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How the Legislature’s budget proposals would affect our taxes and schools – 6/8/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

As we proceed through a second special session, a lot of people are wondering why Democrats and Republicans haven’t been able to reach agreement on a budget that solves the McCleary school funding challenge. I hope this update will shed some light on that.

The respective budgets proposed by House Democrats and Senate Republicans take very different approaches to taxation and education funding, so it’s important for you to know how the plans would work and how their numbers add up. In comparing the Republican and the Democratic plans, the two key measures are how much your district would receive in education dollars and how much your district would pay in property taxes. To that end, I’d like to share with you a map that shows not only the property tax impact but how much more or less funding your schools would receive per student.

To use the map, click here or on the image above. That will produce an interactive map where you can click on whichever blue pin on the map represents your school district. A pop-up box will show you whether your property taxes will go up or down and whether your school will receive more or less funding than it does now, and by how much.

For instance, taxpayers in the Vancouver School District will see that the Republican plan would provide an overall net increase in student funding of $2,274, compared to $2,873 under the Democratic plan — or $599 less per student. At the same time, overall property taxes for all Vancouver homeowners under the Republican plan would be $13,956,573 higher than under the Democratic plan. In other words, under the Republicans’ plan, Vancouver taxpayers would pay $13,956,573 more in property taxes overall and receive $599 less per student in education funding compared to the Democrats’ plan.

In the Evergreen School District, the Republican plan would provide an overall net increase in student funding of $ 2,094, compared to $2,763 under the Democratic plan — or $669 less per student. At the same time, overall property taxes for all Evergreen homeowners under the Republican plan would be $9,749,298 higher than under the Democratic plan. In other words, under the Republicans’ plan, Evergreen taxpayers would pay $9,749,298 more in property taxes overall and receive $669 less per student in education funding compared to the Democrats’ plan.

The figures in the map are for the year 2021, which is the year the Senate Republicans’ plan would be fully implemented (results based on any year earlier than that would not provide an accurate measure of your costs and benefits).

So I hope this update leaves you with a clearer picture of how the two budget proposals would affect your taxes and schools. I also hope this information better explains the key differences between the plans being discussed and the reasons we continue to be in a special legislative session, in order to find solutions to these fundamental differences.

I will continue to keep you updated as the second special session continues.

Until next time,

New laws will help wide range of Washingtonians – 5/1/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

As the special legislative session unfolds, the  primary goal is the passage of a budget that will satisfy the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling by amply funding K-12 education. Apart from that, however, I have sponsored other pieces of legislation to help folks in our district and across our state. Two of those bills have been signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, while a third has passed both the Senate and House and merely awaits the governor’s signature. It’s no accident that these bills represent three of the four components I believe are essential to healthy households and communities — health, education, meaningful employment and shelter.

Raising awareness of breast cancer reconstruction options

A number of advocates came up from southwest Washington to attend the bill signing with Gov. Inslee.

SB 5481, signed into law late last week, directs the state Health Care Authority to work with the state Department of Health (DOH) to develop a plan for distribution of information to better educate breast cancer patients on the availability of breast reconstruction following a mastectomy and prostheses or breast forms as an alternative to breast reconstruction surgery. The bill also requires the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and DOH to provide educational materials about insurance coverage for breast reconstruction and prostheses.

Nearly 60 percent of breast cancer survivors opt for reconstruction while others may choose to wear external prostheses, but the important thing is for everyone to know they have those options. Too many patients don’t realize reconstructive surgery and prostheses are covered by their insurance, either because they aren’t informed of their options or because they process only a fraction of the information that is shared with them at the time of diagnosis, which can be a highly stressful time.

I learned of the need for this legislation through the Pink Lemonade Project, a local advocacy group, and understood the importance of this issue due to my own mother’s diagnosis, treatment, recovery and recent recurrence of breast cancer. This bill will help ensure that accurate information on all options is available to patients prior to making important, life-changing decisions.

Expanding recruitment of the best possible medical faculty

Another bill that was signed into law last week, SB 5413 will enable the Elson Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University to better recruit physicians to serve on their faculties. This bill updates state laws to extend practices already in place at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine. When the guidelines were originally written, they addressed only UW since its medical school was the only one in the state at the time. This bill eliminates that arbitrary restriction.

This will open the doors to experienced, capable physicians and allow our medical schools to recruit and retain the best faculties possible. This bill also creates an additional pathway to full licensure. More pathways for licensure means Washington’s citizens will have greater access to expert medical care and consultation.

Mapping a path forward to build a new I-5 bridge

A process to guide the development of a new replacement I-5 bridge spanning the Columbia River awaits only the signature of Gov. Inslee, having passed both the Senate and the House. SB 5806 was the result of months of collaboration by a bipartisan coalition of seven southwest Washington legislators during which we focused on creating guidelines that foster cooperation at all steps of the process.

Our commitment is built around the understanding that what we do today will determine the path of our region for decades to come, as this is the single most important challenge our regional delegation faces for a generation. We’re talking not just about replacing a bridge but about opening the door to much-needed economic vitality to our region.

The bill proposes the creation of a joint Oregon-Washington legislative action committee to address a variety of concerns including the process for developing a new I-5 bridge and appropriates $350,000 for the Washington State Department of Transportation to conduct an inventory of existing data related to the construction of a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River.

Seven fantastic pages saw how the Legislature works up close

This session I had the pleasure of sponsoring seven pages from our district. During their respective week working at the Capitol, each page learns about the legislative process while assisting senators and staff. They hear lectures from guest speakers and attend page school where they introduce and debate their own bills in a mock committee setting.

The pages’ varied responsibilities take them all around the Capitol campus and give them access to places not normally seen by the general public.   Each page I have sponsored shared with me an appreciation for the program, and for the practical experience and knowledge they gained.

