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26 02, 2016

Nelson: Washington’s school kids shortchanged in Senate Republican budget

February 26th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Friday released the statement below following the party-line passage of the Senate Republican budget:
“All year we have seen Senate Republicans focused on politics. Maybe that’s why their budget reads like an afterthought.

“Senate Republicans fall far short in addressing homelessness and they cut mental health in this state by $14 million.

“Most disappointing, however, is the harm they do to Washington’s one million school kids.

“The Senate Republican budget cuts $53 million from K-3 class size reduction. It ignores the opportunity gap. It does nothing to retain and attract quality teachers and falls far short of addressing the teacher shortage in a meaningful way.

“It also fails to prevent what would be the largest cut to K-12 education in the state’s history and ignores the McCleary fine – which continues to grow and has now surpassed $20 million.

“A budget represents values. It’s supposed to address the needs of our state and its people.

“At best the Senate Republican budget does nothing. At worst, it does serious damage to the people who can least afford it.”

24 02, 2016

Nelson: Senate Republicans completely miss the mark on education

February 24th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the unveiling of the Senate Republican budget:

“The Senate Republicans have ignored key issues important to the vast majority of Washingtonians all year. Their budget reflects that.

“Senate Republicans cut mental health, ignore our state’s homelessness problem and balance their budget by gambling with the pensions of retired firefighters, police officers and teachers.

“Most inexplicable, however, is the damage it does to K-12 education.

“The Senate Republican budget contains a hidden $53 million cut to K-3 class sizes. It ignores the $19 million fine owed for failing to produce an education funding plan. It falls far short of addressing the state’s teacher shortage crisis and does nothing to invest in attracting and retaining quality teachers.

“The House budget invests $99 million in K-12 education. This despite the misleading, manufactured hogwash you hear from Senate Republicans about a mythical cut.

“The Senate Republican budget doesn’t even kick the can down the road – it misses it entirely.”

17 02, 2016

Billig’s campaign transparency bill blocked in the Senate

February 17th, 2016|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – With an important legislative deadline looming, an attempt to bring a bipartisan campaign finance bill to the Senate floor for a vote was blocked by Senate Republicans today. This marks the third year in a row that the Republican majority has blocked this bill from moving forward.

“I’m disappointed and somewhat shocked that this legislation, which has bipartisan support, has again been prevented from receiving a thoughtful debate,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, the legislation’s sponsor.

Billig noted that earlier in the legislative session he had worked with some of the groups that opposed the bill and prepared an amendment that would have addressed many of their concerns. Even after these good faith efforts were made, the Senate Republican majority still blocked his move to bring the bill up for a vote.

“It’s becoming clear to me that the Senate Republicans are comfortable with allowing dark money and secret political donations to continue to influence Washington state elections,” said Billig.

The bill, SB 5153, would require non-profit organizations participating in state and local political campaigns to disclose their contributions and expenditures. Currently, some non-profits are funneling undisclosed “dark money” into political campaigns.

SB 5153 would also require disclosure of the organizations’ top 10 largest sources of funds that are greater than $10,000 and any additional donors in excess of $100,000. It would not require an organization to file with the Public Disclosure Commission until the organization has spent or contributed at least $25,000.

“Washington has good disclosure laws but there is a glaring loophole that needs to be closed to strengthen our Democracy and this bill would do just that,” said Billig.

The limits of Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws have been made clear in recent years. In 2013, political committees on both sides of the aisle used their non-profit status to avoid disclosure of millions of dollars in donations. In another example, the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association avoided disclosure for donors after spending over $11 million to fund a committee opposed to Initiative 522. It was only after the discovery of a specific fundraising e-mail that the attorney general was able to require disclosure. Also in 2013, Working Washington — a registered nonprofit — raised more than $250,000 in support of the SeaTac minimum wage initiative but did not release the names of donors.

In 2014, when an independent organization spending money in a legislative election was able to use its non-profit status to avoid disclosing its donors, it drew outcry from numerous legislators. SB 5153 would have applied in all of these cases and required timely disclosure of donors.

“This isn’t a partisan bill, it doesn’t benefit any particular party,” said Billig. “Unfortunately, the disclosure loophole that this bill hopes to address is being exploited by both Democrats and Republicans. Ultimately, the people this bill benefits the most are the citizens of our state. They deserve to know where the money is coming from in political campaigns.”

16 02, 2016

Nelson: It’s good that this step is complete, but let’s not forget the rest of the journey

February 16th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the passage of a plan to address K-12 funding:

“It was a relief on Tuesday to see Senate Republicans finally relent and bring a plan to keep our promise to Washington’s one million school kids to the floor for a vote.

