16 01, 2019

Native American Voting Rights Act to be heard in Senate

January 16th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA –The Senate State Government Committee will hear the Native American Voting Rights Act next week. The legislation would allow the residential address portion of a voter registration form to be filled out with a nontraditional address.

When: 8 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 23) in Senate Hearing Room 2

Brief Summary:

  •  Senate Bill 5079 establishes the Native American Voting Rights Act of Washington.

Quote from Sen. John McCoy, D- Tulalip:

“As the only enrolled tribal member elected to the Washington State Senate, I realize there is still much work to be done to ensure that the indigenous community can fully participate in the democratic process.

“Voter participation is not a partisan issue; it is the foundation of our democratic system and must be protected by all sides. Democrats and Republicans should be able to work together to ensure that our electoral system works in the interest of all Americans.

“Our democracy works best when we all have the opportunity to participate. When entire communities are denied access to the ballot box; lawmakers need to take a look at systemic issues that need to be addressed.”

16 01, 2019

State Legislature welcomes one of the most diverse cohorts on record, including women of color

January 16th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Women of Color Caucus in the State Reception Room.

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Legislature welcomed one of its most diverse cohorts of elected officials in state history on January 14. The most recent class includes a female majority in the House Democratic Caucus with women of color serving in both the House and Senate leadership ranks.

Washington currently ranks fourth in the nation in terms of gender parity in the state legislature.

“Today is a resounding visual and symbolic demonstration of the diverse strength and talent that comes when we ensure our government is reflective of the people we represent,” stated Rep. Kristine Reeves, D-Federal Way, who will serve her second term in the House. “I am proud to count myself among the largest induction of women and people of color to the legislature in this state’s history. I look forward to fighting for families and putting people first as we work to represent all Washingtonians.”

“We doubled the number of women of color in the Senate in 2018, and again in 2019. We now have the most diverse legislative body in Washington state history,” said Senator Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, who serves as the Senate’s Deputy Majority Leader. “We are finally starting to see elected officials reflect the diverse communities that make up our country. Policies developed with input from diverse stakeholders work best to address all of our needs.” Dhingra is the first Sikh elected to any state legislature in the nation.

Senators Dhingra and Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, both serve as Deputy Majority Leader, making them the highest ranking women in the Senate. They are joined by newly elected Senators Mona Das, D-Covington and Emily Randall, D-Bremerton.

Senator Das is a small-business owner who moved to the United States from India with her family at eight-months old.

Senator Randall is a community organizer. She plans to focus on affordable college, apprenticeship and job training programs.

The newly elected women of color to the House of Representatives include Reps. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, Debra Entenman, D-Kent, My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, and Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow.

Rep. Morgan is the former School Board Director for Franklin-Pierce County and US Army veteran. Prior to her school board service, she served as the Commissioner on the Board of the Pierce County Housing Authority and as a member of the Board of Community Health Care.

Rep. Entenman is the former District Director for Congressman Adam Smith. She was in the inaugural class of Seattle/County’s Head Start program, later serving on the Head Start Parent Council.

Rep. Thai is the former Board President of the Bellevue School Board and Vice President of the Washington State School Board Directors Association. Prior to her educational service, she was a practicing pharmacist, volunteered as a medical interpreter and co-taught in Vietnam’s first nursing graduate program. She is the first refugee woman to serve in Olympia.

Rep. Lekanoff is the Swinomish Governmental Affairs Director. Lekanoff is the first Native American woman elected to the House.

Freshmen members will join Reps. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, Kristine Reeves, Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, Sharon Tomiko-Santos, D-Seattle, Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue, and Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver. Stonier is the current Majority Floor Leader and Ortiz-Self is the current Majority Caucus Vice Chair.


For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

14 01, 2019

Legislature opens 2019 session

January 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The 2019 Legislature will officially be gaveled into session today at the Capitol. New and recently re-elected representatives and senators will be sworn in starting at noon. TVW.org will stream the ceremonies and speeches live. Follow the Senate Democrats on Facebook and Twitter for updates today and throughout the session.

It has only been a year since Senate Democrats took control the Senate after five years of Republican control. Last year, the Legislature cast bipartisan votes to move the state forward on issues like education, voting rights, net neutrality, equal pay and women’s health — and passed two capital construction budgets. Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Legislature grew as a result of the November election. This year Senate Democrats remain committed to putting people first by targeting job training and education, behavioral health services, clean air and water, affordable health care, and an economy where everyone has a fighting chance to find a path to prosperity. 