This year’s pages were: Zachary Bernheimer, 14; Emily Blakeman, 16; Jane Greene, 16; Gabrielle Karber, 15; Timothy Karn, 16; Jane Lambert, 15; and Julianna Vara, 15.  Meeting and working with these students is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a legislator. I am grateful to each of these young people for their service to the Legislature this year.

I cannot recommend this program enough. If you would like to learn more about the page program or how your child can serve as a page in a future session, please go to http://leg.wa.gov/Senate/Administration/PageProgram/Pages/default.aspx.

Until next time,

Why we are in a special legislative session – 4/27/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

As you read this, my colleagues and I are in the first week of a special legislative session that could last up to 30 days — the result of the Legislature having been unable to complete its work during the 105-day regular session.

I know many people in our district and across our state are upset that we didn’t complete our work in the allotted time, and I don’t blame them — I’m upset, too. We had 105 days to negotiate a budget that would satisfy the state Supreme Court’s order to amply fund K-12 education, and we spent exactly zero days in negotiations — all because one side refused to even sit down at the table.

I consider this unacceptable, both politically and professionally. I don’t underestimate the difficulty of agreeing on a budget that everyone knew was going to be a major challenge before the regular session even began. But refusing to even try to meet the challenge is disappointing.

Stiff challenges can be met when opposing sides agree to sit down and do the hard work of negotiation, as a number of my colleagues and I proved this session with Senate Bill 5806 — our bill to develop guidelines for building a new I-5 bridge. We began those talks in a climate where bridge discussions were considered radioactive, and we stuck with it until we achieved common ground and a bipartisan plan that moves bridge efforts forward. Our discussions were often difficult and sometimes strained, on a topic many consider unwinnable, yet we kept at it until we succeeded. The budget negotiators should be able to reach agreement as well, as has been proven by the Legislature’s budgets year after year — but only if there is a willingness to stop stalling and agree to negotiate.

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Washingtonians depend on the Legislature to deliver budgets — on time — that address the wide range of needs faced by households throughout our communities. Whether your biggest concern is housing, mental health, access to health care, K-12 or higher education, or any other vital need, those concerns should be taken seriously. They should not be put on hold while one group of lawmakers forces the rest of the Legislature to wait and go into overtime. 

Working to meet the McCleary Supreme Court decision to fully fund our public schools is the biggest and most difficult challenge we face. This is an undertaking that will shape the education of generations of Washingtonians to come. I know you want us to get it right, and find a solution that is fair and equitable. I remain focused on that goal as the work to craft a final solution continues.

I will keep you updated as the special session unfolds.

Until next time,

The Legislature’s work must focus on offering opportunity for all Washingtonians – 4/4/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

Opportunity for all means equality and fairness. Today is Equal Pay Day. This is the day that marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.  I stood today on the Senate floor to remind my colleagues that the issue of equal pay matters. It matters because if women were simply paid the same as men, poverty among working women would fall by more than half. This issue continues to be one of economics and fairness. The gender pay gap exists in every state in our nation. We must continue to put effort toward closing this gap, once and for all. Everyone in our state deserves equal pay for equal work.

Opportunity for all is also a value that should be reflected in our state budgets. As of today, the Senate has passed both an operating budget, which funds public services statewide, and a capital budget, which funds the construction of public buildings and the maintenance of state parks and other lands. Any time the state spends money, I believe it should fortify what I consider our four most basic and essential priorities: health, education, employment and housing. One of these budgets reflects those priorities, but sadly the other does not.

Our capital budget would improve opportunities for all Washingtonians

The capital budget passed last week by the Senate makes an unprecedented investment of nearly $1.1 billion in our K-12 system by funding much-needed new schools and classrooms around the state. Washingtonians want lower class sizes and more teachers to provide first-class educational opportunities for all our students, and this budget helps make that possible.

The capital budget also adds $55 million to the governor’s proposed budget for four-year universities and our community and technical college system, and increases our capacity for mental health treatment by funding crisis walk-in centers and additional low- and no-barrier housing beds. Other important investments include $95 million in the Housing Trust Fund and $16 million in grants to improve dental capacity in underserved communities across our state.

Closer to home, the budget includes two projects I worked hard to see included for our 49th Legislative District.

The first would provide $500,000 toward the construction of the Bridgeview Education and Employment Resource Center in Vancouver. This allocation would follow $750,000 awarded in the 2016 capital budget toward the overall cost of the $3.96 million, single-phase project. Community support for this project has resulted in a majority of the total cost of the project being raised so far, including a pledge of $1 million from the Veterans Health Administration, a $60,000 pledge from a local philanthropist, $250,000 in community development block grants, and $187,000 in other donations.

This center will provide classrooms, computers and meeting space in a centralized location that can more effectively meet the needs of low-income families. Until now, the tools to help low-income families cope and move forward have been spread over a variety of disparate locations that make access difficult. This center has the potential to change lives and enable healthier households by providing education, job skills, and parenting support in one place.

The second priority investment would provide $300,000 to fund the final phase of improvements to the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver. This will replace the unsafe front entry steps and install ductless air conditioning to make the building safer and more comfortable. Completed work includes installation of an elevator, making restrooms ADA accessible, renovating the community room, upgrading the interior lighting and security system, removing and replacing asbestos floor tile, window repair, and new paint.

The museum is the caretaker of more than 20,000 artifacts, 15,000 photographs, hundreds of maps and archival material that tell the story of Vancouver and Clark County. In addition, the Clark County Museum is a historical treasure itself, having originally been built by Andrew Carnegie in 1909 with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation. The industrialist and philanthropist set up this foundation to build public libraries around the world, and the Clark County Museum building was originally the first Vancouver Public Library.  Preserving this important aspect of Vancouver’s history and making the museum more accessible will make it easier for more Washingtonians to learn of and appreciate our region’s rich history and contributions.

