a new, full-service Nisqually State Park near Eatonville. About $35.4 million would fund park maintenance.

An additional $85 million would fund outdoor recreation projects though Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants.

The budget would invest about $1.1 billion in K-12 education, with about $1.04 billion dedicated to the School Construction Assistance Program. About $23 million would benefit distressed schools, and $20 million would fund small district modernization grants.

The state’s higher education system would receive $974 million.