New faces in the Senate

From left: Sens. Mona Das (D-Covington), Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline), Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), and Emily Randall (D-Bremerton).

Senate Democrats will welcome five new members on Monday. Mona Das was born in India and moved to the U.S. at eight months old. It helps inform her efforts in her community on behalf of women’s and immigrants’ rights groups. Joe Nguyen, a second-generation Vietnamese American, has helped lead efforts in his community on issues related to affordable housing and police relations. Emily Randall is a community organizer and the daughter of two union workers. She plans to focus on affordable college tuition, apprenticeships, and job training programs. Jesse Salomon is an attorney with the King County Department of Public Defense, a Shoreline city councilmember and a former child welfare prosecutor. Claire Wilson is an educator who has spent three decades specializing in early education and family involvement.

Click here to view bios of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus.

New leadership in 2019

Senate Democrats elected new leadership in November. Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) was elected to serve as the new Senate majority leader. Billig has served in the Legislature since 2010. One of the two deputy leaders, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), is a former labor organizer who worked with farmworkers in eastern Washington. The other, Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), is a prosecutor who has led community-wide efforts to prevent domestic violence in King County. Both broke barriers upon entering the Senate: Saldana became the only Latina in the chamber, while Dhingra became the first Sikh woman ever elected to a state legislature. Read more about the team.

Hearings to watch this week




The committee will hear compromise legislation (SB 5039) that makes changes to Initiative 940, which was passed by voters in November. The measure aims to address officer-involved shootings and ensure that police have the tools they need to respond to people in crisis.



Senators will hear a briefing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report and the National Climate Assessment — plus an overview of proposals for carbon emissions reductions in 2019.


TUESDAY @ 3:30 P.M.

Members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee will get a briefing on Gov. Inslee’s budget proposal. This year lawmakers will write the state’s two-year budget, which pays for education, human services, corrections, natural resources, and more.

WEDNESDAY @ 8 a.m.


Lawmakers will hear an update and analysis of voter turnout for the 2018 election and have a hearing on legislation to ensure every future Washington ballot includes pre-paid postage (SB 5063). STATE


THURSDAY @ 10 a.m.

Lawmakers will hear the governor’s plan (SB 5116) to transition the state to an entirely carbon-free electricity supply by 2045. They will also hear an important bill aimed at improving appliance efficiency standards (SB 5115). 

28 11, 2018

Senate Democrats elect most diverse leadership team in state history

November 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats will be led by the most diverse leadership team in the history of the Washington State Legislature when lawmakers return to Olympia in January for the 2019 legislative session.

The Senate majority leader hails from Spokane on the east side of the Cascades. The two deputy leaders are women of color from distinctly different cultures and backgrounds. The caucus chair is a Tulalip Tribe member who has long served as the Legislature’s leading authority on tribal issues.

“I think it’s fair to say that a Washington legislative caucus has never had the benefit of this diverse a range of representation,” Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said. “It’s one thing to talk about someone else’s needs and another thing altogether to have lived them. No one needs to explain Eastern Washington priorities to me; I’ve been fighting for them ever since I was elected to the Legislature.”

Similarly, the caucus chair needs no primer on tribal issues. Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip) has been the Legislature’s foremost arbiter of tribal concerns since he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2003.

One of the two deputy leaders, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), is a former labor organizer who worked with farmworkers in eastern Washington. The other, Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), is a prosecutor who has led community-wide efforts to prevent domestic violence in King County. Both broke barriers upon entering the Senate: Saldana became the only Latina in the chamber, while Dhingra became the first Sikh woman ever elected to a state legislature. Both say they understand intuitively whether aspects of state laws meet or fail the unique needs of Washingtonians of color.

“The Legislature is full of smart, insightful elected officials who can write strong, sensible laws, and our knowledge is further enlightened by our personal life experiences,” Saldaña said. “Representation matters, and when we apply a more diverse range of experiences to our work, we wind up with better laws that apply more fairly and equitably to the very diverse communities that make up our state.”

“In addition to serving as deputy leader, Saldaña will serve as vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and serve on Labor & Commerce as well as the new Housing Committee.