Other investments important to our district include:

  • $328,000 to expand space for safe, educational teen programs at the Clinton & Gloria John Clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Washington in Vancouver aimed at providing important after-school programs for students; and
  • $50,000 to fund the predesign of an independent living skills center at the State School for the Blind in Vancouver.

These are some of the most important highlights; you can see the full budget here. But when all is said and done, this is a budget that addresses our most urgent needs in a fair, thoughtful way. The Senate’s operating budget, unfortunately, does not meet this goal.

Our operating budget is balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable

For our community to remain a place of opportunity for all, we must ensure access to quality education, meaningful employment, accessible healthcare and affordable housing. These are the pillars of thriving communities, and yet the Senate’s operating budget negatively impacts every one of these areas that are essential to healthy households and communities.

I voted against this budget, which narrowly passed on a straight party line vote by the Republican majority, and I am hopeful that we can fix its deficiencies when final budget negotiations begin with the House Democrats. But there is much to fix. While both budgets seek to provide new funds for K-12 education, they take very different approaches.

I am particularly concerned by several major cuts in the Senate proposal that would hurt Washingtonians across a broad spectrum:

  • the suspension of multiple higher education financial education programs and reductions in tuition waivers that limit access to education.
  • the permanent reduction of the Public Works Assistance Account, which is crucial to our local governments’ ability to invest in the infrastructure necessary to spur job growth;
  • cuts to the state food assistance program; and
  • the elimination of the state’s Housing and Essential Needs program.

Of greatest concern is the Senate proposal’s massive increase in statewide property taxes. This proposal would unfairly burden homeowners while making it more expensive and more difficult for middle-class and lower-income people to own homes. You can see examples of how this tax hike would impact property taxes here. By contrast, the House proposal spreads responsibility for funding schools more fairly across a wide spectrum of taxpayers and does not make budget cuts that would harm middle-class households the way the Republican proposal does.

An inspiring visit from the Mockingbird Society

I greatly enjoyed a recent visit to my office by the Mockingbird Society, a non-profit group that advocates for child welfare reform and every child’s right to a safe and stable home. The group’s youth programs train young people who have been homeless or in foster care to become their own best advocates — and they do a very good job of it. These young men and women effectively promote a foster care model that promotes community and improves options for themselves and others.  This group of young people effectively advocated for their priorities, and helped me to be better aware of the legislation they support this session.

I encourage you to visit my office anytime you might be in the Olympia area.

To see some of the other visitors to my office this session, click here.

Until next time,

A key first step toward replacing the I-5 bridge – 3/3/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

Since going to work for you in the Legislature in January 2013, my top priority has been to address one of the most difficult challenges our community faces: replacement of the Interstate Bridge. 

The Interstate Bridge has served us well for generations but remains a drawbridge, the only one left in our nation on an Interstate highway. Traffic on I-5 must regularly come to a halt, and the drawbridge raised, in order to allow river traffic to pass below. In addition to bridge lifts, this stretch of highway has seen a greater than 50 percent year-over-year increase in peak-hour vehicle and truck delays over the past number of years. These delays and increased traffic result in congestion, accidents, and an inability to efficiently move freight and goods, undermining the economies of Oregon and Washington. 

Standing in the way of solving these issues has been a lack of agreement among local legislators. It was clear that any new effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge needed to begin with southwest Washington legislators. 

After long months of tough but frank discussions with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I am happy to announce concrete progress on legislation to move our region and state forward with plans to jumpstart the long-stalled process to replace the outdated, dilapidated I-5 bridge.

This past Monday, that legislation — Senate Bill 5806 — passed the Senate on an overwhelmingly bipartisan 45-4 vote. This is important on two counts.

On a technical level, this legislation would establish a joint Oregon-Washington legislative action committee to work on several fronts. It focuses on designing a process for replacement of the bridge with public involvement at every step of the way, and it awards the Washington Department of Transportation $350,000 to sort and inventory the data related to the construction of a new replacement bridge, with a report due back to the Legislature in December 2017. The bill also calls for a comprehensive look at all of our bi-state crossings from the perspective of future needs, including prioritizing any need for other replacements or new crossings. 

In a larger sense, the bill represents bipartisan consensus among nearly all southwest Washington legislators to move forward without the division that undid the last bridge project. As you know, this is no small concern. The best path to a new bridge is for lawmakers in our region to work together in bipartisan fashion. To that end, one of the key things our group achieved during the interim was to agree on key principles that would guide the process.

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Joining me as I drop SB 5806 into the “Hopper” — the box into which all bills are deposited before they can be formally introduced — are, from left, my colleagues who have been working with me these past months: Sen. Lynda Wilson, Sen. Ann Rivers, Rep. Sharon Wylie, Rep. Monica Stonier, Rep. Brandon Vick and Rep. Paul Harris.

This bill is just the first step on a journey to a new replacement Interstate 5 Bridge, and it still must pass the House and be signed into law by the governor. To that end, I am pleased to share that this bill has been scheduled for a hearing in the House next Thursday, March 9, at 3:30 p.m.  If you would like to share your perspective on this legislation, you can submit comments to the Chair of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Judy Clibborn, at judy.clibborn@leg.wa.gov and cc the committee coordinator, Mark Matteson, at mark.matteson@leg.wa.gov.

Finally, I want to recognize and thank my legislative colleagues who have committed to the hard work of discussing our transportation infrastructure needs together in an effort to identify common ground and solutions that move us forward. My sincere thanks to Sen. Lynda Wilson, Sen. Ann Rivers, Rep. Sharon Wylie, Rep. Monica Stonier, Rep. Paul Harris and Rep. Brandon Vick. I am confident that in working together, our entire region will benefit.

A pledge to protect your health care – 2/9/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

It’s no secret that the Trump administration is working with Congressional Republicans to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare. The passage of the ACA altered the delivery of health care to many people in our state, in some cases building on services provided through the state and in other cases enabling coverage for Washingtonians who had been altogether unable to afford or qualify for coverage. So repeal would impact our state dramatically.

