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15 11, 2017

Senate Democrats: Pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but hard work remains on school funding

November 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Democratic leads on K-12 Education on Wednesday reacted to the state Supreme Court’s latest order on the McCleary decision:

“We are very pleased that the Legislature and the Supreme Court are in strong agreement that the state has made significant progress on basic education policy, and that some important work remains,” said incoming chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County. “Many lawmakers, myself included, have had conversations with our school districts since the 2017 session concluded. We know some steps need to be taken to ensure they have the flexibility and funding they need to provide students with the best education possible and in the fairest way for taxpayers. This order reiterates the need for these conversations to continue and intensify.”

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has largely affirmed the work we have done to help students in Washington succeed,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Deputy Leader Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “We knew the plan needed to be further refined and will incorporate the court’s guidance in to our work to improve the state’s plan to fund basic education. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to uphold our constitutional obligation to fully fund our schools and help every child achieve their fullest potential.”

15 11, 2017

Senate Democrats choose Brad Hendrickson as Secretary of the Senate

November 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 11, 2017

Rolfes to chair Senate budget committee

November 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, was chosen to chair the crucial Senate budget committee, Ways & Means, on Monday. This appointment follows the 2017 election results, which shifted control of the state Senate from Republicans to Democrats.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to serve as chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee,” Rolfes said. “The decisions we make in Olympia have very real impacts on the people of this state, particularly with regards to how their tax dollars are spent. As chair of Ways & Means, I will work every day to ensure the best interests of Washingtonians are at the heart of everything we do.”

In her new role, Rolfes will be the Senate’s chief budget writer and negotiator, set the committee’s agenda and lead her colleagues in determining what bills will move through the committee to be considered for a vote of the Senate.

Rolfes has served in leadership roles within the Senate Democratic caucus in recent years. She was a chief negotiator on education policy and funding during the critical 2017 legislative session and has served as one of two lead Democrats on the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Rolfes will also serve as vice chair of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

“Following some sweeping tax policy changes in the last legislative session, my aim is to make sure schools have the flexibility and funding they need, taxes are fair, businesses have the space to grow and workers across this state can thrive,” Rolfes added. “It is also critical we get our work done on time and in a transparent way.”

13 11, 2017

Democrats appoint committee chairmanships following switch of Senate control

November 13th, 2017|Uncategorized|

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

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

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

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

13 11, 2017

Senate Democratic leadership posts switch from minority to majority

November 13th, 2017|Uncategorized|

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

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

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

The Senate Democratic Leadership team is as follows:

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

5 09, 2017

Nelson: Decision to end DACA is un-American

September 5th, 2017|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson released the statement below following the Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program:

“DACA kids are American kids. They are contributing members of society who had no control over the circumstances that brought them to this country – their country.

“Ending this program flies in the face of what this country stands for. Simply put, President Trump’s decision is un-American.

“We stand with the thousands of DACA kids in our state, and those who are fighting this cruel and short-sighted decision.

“We also call on Republicans in our state and those in Congress to do their jobs, stand up for what’s right and stand up for all children.”

16 08, 2017

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

August 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|

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

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

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

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

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

31 07, 2017

Washington State Just Passed a Bipartisan Paid Leave Law. Here’s How We Did It.

July 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

Originally published by the Center for American Progress’ Talk Poverty blog – July 31, 2017

Shared on RealClearPolicy – Aug. 7, 2017

About a quarter of new moms return to work two weeks after giving birth. Not because they want to leave their newborn, but because they need their paycheck.

I will never forget the testimony of a young mom from a Seattle suburb. During her pregnancy, she saved up every hour of her limited paid time off so that when her child was born, she would be able to spend every possible precious moment bonding with and caring for her newborn.

But one Thursday, she went into labor prematurely. Her baby boy was placed in intensive care at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and she went back to work on Monday. Her paid time off was so limited that she needed to save it for when her baby could come home. So, every day after work, she drove the 25 miles to Seattle to be with her baby until the hospital visiting hours ended.

Families have to make devastating choices every day because most working people do not get paid family and medical leave at their jobs. In particular, most lower wage jobs do not offer any paid vacation or sick leave, though it is typically available to highly paid workers.

That’s why I am thrilled that on July 5th, Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee signed the country’s most progressive and comprehensive paid family and medical leave insurance program into law. We built it from scratch, with bipartisan support and significant input from leaders in business, advocates and labor.

The new law covers everyone working in our state, and is fully portable between jobs. It also includes a progressive benefit structure so that instead of providing a flat percentage of a person’s wage—which would pay lower wage workers less, and higher wage workers more—the paid time off is graduated based on income. For a minimum wage worker, our benefit provides a 90% wage replacement. For higher wage workers, the benefit caps at $1,000 a week. This ensures that every working Washingtonian, regardless of income, can afford to take the time they need with a new baby, a dying parent, or to recover from a serious illness or accident.

Crafting this policy took us a decade. We passed an initial paid family leave program that was never funded because of the Great Recession, but our coalition of lawmakers, advocates, and unions never gave up the goal. When the state’s 2016 ballot initiative campaign to raise the minimum wage and mandate paid sick leave passed easily with broad support, that let us begin serious negotiations again. Early polling indicated that a paid family and medical leave initiative that included a 100% employer-funded program would have received even broader support. The business community got similar results when they decided to test public opinion, so they came to the table early in the year to open discussions.

Though Seattle has a national reputation for being a progressive bastion, Washington state as a whole is actually quite purple. A Republican-led majority controls the state Senate by only one seat, and Democrats control the state House by only two seats. A young, socially-moderate Republican floor leader, Sen. Joe Fain, led the effort to bring his caucus to the table. Sen. Fain had a baby boy last year, and learned firsthand the need to have the time to bond and grow as a family. In state legislatures, relationships across the aisle are still important to make progress on policy.

In an era that feels increasingly divided along partisan lines on so many issues, Americans are overwhelmingly united in support of paid family and medical leave. This is why I believe that Washington’s historic victory must become the model for state-by-state enactment of such laws. The legislation we crafted, with a diverse range of stakeholders and perspectives, provides a roadmap for all states considering paid family and medical leave whether they are under single party control or divided government.

Ultimately, the paid family and medical leave bill received 37 of the possible 49 votes in the Senate, and 65 of the possible 98 votes in the House. The conditions for passage in Washington state may have been unique, but the law we produced provides a framework for state level leadership in a time that federal Congressional gridlock seems incapable of progress.

20 07, 2017

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

July 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 07, 2017

Democrats, Republicans reach agreement on capital budget

July 19th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, released the statement below following a four-corner agreement on a Capital Budget:

“On Tuesday afternoon, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate reached agreement on a full capital budget. This is great news for job creation, mental health improvements, environmental protection and investments in communities across our state.

“But perhaps most importantly, this agreement will invest more than $1 billion in school construction throughout Washington.

“We can vote on this bill tomorrow before the third special session ends.  I ask that the bill be brought up for a vote.  I suspect it will have unanimous or near unanimous support.  It is time to get to yes on all remaining issues and bring our work for 2017 to a close.”