“As a King County prosecutor in my day job, I have the benefit of a specialized skill set that increases my awareness of the legal ramifications of any legislation I touch,” Dhingra said. “In the same light, I know that when women of color advance into leadership roles, we flourish. We uplift our communities. We uplift us all.”

In addition to her leadership duties, Dhingra chairs the Senate’s new Behavioral Health Subcommittee. She will also serve as vice chair of Law & Justice and serve on the Health & Long Term Care Committee.

“Our life experiences allow us to do far more than represent a particular point of view,” McCoy said. “I can look at a proposed law and know readily if it might violate tribal sovereignty or cause other problems unique to tribes. That results in legislation that is better grounded, laws that are more fair, and communities that are healthier.”

In addition to his leadership post, McCoy will serve as vice chair of the Environment & Tourism Committee. He will also serve on Early Learning & K-12 as well as on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks.

“We may do our work during the legislative session here in Olympia,” Billig said, “but we are focused on the needs of the very diverse people and communities that make up our state.”

Majority Leader: Andy Billig (D-Spokane)
Deputy Leaders: Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond); Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle)
Caucus Chair: John McCoy (D-Tulalip)
Floor Leader: Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo)
Whip: Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah)
Vice Caucus Chair: Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle)
Assistant Floor Leader: Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue)
Assistant Whip: Claire Wilson (D-Federal Way)

President Pro Temp: Karen Keiser (D-Federal Way)
Vice President Pro Temp: Steve Conway (D-Tacoma)

28 11, 2018

Senate Democrats prioritize affordable housing, mental health care and the environment in new committee structure

November 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|

RENTON – The issues of housing affordability, homelessness and mental health care will receive intensified scrutiny in the 2019 Washington State Legislature.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday adopted a structure that includes two new committees that prioritize these areas – the Housing Stability & Affordability Committee chaired by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) and a Behavioral Health Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond).

“I’ve heard from people across the state, and these two issues consistently rise to the top,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane). “Every community, and really every family, has in some way been touched by a mental health crisis and the intersection between that issue and our state’s housing and homelessness crisis is clear as glass. The creation of these new committees will enable us to intensify our efforts to create solutions in these areas while providing Washingtonians more opportunity to articulate their needs.”

The Senate is also restructuring environmental oversight by creating a committee whose primary focus is environmental health through improved water quality, oil spill prevention and other measures to protect our state’s ecosystems. Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) will chair the new Senate Environment & Tourism Committee. As the name suggests, committee members will also work to boost our state’s tourism industry.

The Senate Energy, Climate and Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), and the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, chaired by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), are the existing environment-focused committees. These committees will address a variety of issues from climate change to telecommunications to water rights.

“The environmental health of our country and our state have reached a critical tipping point,” Billig said. “Washingtonians want and deserve action on this critical concern. It’s up to us to lead on this issue and accomplish what the other Washington can’t or won’t.”

Click here complete list of committees and membership.

12 11, 2018

Billig elected Senate Majority Leader

November 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|

TUKWILA – Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, will be the new Senate Majority Leader in the Washington State Senate, following a vote among Senate Democrats on Monday.

Billig will take over immediately as Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, prepares to retire after more than a decade of service in the Legislature, including five years (2013-18) as leader of the Senate Democrats.

Billig has served in the Senate since 2013 and was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2011. Billig is the only Democrat in the Senate representing eastern Washington, but he’s not the first Spokane Democrat to lead Senate Democrats in Olympia. Former state legislator Lisa Brown previously held Billig’s seat and was majority leader from 2005-13.

In the Legislature, Billig has been a leading voice on early learning and was instrumental in forging compromise on the state’s education funding challenge. Billig has also been a fierce advocate for campaign finance reform. Earlier this year, he sponsored and passed the DISCLOSE Act, which exposes the source of hidden contributions in campaigns and closes campaign finance disclosure loopholes.

Although a handful of 2018 election results are too close to call, Billig is poised to lead a larger majority of Democrats in the Senate next year. In 2018, Democrats took back a slim 25-24 majority after five years of Republican control. In the short 60-day session, Democrats made progress on a bevy of issues that had stymied in a split Legislature, including education funding, voting rights, net neutrality, women’s health and LGBTQ rights.