Should that happen, I want you to know two things.

First, I am working with my Democratic colleagues on legislation that would enable the state to help preserve access to health care for those who lose coverage if the ACA is repealed. One of the essential components to a full and vital life is health itself — if we lose our health, it’s very difficult to enjoy or partake in anything else life has to offer. So we’re working to do as much as we can at the state level to help those who lose access to eligibility to coverage.

Second, my Democratic colleagues in the state Senate and House are joining with me to call on our state’s congressional delegation to do everything they can to support our mutual constituencies — the men, women and children of Washington state — who would be jeopardized by repeal of the ACA.

There’s no question the ACA has helped Washingtonians in communities across our state. Thousands of Washingtonians who had no health insurance prior to the ACA now have care; thousands who struggled to pay for insurance before, now find it affordable. To be blunt, there are men, women and children in our state today who would not be alive but for the ACA.

Our most recent figures show:

  • 600,000 Washingtonians are newly insured under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. If the ACA goes away, so does their health care.
  • 123,000 Washingtonians are insured through the Health Benefit Exchange. Without the ACA’s critical subsidies, these people would be unable to afford insurance.
  • 17,000 young Washingtonians between the ages of 19 and 25 have health care because the ACA allows them to stay on their parents’ insurance plans.
  • 1 million non-elderly Washingtonians with pre-existing conditions have coverage because the ACA requires it.
  • Seniors who need expensive medications can afford them because the ACA closed the so-called donut hole. In 2012, for example, nearly 60,000 seniors received an average discount of $718 on drug purchases. Without the ACA, the donut hole would return.

Clearly, the repeal of the ACA would be devastating to thousands of Washingtonians — not just in the Vancouver area but in communities across our state. So I pledge to you, here and now, to fight at the state level for coverage and access to all; for value-based outcomes; and for the continuation of wellness plans that focus on preventive care as opposed to sick care.

And in that light …

Tell me your story

If your access to health care changed because of the ACA, I urge you to share your story with me. Tell me what changed, what you found most helpful or valuable; what you share can help inform us as we work to try to minimize the loss of health care services to Washingtonians should the ACA be repealed. As we craft legislation at the state level, knowing what about the ACA worked for you will help us focus on making sure health care services in our state that are most important to you are maintained.

You may respond by email (annette.cleveland@leg.wa.gov), by phone (360-786-7696) or by snail mail (Sen. Annette Cleveland, PO Box 40449, Olympia, WA 98504-0449), whichever is easiest. I look forward to hearing from you.

A visit with some of our region’s major economic drivers

Among the visitors to my Olympia office this week were officials from the Ports of Camas-Washougal, Ridgefield and Vancouver — key economic drivers for our district and region that deliver strong, consistent job growth and economic development. Above, from the left, are: Amber Carter, Ryan Hart, Brent Grening, Dave Ripp, Mike Bomar, Julianna Marler, Nelson Holmberg, John Spencer and Joe Melroy. Knowing their needs helps keep the wheels turning for the benefit of everyone in our area.

You can see more visitors to my office this session by clicking here. If you are planning a visit to Olympia in the future, please be sure to let me know.  I would love to see you!

 

Until next time,

Taking action to prevent chaos in our schools – 1/30/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

Last Friday, my Democratic colleagues and I tried to force a bill to the Senate floor to help school districts avoid the so-called “levy cliff,” a $356 million cut to their budgets if the Legislature fails to fully fund education by April. With Republicans united in opposition, unfortunately, our effort fell short — but the pressure appears to have resulted in an agreement, in principle, to join us in postponing the levy cliff. Prior to our floor efforts, the Republican leadership had said they didn’t feel it was necessary to delay the levy cliff.

The reason this is important is because schools are writing their budgets now for the next school year and must submit them in April. Without any assurance the levy cliff will be postponed, they will have to slash their budgets and send out pink slips to staff, throwing the  school year into chaos.

It’s time for equal pay, reasonable notice of eviction, and elder justice

I am pleased to share with you that three of my priority bills this session are scheduled for hearings this week.

The first, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, prohibits companies from giving employees less pay or favorable employment opportunities based on gender. It’s pretty well known that women in Washington state on average are paid 78 cents on the dollar compared to men doing the same work with the same experience and skills. That’s simply not fair and it penalizes not just the employees who are exploited but their families who rely on them to sustain their households. The bill also prohibits companies from penalizing employees for discussing or comparing their wages with other employees. Senate Bill 5140 is scheduled for a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee.

The second bill, Senate Bill 5408, increases the basic notification requirements for terminating a residential rental agreement from 20 days to 30 days and requires additional notification of 60 days or more to terminate an agreement where a tenant has occupied a premise for two or more years. It’s important to give people reasonable time to find new homes under any circumstances, but it’s all the more important when housing is as difficult to find as it is these days in the Vancouver area. Our acute shortage of housing has resulted in the fastest-rising rents in the nation — yes, you read that right, in the nation — and it’s critical that we do everything we can to ease the hardship for those trying to find places to live. This important bill will be heard at 8 a.m. Tuesday by the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee and I urge anyone concerned by this problem to come to Olympia and testify at the hearing.

The third priority bill, Senate Bill 5349, is my legislation to establish elder justice centers. This bill would fund two pilot programs modeled after the state’s proven children’s advocacy centers, coordinating elder services under a single roof to better address whatever problems seniors might encounter such as abuse, neglect or exploitation. This bill is scheduled for a hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday before the Senate Health Care Committee.

Adult family homes help seniors stay connected

Among the visitors to my Olympia office this week was Tabby Bizgan of the Adult Family Home Council. At a time when there is ever-increasing need for our aging Boomer generation, adult family homes are crucial in providing a residential setting with 24-hour care and essential services such as meals and laundering. Each of the nearly 2,800 adult family homes across the state is home to 2-6 residents, providing an intimate, supportive setting that helps seniors stay connected to community. I am grateful to Tabby and everyone in adult family homes for their hard work every day helping to care for our elders.