“However, let’s be clear – this is the bipartisan plan, not the Democratic plan. The Democratic plan would have gone farther. Our plan would have addressed inequities in our schools and committed the legislature to relieve the stress that an unfair and imbalanced levy system puts on poorer schools.

“This moves us forward – but only barely. This keeps us talking and that is very important.

“There’s so much more work to be done on education. We need to address the teacher shortage, the opportunity gap and numerous other issues to fulfill our promise to our kids.

“It’s good that this step is complete, but let’s not forget the rest of the journey.”

5 02, 2016

Nelson: Washingtonians rely on the success of state government. Senate Republicans rely on the failure of state government to win elections

February 5th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Friday issued the statement below following Senate Republican votes to fire transportation secretary Lynn Peterson:

“It has been clear from the start, the Senate Republican plan for 2016 was to attack our state agencies, attack our state’s public servants and interfere with the good work done by so many of our state employees.

“Instead of focusing on the state’s urgent needs, Senate Republicans continue to look for people to blame.

“Already Senate Republicans have launched a redundant and very expensive taxpayer-funded investigation into DOC, they’re blaming the Health Care Authority for rising prescription drug costs, they’ve proposed a bill to cut hundreds of jobs from the Department of Ecology and now they have fired a capable and dedicated public servant – someone they recommended unanimously out of the Transportation Committee less than a year ago.

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – cut government, undermine government, under fund government and then complain about government.

“Washingtonians rely on state government. Senate Republicans rely on the failure of state government to win elections.

“Focus on our school kids now, save the politics for November.”

 

 

 

 

 

4 02, 2016

Senate Democrats unveil the Bring Washington Home Act

February 4th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Communities throughout Washington are reporting a spike in their homeless population. What has long been a problem is quickly becoming a crisis.

Because of the urgency of this growing issue, Senate Democrats are sponsoring the Bring Washington Home Act, a plan to make targeted investments in programs aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness and help the less fortunate get off the streets.

“Homelessness is not just a problem in cities. It isn’t just a problem in King County or Western Washington. Homelessness impacts every community and it’s getting worse,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, the bill’s prime sponsor. “We must act now and we must act decisively to combat this problem.”

Numbers from last week’s One Night Count are starting to come in. Homelessness is up 19 percent in King County and it’s up a devastating 54 percent in Snohomish County. OSPI just reported that more than 35,000 Washington students don’t have a safe and consistent place to sleep at night.

Senate Bill 6647 will tap into the state’s Rainy Day Fund which is money set aside to be used for emergencies. One percent of existing tax dollars are put into the Rainy Day Fund annually. The fund is projected to be at over $700 million by June of 2017 and over a billion dollars in 2019.

“We can attack this problem at the source and do it in a way that doesn’t raise taxes,” Nelson said. “There is a homelessness crisis in our state. Issues like this is why we have a Rainy Day fund. For the thousands of Washingtonians living on our streets it’s pouring and we can help them.

“We must act now. Inaction only makes the problem worse.”

Nelson was joined by other leaders who voiced support for the plan. Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, Vancouver City Councilwoman Alishia Topper and Julio Cortes, the public relations manager at Cocoon House, a non-profit that provides access to short- and long-term housing for homeless youth in Everett, also spoke for the need to address the homeless crisis in their communities.

Also in attendance were many of the 23 Senate Democrats who signed onto the bill.

The Bring Washington Home Act will make targeted investments in the following programs:

• $18.455 million targeted toward services such as rapid rehousing for people who are mentally ill, chemically dependent and/or chronically homeless.

• $4.625 million targeted for homeless youth; including HOPE beds, the Street Youth program, and funding for the homeless student stability and opportunity gap act (SB 6298 sponsored by Sen. David Frockt)

• $3 million for consolidated homeless grants

• $60 million toward shelter and support services for the homeless and families at risk of becoming homeless

• $95 million toward the Housing Trust Fund for building supportive or other housing, and $5 million for maintenance and operations for housing stock. This $95 million will drive $190 million in housing investments, when those funds are combined with other resources (donations, grant money, tax credits, local funding) used in conjunction with the Housing Trust Fund.

2 02, 2016

Ranker: State has lost an ‘incredible leader’ in Harriet Spanel

February 2nd, 2016|Uncategorized|

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, today released this statement on the passing of former Sen. Harriet Spanel, his predecessor as senator representing the 40th Legislative District.
“I am extremely saddened to hear of the loss of Harriet Spanel. She was a dear friend and mentor to me.
“Harriet has been a sounding board and a true mentor on countless issues for me as I have navigated Olympia these past eight years.
“She was a tireless fighter for our communities, our children, the environment and our state. She was a champion for the protection of Puget Sound and oil spill protection laws and was a strong advocate for protecting habitat and ensuring that our fisheries were well-managed and that our fishing industry remained a healthy one.
“After leaving the Senate, Sen. Spanel continued to actively serve the people of the state, having been appointed to several boards and commissions by the governor.
“We have lost an incredible leader and a dear friend.
“She will be deeply, deeply missed.”