“I’m extremely eager to build on the success we had in 2018. I am humbled to lead this diverse and talented group of senators. This caucus recognizes that bipartisanship and viewpoints from every corner of Washington are crucial in moving our state forward,” Billig said. “We welcome new members whose energy and passion will help Senate Democrats continue to put people first and tackle the issues Washingtonians care about most – affordable health care, tax fairness, public education, mental health, public safety from gun violence, climate change, and more.”

10 08, 2018

Wenatchee is first city to use new Voting Rights Act to ensure better representation

August 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The City of Wenatchee today became the first local government to use the new Washington Voting Rights Act to change its electoral system to ensure better representation for voters.

The City Council voted to move from an at-large system for electing all seven council members to a hybrid model, keeping two at-large positions and splitting the city into five districts.

The act, which Democrats passed during the 2018 legislative session, permits local governments to restructure electoral districts to avoid costly litigation over gerrymandering that disenfranchises minority populations, allowing communities to elect leaders who reflect their values and the diversity of their neighborhoods.

“Making our democracy accessible to all eligible voters is our fundamental duty, so it’s great to see local officials use the new flexibility that the Voting Rights Act gives them to proactively engage with their community and tailor local solutions to achieve a more-representative government,” said Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who chairs the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee.

3 08, 2018

Ranker: Witnessing extinction is not an option

August 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Kevin Ranker released a statement today regarding the need for action to protect and recover the Southern Resident Killer Whale.

“The past days have been overwhelming with sorrow, anguish and anger. Like you, I have been deeply impacted by the images of the mother with her dead calf.

“It is far past time that we act. The loss of another Southern Resident Killer Whale, the mother’s continued display of grief, and now another young member of J pod facing starvation are all gruesome reminders of the dangerous predicament these magnificent creatures face. Our resident Orca have not had a successful pregnancy in three years. The reality is that these incredible creatures are at extreme risk of becoming extinct. This is not an option. We must do every single thing in our power to reverse this trend.

“This is exactly why I introduced the Orca Protection Act last session. Many of us in the Senate worked so hard to pass it, but, unfortunately, this critical legislation did not make it to the governor’s desk. Our efforts continue and we are developing new recommendations for the short and long term.

The Southern Resident Killer Whale task force, on which I serve, is developing recommendations that will come back to the Legislature next year. As a member of that panel, I am doing everything in my power to make sure we produce bold recommendations — recommendations that put aside politics, and in some cases compromise, and purely focus on recovering our resident Orca.

  • We must recover their primary food source, Chinook salmon.
  • We must prioritize the cleanup of toxins in the Puget Sound.
  • We must protect the whales from harassment and noise pollution from vessels.
  • We must make sure there is not an oil spill that is the demise of an entire pod as occurred in the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

“Politics as usual is not an option. It will take dedication, resources and political courage to save these whales.

“Witnessing extinction is not an option. The struggle of these creatures is indicative of the struggle of the entire Salish Sea. These magnificent creatures and this incredible place we call home must be protected. These beautiful whales do not get a second chance.  We do not get a second chance.”

16 07, 2018

Washington State Senate releases new staff-written ‘Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct’

July 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|

The Washington State Senate today released its new ‘Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct’ following approval by the Senate Facilities & Operations Committee. The recommendations were developed by the Respectful Workplace Policy Task Force made up of Senate staff from both caucuses and non-partisan Committee Services.

The Senate’s previous policy was updated to better reflect current best practices for addressing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Most notably, the policy creates a non-partisan Human Resource Officer position to manage the complaint and investigation process. The new policy requires the person who fills this position to manage regular training on the policy at least every two years and when new staff is hired or a new member is elected.

The new policy also codifies the Senate’s current practice of releasing to the public investigation records involving members of the Senate if a Senator is a respondent and the Secretary of the Senate or Facilities & Operations Committee finds a violation.

The ‘Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct’ and relevant resources for staff will be available online for easy access.

“The task force that developed this policy has been a great example of a collaboration between the Senate caucuses and Committee Services. Everyone’s voices were heard and the result is a more appropriate policy that takes very seriously the responsibility to provide staff with a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and intimidation. It respects the accuser’s right to privacy, the accused’s right to due process and the public’s right to know,” said Kimberly Wirtz, Communications Director for the Senate Republican Caucus and a member of the Task Force. “We believe this policy will instill more confidence in the reporting and investigation of complaints.”