You can see more visitors to my office this session by clicking here. If you are planning a visit to Olympia in the future, please be sure to let me know.  I would love to see you!

Until next time,

My Priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session – 1/20/2017

Fear friends and neighbors,

Last week I shared with you my goal for our district and state of ensuring equal and fair opportunity for all, including my introduction of legislation to require equal pay for people who work the same jobs regardless of gender or other discriminatory factors. Today I’d like to share my other main focuses for this legislative session.

I will be introducing legislation to increase the length of short-term eviction notices from 20 to 30 days. Trying to find a new home in just 20 days can be difficult under the best of circumstances; in today’s high-demand housing market, it can be impossible. This common-sense legislation will help to ease the stress and strain on individuals and families suddenly facing homelessness.

I am also re-introducing my legislation from last session for an elder justice pilot program. Of all the things we can do as lawmakers, protecting the vulnerable is perhaps the most important. Seniors are vulnerable not only to the frailties of age but to those who would take advantage of them through abuse, neglect or exploitation. My legislation would fund two pilot programs modeled after the state’s proven children’s advocacy centers, coordinating elder services under a single roof to better address whatever problems seniors might encounter.

Another bill I will introduce would protect consumers from poor experiences with online eye exams. This practice, which is becoming available in more states, generally costs less than a traditional eye exam but may not provide the consumer with what he or she expects. Online exams are typically faster than traditional exams and not as thorough, and take longer to provide the prescription (an optometrist must review the results, which typically takes additional time). Many eye care professionals voice skepticism of the value of the exams, as they do not check for eye health (curvature of the cornea, diagnose glaucoma, cataracts and other problems that can be detected and addressed).  I believe we must strive for the highest quality and standards of health care for citizens. This bill will help us to reach for and achieve that goal.

Finally, my ongoing priority continues to be replacement of the I-5 Bridge spanning the Columbia River.  I fought hard to make this a reality four years ago, when we qualified for $850 million in federal transit funds and had an agreement with Oregon for each state to chip in an additional $450 million apiece. Though that effort collapsed at the 11th hour due to opposition from a highly vocal contingent, the need to replace the bridge remains. We must move forward, and for that reason I continue to work with area legislators and others to find a path forward in replacing the outdated, dilapidated bridge with a structure that improves safety and reliability and meets modern standards for surviving an earthquake. This effort will take all of us pulling together to support the goal. I will keep you posted on our progress and on how you can help.

 

A visit from those who help our kids succeed

I often say the basics everyone needs are employment, health, housing and education, so it’s probably no surprise I would value a visit from local members of the Public School Employees of Washington. Whether teachers or classified staff, those who work in education are critical to meeting the educational needs of our children and enabling them to succeed not just in school but in life. Sitting, left to right, are Kylie Cothren and Shoshana Steen; standing, left to right, are Kathie Meininger, Vickie Gaines, Ross Wood and Loren Sickles. I am grateful to them for taking the time to travel to Olympia to meet with me, and to help me better understand their work and the challenges of meeting the needs of our students.  You can see more visitors to my office this session here. If you are planning a visit to Olympia in the future, please be sure to let me know.  I would love to see you!

Until next time,

Income inequality is a major priority – 1/13/2017

Dear friends and neighbors,

It is a privilege to continue to serve you in the state Senate having been sworn into office for a new term on Monday. As always, I am focused on ensuring that our community is one of opportunity for each and every citizen. 

One barrier to that goal is income inequality. It’s no secret that our middle-class households have been steadily losing ground for decades. Since 1973, the amount of economic output generated by an average hour of work has grown 72.2 percent. But pay, meanwhile, has lagged far behind, rising only 9.2 percent. If this continues, the middle-class households that have long been the lifeblood of our society will exist more in memory than in reality. Many once-secure households already struggle to make ends meet, while others are falling into homelessness, a problem that continues to worsen in Vancouver and across our state. We must reverse this course.

This week I reintroduced the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, which would update the state’s equal pay law for the first time since 1943. Recent studies have shown that without continued efforts to implement policies to help advance us toward true parity in pay, our state will not achieve equal pay until 2070. A major component of Senate Bill 5140 would require equal pay for women compared to men who work the same job with comparable tasks and expertise. On average, women currently earn only 79 cents on the dollar compared to men in comparable positions. This hurts not just the wage earner but their children, their families and our economy.

Many states have passed similar laws — including California, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine — and it is time for our state to do the same.

The first week of session is always a little like the first week of school — full of hope, optimism and anticipation.  It is my hope that in the weeks ahead, the Legislature will focus on our most difficult challenges as a state; fully funding basic education, improving access to mental health services, and ensuring the availability of more affordable housing options in our state. I will keep you updated as discussion around these priorities evolves. 

Please know that I welcome your questions or concerns and urge you to alert me to ways I can better represent you. You may email me at any time at Annette.cleveland@leg.wa.gov or call my Olympia office at 360-786-7696. I also hope to see or hear from you at in-person town hall meetings and telephone town hall meetings I will be hosting in the coming months with my 49th district seatmates. I also encourage you to visit my office in Olympia, as this group of constituents, family and friends did on Monday. It was a particular honor to have former 49th Legislative District State Sen. Al Bauer, third from the left, in attendance for the opening day of the 2017 legislative session. He taught me to always remember: The Legislature is the people’s house!

Until next time,

Working to rein in the cost of prescription drugs – 3/3/2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

I’m happy to report that my legislation to examine ways to contain prescription drug costs has been passed by the House and awaits only the signature of Gov. Inslee to be enacted into law.

