3 04, 2020

Dem budget leaders support reductions to address economic impacts of COVID-19

April 3rd, 2020|Uncategorized|

Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane) and Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Kitsap County) issued the statement below in support of Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to veto parts of the 2020 supplemental operating budget to better reflect the state’s current economic situation:

“We support Gov. Inslee’s decision to veto sections of the 2020 supplemental operating budget along with a number of policy bills that also drove additional costs. While these reductions may be difficult, they are necessary to help address the sudden and dramatic change to our state’s fiscal situation and to maintain focus on the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The health and safety of all Washingtonians is paramount, and these reductions will help our state remain nimble as we face declining revenues. Our shared goal is to align our state for an economic recovery and we have a strong foundation on which to rebuild.

“We will continue to take a collaborative, bipartisan approach in addressing the health and economic impacts of this pandemic, as we did at the end of the session with a $200 million emergency funding package.

“It will be hard, but Washington will get through this. We will do everything in our power to emerge quickly from this crisis, help people get back to work and reignite our economy.”

23 03, 2020

Statement from legislative leaders in support of Stay Home, Stay Healthy

March 23rd, 2020|Uncategorized|

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane), Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and House Minority Leader JT Wilcox (R-Yelm) released the following statement in support of Gov. Inslee’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Washington state.

* * *

“We encourage all Washingtonians to follow the new guidance of Gov. Jay Inslee. The guidance in “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” is critical to limiting the spread of COVID-19 and helping flatten the curve of infections. Our behavior could mean life or death for Washingtonians.

“We have already lost Washingtonians to this virus. We grieve with their families and stand alongside the people who are currently battling this illness.

“We recognize the impact these decisions have on businesses, families, and individuals across the state. There is no way to overstate the challenge facing our state and our nation. The weeks and months to come will test our will, our values and our courage but our state is resilient. We will get through this. We must work together, support each other and stay positive.

“Ultimately we will emerge from this challenge more united than ever, prepared to build an even stronger Washington.”

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.

ORIGINAL RELEASE:

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.

10 02, 2020

Upcoming Town Halls

February 10th, 2020|Uncategorized|

Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus and their seatmates in the House Democratic Caucus have upcoming town halls scheduled to discuss the 2020 Legislative Session, priority legislation and issues important to their districts. Find your lawmaker and their upcoming events in the list below:

1st Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 3-5 p.m. with Sen. Stanford and Reps. Duerr and Kloba at Cascadia Community College.

3rd Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 10-11:30 a.m. with Sen. Billig and Reps. Riccelli and Ormsby at the Woman’s Club of Spokane ballroom (1428 W 9th Ave., Spokane).

5th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, three events with Sen. Mullet and Reps. Callan and Ramos.

  • 1st: Maple Valley
    When: 9:30-10:30 a.m.
    Where: Tahoma High School Performing Arts Center
    23499 SE Tahoma Way, Maple Valley, WA 98038
  • 2nd: North Bend
    When: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
    Where: North Bend City Hall
    920 SE Cedar Falls Way, North Bend, WA 98045
  • 3rd: Issaquah
    When: 1:30 -2:30 p.m.
    Where: Blakely Hall At Issaquah Highlands
    2550 NE Park Dr, Issaquah, WA 98029

11th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-noon with Sen. Hasegawa and Rep. Hudgins at the Teamsters Hall, Room 303 (14675 Interurban Ave. S, Tukwila).

21st Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-noon with Sen. Liias, and Reps. Ortiz-Self and Peterson at Mariner High School Commons (200 120th St SW, Everett).

22nd Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 26, 6:30-8 p.m. with Sen. Hunt and Reps. Doglio and Dolan at the Twin Star Community Foundation Event Center on the SPSCC Lacey Campus (4220 6th Ave. SE, Lacey)

24th Legislative District Town Hall – TBA with Sen. Van de Wege

27th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-noon with Sen. Darneille, Speaker Jinkins and Fey at Eastside Community Center (1721 E 56th St, Tacoma).

29th Legislative District Town Hall – POSTPONED

30th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22 with Sen. Wilson at Algona Elementary School. Time TBA.

34th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 23, 3-4:30 pm, Sen. Nguyen at Elliot Bay Brewery (255 SW 152nd St, Burien).

36th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 23, 2-4:00 p.m. with Sen. Carlyle and Reps. Frame and Tarleton at the Lagunitas Taproom in the Free-Lard area (1550 NW 49th St., Seattle).

37th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 29, noon-2 p.m. with Sen. Saldaña at New Holly Gathering Hall (7054 32nd Ave. S, Seattle).

40th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 29, 10:30 a.m. – noon with Sen. Lovelett at Anacortes Educational Service District in the Reid Harbor Room (1601 R Ave, Anacortes).

41st Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m with Sen. Lisa Wellman and Reps. Tana Senn and My-Linh Thai. Bellevue College, Room N201 (3000 Landerholm Circle SE, Bellevue).

43rd Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 1:30 to 3 p.m, Sen. Pedersen, Rep. Chopp and Rep. Macri at Seattle First Baptist Church (1111 Harvard Avenue, Seattle)

44th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 9:30 a.m. with Sen. Hobbs and Reps. Lovick and Mead at Lake Stevens Senior Center (2302 Soper Hill Rd., Lake Stevens).