“I’m pleased with the collaborative work we did to respond to the requests of many employees for a clearer policy with better paths for seeking resolution,” said Sarah Clifthorne, Policy Coordinator for the Senate Democratic Caucus and a member of the Task Force. “This policy was written by Senate employees, for Senate employees. I look forward to the next phase where we can hear from our external stakeholders and partners in the House.”

Several members of the Task Force have agreed to take part in its next steps. These include working with stakeholders and lobbyists to get their input on how best to create a safe workplace for every person who works at the legislature. The Task Force also anticipates working with the House of Representatives as it continues to revise its own workplace conduct policy.

The Respectful Workplace Policy Task Force was created to update the harassment and discrimination policy of the Washington State Senate. It consists of male and female Senate staff. These staff members were from all employment levels and from both the Democrat and Republican caucuses, as well as non-partisan Senate Committee Services. The Task Force developed the new ‘Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct’ after 13 meetings over six months totaling many hours of meeting time, as well as in numerous online discussions.

In the course of its work, the members of the Task Force consulted with their individual workgroups, surveyed all Senate staff, and consulted with Senate Counsel and an Assistant Attorney General with expertise in harassment and discrimination law. They also considered policies of other agencies, states and private sector employers in developing a consensus recommendation. Staff were also surveyed to gauge everyone’s ideas of best practices.

See policy for further details. To read online, click here.

20 06, 2018

Sen. Nelson: Family separations “run counter to who we are as human beings”

June 20th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson on Wednesday sent a letter to Washington’s congressional delegation, calling for immediate action to reunite children separated from their families by the Trump Administration.

The full text of the letter is below:

June 20, 2018

The Honorable Patty Murray,  U.S. Senator
The Honorable Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator
The Honorable Adam Smith, U.S. Rep
The Honorable Rick Larsen, U.S. Rep
The Honorable Cathy McMorris Rogers, U.S. Rep.
The Honorable Dave Reichart, U.S. Rep.
The Honorable Jamie Herrera Beutler, U.S. Rep.
The Honorable Suzan DelBene, U.S. Rep.
The Honorable Denny Heck, U.S. Rep.
The Honorable Derek Kilmer, U.S. Rep.
The Honorable Dan Newhouse, U.S. Rep.
The Honorable Pramila Jayapal, U.S. Rep.

United States Senate
U.S. Capitol
Washington D.C. 20510

House of Representatives
U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation:
From our beginning, the United States has existed as a beacon for those seeking a better life. People come here in search of religious freedom, opportunity and safety for their children. Our country is a welcoming place that gives everyone the chance to work toward the American dream.

The images of children being ripped away from parents fleeing violence and seeking asylum not only contradict who we are as Americans, these atrocious actions run counter to who we are as human beings.

After enormous outcry from people across our country, President Trump has apparently relented and signed an executive order to temporarily end his administration’s horrific policy.
Now that the Trump Administration is claiming that the most appalling aspect of its “Zero Tolerance” program has ceased, we are calling on you, our congressional delegation, to ensure the thousands of children separated from their parents are immediately reunited.

Since the Trump Administration began these callous and disgusting acts, we have heard from our constituents in great numbers, asking what we as a state can do. Terrorizing actions like those of federal immigration agents at the direction of the Trump Administration have dramatic chilling effects on law-abiding immigrants within our communities causing them to avoid interactions with local law enforcement, hospitals and social service agencies. That’s why earlier this session, Sen. Lisa Wellman sponsored SB 5689 to ensure our local law enforcement and state agencies cannot be used as arms of federal immigration authorities.

But beyond such measures, our hands are tied and the solution to this heartbreaking issue is in your hands. We are fearful that this reckless and mean-spirited policy will lead to a humanitarian crisis and families being permanently torn apart or placed in what are essentially internment camps. There are already reports of parents being deported while their children remain in federal custody.

Please do not delay. Families belong together. We stand with immigrant families already living in our state, and we support refugees that continue to come to the United States in search of asylum, despite the misguided and destructive policies of the Trump Administration.

We applaud our leaders in Washington that continue to work toward an end to family separations and implore those who have yet to act to do so immediately.


Senator Sharon Nelson
Senate Majority Leader
34th Legislative District