SB 6569 will bring together patient groups, hospitals, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the Health Care Authority, unions, businesses, biotechnology representatives and others to evaluate drug cost trends, impacts and other factors, and report back to the Legislature with recommendations on ways to keep out-of-pocket costs down.

The need for this action has never been greater. Just last month, the AARP Public Policy Institute reported that retail prescription prices are increasing six times faster than the general inflation rate of 1.5 percent. From 2006 to 2013, for instance, the average retail cost of a year’s supply of 622 common prescriptions doubled — from about $5,500 to more than $11,000. Not only are the prices of the drugs increasing each year, the amount of the increases are steadily increasing as well. So the problem is not only worsening, it’s worsening at an increasingly faster pace.

ac enews 3-3 400

Also this week, the House unanimously passed a second bill of mine that will allow county treasurers to accept electronic payments for transactions of any kind, including by credit card, charge card, debit card, smart card, stored value card, federal wire, and automatic clearinghouse system.

We live in a digital age; it only makes sense to enable people and organizations to make payments to local governments electronically. This is common-sense legislation to help us keep up with the times.

Focusing on the budget — and the Mother Joseph Academy

With just one week left in this legislative session, the pace continues to increase as lawmakers try to get their bills passed before Sine Die. The operating, capital and transportation budgets are the focus of final negotiations between the Senate and House, and I am pressing my colleagues to make sure the capital budget retains a $1 million allotment for renovations to the Mother Joseph Academy property in Vancouver.

This historic building was designed by Mother Joseph in 1873 and remains one of the architectural keystones that help define our community identify. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, indicating the worthiness of its preservation. Today it is a contributor to our city’s economy and provides a prominent link to Fort Vancouver. We need those renovations to make sure it stays that way.

Talking conservation with Dean Longrie

Dean Longrie, Clark Conservation District

Dean Longrie, Clark Conservation District

Among the visitors I was pleased to welcome to my Olympia office this week was Dean Longrie, above, from the Clark Conservation District. To see other constituents and local officials who have visited me in Olympia this session, click here.

Your input helps guide my legislative efforts

It is crucial for us as legislators to hear from our constituents as we work to best represent citizens. If you feel strongly about any of the issues discussed above, I encourage you to e-mail, call or write me to let me know your thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Cleveland

Our politics should be more constructive than in the other Washington – 2/26/2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

I came to the Senate a little more than three years ago committed to working constructively with all colleagues, regardless of party or ideology, to solve issues important to our community and our state. That commitment hasn’t changed, but I have to admit that I am dismayed by the growing lack of comity on the part of some of those colleagues. I had always believed our politics here in Washington could be more constructive than the politics we see in DC, and it saddens me to tell you that this no longer seems to be the case.

Several recent examples stand out starkly.

The legislative session was barely under way when Republicans on the Senate Law & Justice Committee unilaterally launched an investigation of the Department of Corrections that senselessly — and wastefully — duplicates an investigation already begun by independent investigators at the direction of the governor.

There is no question that the unintended, early release of criminals is a serious problem that demands attention. But it is also no justification for a redundant investigation that simply wastes taxpayer dollars while adding nothing to the primary investigation.

Unfortunately, as the minority party in the Senate, Democrats have limited ability to right the course when the Republican majority chooses a path we feel is an ill-advised use of public resources. They control the agenda and choose which bills will be voted on.

More recently, just this past Friday, Senate Republicans brought to the Senate floor and voted down the confirmation of Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. This action was remarkable on numerous counts.

First, Secretary Peterson has led DOT for three years with no complaints about her performance from Republicans or Democrats on the Senate Transportation Committee. Indeed, she and the department were heaped with praise for the amazingly fast responses to restore the Skagit River Bridge when it collapsed in an accident and to restore vital roads that were destroyed by a devastating mudslide in Oso. Second, all legislators on the Senate Transportation Committee, including myself, voted unanimously in favor of confirming Secretary Peterson as recently as June. That the Republicans on this committee would turn around last week and vote for her dismissal suggests a decision based on politics rather than merit, something confirmed by a Senate Republican in an interview with the press.

Third, the Senate’s action was initiated entirely without notice. Secretary Peterson had received no warning that her performance was in question and was allowed no opportunity to even speak to the accusations. If a private-sector employee were treated similarly, that employee would have strong grounds for a legal action. Several of my Republican colleagues described Secretary Peterson as a “nice lady,” with some actually suggesting that a woman who does her job nicely and treats her coworkers respectfully cannot adequately run an agency. Well, as a woman who came to the Legislature with a desire to maintain and restore civility to our political process, and who believes in treating coworkers as nicely as I would want to be treated myself, I find that assessment of Secretary Peterson disappointing and disturbing.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans brought to the floor a bill that remove protections on the basic rights of transgender men, women and children — protections everyone else enjoys and which are guaranteed by our state constitution.

The bill failed, by a single vote. But the fact that such a bill was brought to the floor provided a sobering insight into their priorities. Everyone knew this session that the biggest challenge facing our state is to adequately fund education and ensure our children receive the education they need to be successful in life. But Wednesday, on a day when House Democrats passed legislation to improve education and assist homeless students, Senate Republicans focused the Senate’s energy on a bill they knew they didn’t even have the votes to pass.

To see one body focus on real needs and then watch the Senate spin its wheels on a symbolic action was terribly frustrating and leaves me steadily more worried that my colleagues across the aisle are not disposed to address the needs of more than one million students across our state by fully funding education as the Supreme Court has directed us to do.

My response to these actions is the only response I can imagine. I am redoubling my efforts and my determination to continue to foster and encourage cooperation across the aisle. The needs of our district and our state are too important to let them be waylaid by wedge issues brought forward to polarize our electorate. I am committed to continuing to do everything I can to help raise the politics of our Washington to a higher level than the politics of the other Washington.