2 02, 2016

Sen. Liias, AG Ferguson unveil bills to reduce student loan debt

February 2nd, 2016|Uncategorized|

College students could gain relief from crushing student loan debt through a trio of bills unveiled today by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, and Attorney Gen. Bob Ferguson.
“Spiraling student loan debt is strangling middle class households and those who aspire to middle-class households,” Liias said. “This affects not only students currently taking out loans but also working adults who are still paying off huge debt as well as future students who face the same pitfalls.”
Liias’ first bill, the Washington Student Loan Bill of Rights, would help students avoid spiraling debt by cracking down on fraud, misrepresentation, inaccuracies and other actions by student loan servicers. SB 6610 would create the position of student loan ombudsman, require loan servicers operating in the state to first gain approval from the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), and grant DFI the authority and provide the Attorney General’s Office the additional tools to conduct investigations and examinations of loan servicers.
“My office is cracking down on student-loan scammers, from unscrupulous for-profit schools to predatory loan adjustment companies,” said Ferguson. “I thank Sen. Liias for proposing a bill that would grant my office additional tools to attack fraud and aid students and graduates.”
The second bill, the Employer Loan Repayment Tax Credit, would give employers a B&O tax credit for helping employees repay student loans. The credit provided by SB 6608 would equal 25 percent of the amount repaid directly to a student loan lender toward principal and interest, with a maximum credit per employee of $1,000 for an associate’s degree, $4,000 for a bachelor’s degree, and $6,000 for a graduate or postgraduate degree.
Anna Nepomuceno, a UW Tacoma student who spoke at the rollout in support of the legislation, told of how her husband’s $100,000 in student loan debt prevents them from being able to purchase a house or car or even qualify for a cell phone purchase. You can watch a video of the rollout here.
The third bill, SB 6609, would increase access to college for undergraduate and graduate students by exploring lower cost loan options by the state such as student loans competitive with federal interest through the use of tax-exempt bonds, which were approved for use by the federal government late last year.
“We have a society that tells us we can accomplish anything we want,” said Nick DeMuro, a UW student who also spoke and questioned whether the toll from his growing student loans would prevent him from finishing his education and becoming a professor. “Then we face the hard reality that this isn’t true.”
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who attended the rollout to lend support from the other chamber, said, “These bills compliment efforts in the House to bring relief to thousands of Washingtonians struggling with student loan debt.”
“Democrats in both the House and Senate see student loan debt as a crisis that demands action,” Liias added. “It is our hope that our colleagues across the aisle will recognize this need with the same urgency that we do.”

28 01, 2016

Nelson: Latest Republican distraction won’t keep us from fixing education

January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Thursday issued the statement below after the Senate Republicans at taxpayer expense hired yet another investigator to address the Department of Corrections computer error:

“Senate Republicans gutted the McCleary education plan early Thursday and later in the day wasted taxpayer money on a duplicative and politically-driven investigation.

“We are all concerned with the Department of Corrections error; we must make sure it never happens again. The investigation is on-going and in good, nonpartisan hands.

“The Senate Republicans have no plan for education. Maybe they could spend a little less time on political theater and a little more on Washington’s one million school kids.”

 

28 01, 2016

Senate Republicans gut bipartisan McCleary bill

January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|

A cornerstone bill to address Washington state’s education funding obligations is at risk of being made irrelevant by amendments that will be proposed by Senate Republicans in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 8:00 a.m.

SB 6195 is the result of months long negotiations between both parties in the Senate and House as well as the governor’s office. Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County and Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, were the lead negotiators for Senate Democrats.

“It is extremely disappointing that Senate Republicans will turn a bipartisan agreement into a partisan plan,” said Rolfes. “They commit only to addressing local levies, without a commitment to the state paying its fair share – which is the reason the state was sued in the first place. People following this issue thought the plan couldn’t get weaker. Unbelievably, the Senate Republicans have lowered the bar.”

“I’m disappointed that after participating in a productive bipartisan workgroup, the Senate Republicans have decided to abandon our agreement,” said Billig. “It is our constitutional duty to fully fund education and it’s frustrating that the Republicans don’t see this as an urgent issue, because our more than one million public school kids and their families surely do.”

• Only commits to addressing local funding
• Removes the only commitment in the bill to increase state funding
• Pushes timeline from 2017 to 2018, a non-budget year
• Removes any reference to capital considerations for K-3 class size reductions

You can view the amendment here.