Dear friends and neighbors,

I am honored to serve as your state senator and as your voice in Olympia. This year, I serve on the Senate Health Care; Transportation; and Energy, Environment & Telecommunications committees. I also serve on the Senate Democratic Caucus leadership team as the assistant floor leader.

The 2015 Legislative Session convened on Jan. 12 and I continue to carry with me to Olympia our collective pride in our community and our desire to ensure the viability and good health of our region for the future. My focus this session is on removing barriers to our economic viability and good health.

Just a few bills I’ve sponsored to help move Washingtonians forward

Our community is at a crossroads. We are recovering from the recession, yet, not all at the same rates. I continue to hear from constituents who are still having trouble making ends meet. As a state, I believe we still face too many barriers that prevent us from moving forward. I am proud to sponsor several bills this session that will help break down those roadblocks. A few of those bills include:

Senate Bill 5630 – This bill would strengthen the Equal Pay Opportunity Act and make sure that people who work the same job are paid equally. Women earn 80 cents compared to every dollar earned by a man. We need to ensure that all our state’s workers have an opportunity to provide for their families. This bill also outlines protections for employees who want to find out about wages paid at their company, but don’t because they are fearful of retaliation. This bill breaks down barriers for workers by acknowledging that equal work should result in equal pay. (Photo: The Equal Pay Opportunity Act Press Conference, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015)

Senate Bill 5788 – This bill would establish in statute the creation of two demonstration sites for elder justice centers in Clark County and in Spokane County. The centers will create a multidisciplinary approach to protecting seniors from abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation. Studies estimate that we will have 1.5 million people over the age of 65 by 2030. According to the U.S. Department of Justice one in 10 Americans over 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse in the past year. Facing additional barriers as we age should not be a reality. I will present this bill in the Senate Health Care Committee at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 16.

My latest video update on this subject may be found here.

Senate Bill 5897 – We should work to remove barriers for all children needing support. The goal of this bill is to allow children who suffer from felony-level abuse to be able to receive compensation for medical evaluations the same way that children who have medical evaluations for sexual abuse paid for by the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund. Children should not have to live in dangerous environments where they potentially could suffer life-altering or life-threatening injuries. Early medical evaluations by medical professionals are critical in establishing the presence and patterns of abuse. All children should have equal access to medical care without worrying about medical costs. I presented this bill to the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee on Thursday.

Senate Bill 5767 – Under this bill, local county treasurers would be able to move into the 21st century and accept electronic payment for all fees, taxes, and payments. Expanding easy access to making payments helps save time, is more efficient, and will bring our county treasurers up to date with their customers. This bill was presented to the Senate Government Operations & Security Committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 5118/House Bill 1404 – I was proud to give our community a preview of this bill before introducing it officially in the Senate. This bill would create a bi-state workgroup for all bi-state transportation mega projects valued at or over $500 million. We need a clear channel of communication and consistency between our two communities and states if we are to move forward. The current nearly 100 year old bridge continues to be a barrier to our community from making significant economic advancements.

Transportation package announced in the Senate

On Thursday, Transportation negotiators stood together to announce that they have reached agreement on a 16 year, $15 billion roads transportation package that would increase to $26 billion if voters in the Puget Sound region approve expansion of Sound Transit. The transportation package relies on an 11.7 cent gas tax increase and modest fee increases. The roads package would create about 100,000 jobs for Washingtonians and an additional 100,000 jobs would be created with the passage of the Sound Transit expansion.

The projects in the proposed transportation package for our district are:

  • SR 501/I-5 to Port of Vancouver improvements
  • I-5/ Mill Plain Boulevard improvements
  • West Vancouver Freight Access project
  • Vancouver Mall Transit Center relocation and upgrade
  • Fisher’s Landing Park & Ride expansion

While I am glad there is headway with a transportation package, I am disappointed that the proposed package fails to address the single most important transportation infrastructure investment for my community and our region – replacement of the antiquated I-5 bridge.

The current transportation package will commit our community, region and state to another 16 years without any discussion about taking steps forward to replacing the bridge. By the end of the proposed transportation package in 2031, the bridge will be over 114 years old and will be in even more serious need of repair and replacement.

The future viability of our communities depends upon strategic investment in key projects necessary to move freight, goods and people safely and efficiently. My priority for any transportation revenue package in order to meet these goals is to make certain the projects funded are beneficial to all areas of the state and lend themselves to strengthening our transportation system as a whole.

I want to ensure that a successful transportation package positions our state for a future with strong economic, environmental, and personal health benefits. I embrace the innovative and bold approach Gov. Inslee proposed in reducing carbon emissions while shifting our state’s reliance on a gas tax to a more stable funding source as our cars and way of life becomes more energy efficient.

I will continue to advocate for fair and balanced investments within any transportation revenue package to best position our state for the future. At this time, I cannot in good conscience commit us to a transportation package that fails to address the antiquated I-5 bridge.

Thank you to those of you who attended our pre-session town hall on Jan. 10!

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Thank you so much to all of you who took time on a Saturday morning early in January to talk with us about the important issues in our community and help us to prepare for the 2015 session. Your 49th Legislative District delegation will be hosting a telephone town hall early in March, so stay tuned for more information.

I always enjoy when constituents come to visit me when they are in Olympia. Over the course of the session, I have had many visitors from home stop by my office. I have created a special photo gallery on my website for all the photos!

Until next time,

Cleveland