If you have ideas on what we can do to keep DC politics out of our Washington, please don’t hesitate to share those ideas with me. Together, we can set our state on a healthier and more productive course.

Roy Jennings will bring valuable insight and perspective

ac jennings

On a brighter note, I was very pleased to see Roy Jennings, a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, confirmed as a member of the state Transportation Commission. I have known Roy for many years and worked with him at C-Tran, and I look forward to his bringing a Southwest Washington perspective to the commission. His voice is our voice, and now that voice will be a part of the dialogue whenever the commission makes a decision.

A visit from the great folks at our credit unions

ac credit

As I’ve mentioned past newsletters, it’s always a privilege to talk and learn from the many folks from our district who visit me in Olympia. A recent visit by area credit union officials was no exception.

To see some of the constituents and local officials who visited me in Olympia, this session, click here.

What can you do to help me in my legislative work?

It is crucial for us as legislators to hear from our constituents as we work to best represent citizens. If you feel strongly about any of the issues discussed above, I encourage you to e-mail, call or write me to let me know your thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Cleveland

An update at the legislative cut-off deadline – 2/15/2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

Now that we’ve reached the point in session when bills begin to die, I thought it would be a good time to share quick updates on two of my bills that are moving through the Senate.

Senate Bill 6569, my legislation to take a closer look at out-of-pocket prescription drug costs, has passed out of the Senate Health committee and, subsequently, also the Rules Committee where it has been placed on the Senate calendar and can be pulled to the floor for a full vote of the Senate. Assuming it passes the Senate, it would then be sent to the House to go through the same hearing process there.

This bill directs the state Department of Health to convene a task force representing a wide range of experts — patient groups, hospitals, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the Health Care Authority, unions, businesses, biotechnology representatives and others — to evaluate drug cost trends, impacts and other factors and report back to the Legislature with recommendations on ways to keep out-of-pocket costs down. This is an issue that impacts the budget of many families and individuals, particularly our seniors.

SB 6585, my legislation to enhance our model elder justice center in Vancouver and add a pilot center in Spokane County, has been referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee, where the bill was heard last week.

This bill coordinates the various resources available to seniors under a single roof so as to better serve them and to direct people to the services most appropriate to their needs, quickly and efficiently. I see a particular urgency in helping seniors who face elder abuse and neglect, including financial exploitation which can hurt people most because it can deprive victims of their life savings and assets, eliminating their ability to be independent. These centers would more efficiently address claims of abuse.

I’m working hard to persuade my colleagues of the importance of these bills so that we can get them passed and signed into law — and put them into action to help make folks lives’ better both in our district and in communities across our state.

Hope to hear from you in next week’s town hall meeting

Next week I will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting with my seatmates, Rep. Jim Moeller and Rep. Sharon Wylie, for 49th Legislative District residents.

If you’ve never participated in one before, a telephone town hall takes place over the phone instead of at a physical location but enables constituents to pose questions and concerns to their lawmakers. This town hall will run from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Minutes before 6 p.m., constituents in the Vancouver area will receive a phone call inviting them to stay on the line to participate in the town hall. In addition, residents who do not automatically receive a call may dial a toll-free participant number to listen in on the event and ask questions of their elected state officials. That number is (877) 229-8493, ID code 18646#. Please join us!

A visit from some of our local, hardworking firefighters

Firefighters

A recent visit by area firefighters gave me the opportunity to thank some of our first responders for the dedication with which they protect the rest of us, often at risk of life and limb. Every time I see a fire truck go by, I wonder who’s inside and wonder what they’re responding to — and hope no mishap befalls them. We tend to think of our first responders only where we need them, so it’s a special treat to see them when they’re not racing to an emergency.

To see other constituents and local officials who have visited me in Olympia this session, click here.

What can you do to help me in my legislative work?

It is crucial for us as legislators to hear from our constituents as we work to best represent citizens. If you feel strongly about any of the issues discussed above, I encourage you to e-mail, call or write me to let me know your thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Cleveland

An update on legislation important to our district – 2/5/2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

I want to share an update on my work here in the Senate. This week marked the first policy cut-off of this Legislative session, with bills needing to pass their committee of origin in order to continue advancing. I am pleased that priority bills of mine successfully passed out of the Senate Health Care Committee. I will continue to work hard on your behalf to advocate for final passage of these important bills. Here are quick updates on each.

We can make our model elder justice center even better

Senate Health Care Committee, Feb. 1, 2016. Elder Justice Centers, SB 6585

Senate Health Care Committee, Feb. 1, 2016. Elder Justice Centers, SB 6585

The first, SB 6585, would expand on the existing Clark County elder justice center model to better help seniors who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. Our center is already a model for other centers around the state, and this bill would improve on it even further by coordinating resources for seniors under a single roof. This bill formalizes the center as part of a pilot program that emulates the state’s proven children’s advocacy centers to enable seniors to address their needs through one office.

To that end, the committee heard valuable testimony from professionals who work every day with seniors and distinctly understand the urgency of this problem.

We need to find ways to contain the cost of prescription drugs      

Another bill I prime sponsored, SB 6569, would convene a group of stakeholders to examine the various reasons many prescription drug prices are so expensive and explore potential ways to contain costs. This is an issue that affects many households struggling to make ends meet. Given the many factors that contribute to a drug’s pricing, I believe it should be possible to find some solid, practical solutions if we bring together the right mix of knowledgeable professionals.

Our community faces a growing homelessness crisis

Senate Democrats have come together in support of legislation to address a spiraling problem that is a particular concern to Vancouver and across our county: homelessness. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the extent of the problem, as our community is home to the highest rent increases and the fewest vacancy rates in the nation, and our City Council has worked overtime to lead the effort to provide relief to our community.

Make no mistake: What has long been a growing problem has spiked to crisis proportions. That’s why I am proud to be one of numerous Democrats 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. 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. You can read exactly what the legislation will do here.