45th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with Sen. Dhingra and Reps. Goodman and Springer at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, West Building, Room 404 (11605 132nd Ave. NE, Kirkland)

47th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 23, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. with Sen. Das at Cascade Hall (12401 SE 320th St, Auburn).

48th Legislative District Town Hall – Feb. 22, 10:30 a.m.-noon with Sen. Kuderer and Reps. Slatter and Walen at Redmond City Hall (15670 NE 85th St, Redmond).

49th Legislative District Town Hall – TBA with Sen. Cleveland.

21 01, 2020

Legislature honors Franklin on Senate floor, celebrates oral history

January 21st, 2020|News Release, Uncategorized|

A groundbreaking former state lawmaker has chronicled her experiences in the Legislature in a biographical oral history that will be celebrated at a book-signing reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Tacoma.

All proceeds from sales of Rosa Franklin — A Life in Health Care, Public Service, and Social Justice will go into an account that funds Capitol preservation, the state library and archives, and the legislative oral history program.

“When Sen. Sam Hunt called me several months ago and said ‘the legislative oral history committee has voted for you to tell your story,’ I thought maybe he was kidding,” former Sen. Rosa Franklin (D-Tacoma) said Monday while being honored on the Senate floor. “It is indeed a deep honor to be back. It’s overwhelming, really.”

Franklin was the first black woman elected to the Senate and represented the 29th Legislative District in Tacoma for 20 years, but her long legislative career is only one aspect of her storied path.

Before Franklin won election to the Legislature, her 42-year career in health care brought her from South Carolina to Washington state and included stops in Brooklyn, Colorado, Germany, and the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, among other venues.

An inductee in the Washington State Nurses Association Hall of Fame, Franklin holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Puget Sound and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington State Democratic Party.

“Rosa Franklin’s lifelong commitment to social justice is an inspiration in a time when many have lost faith in government,” wrote Tamiko Nimura, the book’s author.

Franklin’s legislative achievements ran the gamut from establishing the state’s housing and anti-discrimination policy in her freshman year, to eliminating redundant requirements for nursing credentials, to enabling voters to approve public financing of election campaigns. She served as Democratic Whip, as Majority Whip, and twice as President Pro Tempore.

 

20 01, 2020

Wilson bill would address critical needs of early learners

January 20th, 2020|Uncategorized|

Early learners would get the assistance and support they need to avoid falling behind their peers in kindergarten and throughout life, under legislation heard today by the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

“Not everyone is ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, and those who aren’t often fall behind early and stay behind,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the committee’s vice chair. “This is a pattern that can hinder them through grade school and high school, into their careers and even into retirement. They lag academically, they fare worse in getting jobs and promotions and saving for retirement, and even their health may suffer.”

Among other things, Wilson’s Senate Bill 6253 would:

  • Expand eligibility for Workings Connections benefits and the Early Education Assistance and Care Program;
  • Reform the state’s confusing range of services and access by creating a single entry point from which each child can be directed to the programs or assistance they need; and
  • Replace the current system in which students either qualify for a myriad of assistance and support, or qualify for none, with a system that provides students with assistance and support based on individual need.

“Under our current system, many children go overlooked and struggle in the critical early learning years,” Wilson said. “By making sure those who need assistance early on enter kindergarten ready to learn, and by redirecting our services to better match actual student needs, our students will be more successful in school and throughout life.”

Studies show that every dollar invested to address these early learning needs saves $7 in long-term educational and social costs by ensuring that early learners are ready to learn when it matters most.

“The critical early needs can mean the difference between someone who thrives through school into adulthood and throughout their life, and someone who struggles and requires assistance in multiple areas,” Wilson said. “Of all the money we can spend on education, investing in early learning can make the biggest difference and bring the largest return.”

Other components of the bill would increase access to parent education and support programs and phase in subsidy rate increases for licensed childcare providers to 75 percent of the market rate by 2023.

13 01, 2020

Bills on consumer data privacy, facial recognition introduced

January 13th, 2020|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – A bipartisan group of Washington state senators and representatives today unveiled a pair of bills strengthening consumer access and control over personal data and regulating the use of facial recognition technology.

Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) — sponsor of one of the bills, the Washington Privacy Act — told reporters gathered at a press conference that the lawmakers had reached “95 percent agreement in principle on the core elements of the bills.”

He was joined by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent), Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center) and Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-Ballard).

Carlyle’s SB 6281 gives Washington residents the right to know who is using their personal data and why, the right to correct inaccurate data, the right to delete certain data, and the right to opt out of the processing of data in key areas.

The bill also requires steps companies must take to disclose data management policies in order to increase transparency and establishes limits on the commercial use of facial recognition technology.

A brief overview of the bill is available here.

Nguyen’s SB 6280 limits the ways government and law enforcement can use facial recognition technology.

A brief overview of the bill is available here.

Washington residents overwhelmingly favor efforts to defend data privacy. In a Crosscut Elway poll released last week, 84 percent of respondents said consumer protections for personal online data should be strengthened.

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.