It’s always helpful to hear from Leadership Clark County    

Leadership Clark County

One of the ways I stay current on emerging issues and perspectives is through visits from constituents and local officials who come to my Olympia office to share their concerns during the legislative session. I always learn from everyone, whether or not we share the same position on a particular issue, and I recently enjoyed a visit by Leadership Clark County. This diverse and knowledgeable group makes it a point to stay engaged and active in the legislative process and its impact on our community.

What can you do to help me in my legislative work?

It is crucial for us as legislators to hear from our constituents as we work to best represent citizens. If you feel strongly about any of the issues discussed above, I encourage you to e-mail, call or write me to let me know your thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Cleveland

Sen. Cleveland’s Enewsletter Update – 1/27/2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

A sad but constant refrain I’m hearing from constituents is that they and their families face difficult challenges that are getting steadily worse. Though our nation has gradually been recovering from the Great Recession, middle-class salaries and jobs have not. For many households, the stresses have only grown and continue to worsen.

Accordingly, I have focused my legislative priorities this session on ways to lesson these stresses on individuals and families.

Extending the length of rent termination notices

One of the biggest problems for the Vancouver area is the lack of available housing, as Clark County has been seeing the highest rate of rental increases in the country and an overall shortage of housing even for people who can afford the going rate. At the same time, we struggle with a growing homeless problem, as the line between keeping or losing the roof over your head is becoming more and more precarious. Our City of Vancouver took action recently by enacting several policies to address these issues. Through this action, our city has become a leader in our nation by setting high standards. I believe these standards should be carried forward to be adopted statewide.

That why’s I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 6441. This measure would require landlords who want to terminate a month-to-month tenancy to give the tenant 30 days’ notice, an increase from the current 20. This might seem like a small change, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that this modest increase in time could mean the difference between finding a new home and winding up homeless for many people.

Protecting seniors from abuse or exploitation

Another bill of mine, SB 6585, would expand on the existing Clark County elder justice center model to better help seniors who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. This bill would enhance that model by coordinating the various resources available for seniors under a single roof through the creation of two pilot programs modeled after the state’s proven children’s advocacy centers, one in Clark County and one in Spokane County.

Of all types of elder abuse and neglect, financial exploitation can hurt people most because it can deprive victims of their life savings and assets, eliminating their ability to be independent. This harms not only the individuals and their families, but also negatively impacts the economy of our community and state. The elder justice centers, in turn, would more efficiently address claims of abuse and enable seniors to address their needs through a single office.

Closing the gender pay gap

A third priority is to make sure women receive the same pay for the same work as their male counterparts — not 78 cents on the dollar, the current average disparity.

My bill, SB 6442, would make it easier for women who have been paid less for the very same work, simply because they are women, to recover the full amount of the lost pay through a civil action.

Anyone who does a full day’s work should receive a full day’s pay, just as much as the person working next to them doing the same job. This is not just about fairness but also steering more money into middle-class households at a time when they need it most.

Holding down the cost of prescription drugs        

My other priority bill, SB 6569, would convene a group of stakeholders to examine the various reasons many prescription drug prices are so costly and explore potential ways to contain costs. It’s a complex problem, with numerous factors that contribute to a drug’s pricing, but I think there’s an opportunity to find some practical solutions if we can put together a balanced group of folks with strong knowledge in this area.

Ultimately, all of these efforts focus on enabling people to live robust, secure lives, which is the keystone to a healthy community. Each of these issues has been brought forward to me by members of our community. By working together, I can carry forward these issues for discussion in the Legislature and advocate for common-sense solutions to make headway on the needs that hit closest to home.

I will keep you posted on the progress of these bills and other issues of critical importance to our community and state. As this Legislative session continues, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or feedback to share.

Until next time,

Cleveland

To subscribe to Sen. Cleveland’s E-Newsletter, click here.

  • June E-News Update

June E-News Update

Dear friends and neighbors,

The first special session of the Legislature ended on May 28 and a second special session was immediately called by Gov. Jay Inslee and began the following day. Now over a week into the second special session, budget negotiations continue to be on-going until there is an Operating Budget compromise.

Town Hall Meeting on Monday, June 15 from 6 to 8 p.m.

vancouver libraryIt is important to me that we stay in touch. One of the ways for me to hear from you is to regularly hold Town Hall meetings. Please join me and Reps. Jim Moeller and Sharon Wylie for our next Town Hall Meeting on Monday, June 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Columbia Room at the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C Street, Vancouver, WA 98660.

You will have an opportunity to hear an update on what’s happening in Olympia, discuss issues important to the 49th Legislative District, and have an opportunity to ask questions and get some feedback on the 2015 Legislative Session.

I hope to see you there.

 

 

Making investments in our future – Fully funding our teachers and our students

I believe one of the pillars of a healthy community is access to high-quality educational opportunities, from early learning to higher education. That’s one of the main discussions around the Operating Budget – how much money are we going to invest in basic education? We must invest adequate resources to meet our Constitutional obligation to fully fund education.

I was very proud to stand with my fellow Democratic leaders, Gov. Inslee, and teachers from our district and across the state who gathered on the steps of the Capitol to call on the Legislature to fully fund education.education funding rally

More than 4,000 educators attended the rally at the end of April. Those 4,000 voices were clearly heard and I hope that my colleagues were also listening

Discussions also continue here in Olympia regarding higher education, tuition rates and accessibility. I am committed to accessibility to higher education for Washington’s citizens.

Our state’s “GET Program” is a wonderfully successful tool available to families to pay for their children’s education. The beauty of this program is that a little money can be invested in a secure account, which accrues interest and is guaranteed to hold its value. It is available for students to use at any college or university.

This legislative session, SB 5954 would affect changes to the GET program, and although well-intended, I have grave concerns about the security and promise of GET. I added an amendment to SB 5954 to help ensure that any possible changes would not have negative unintended consequences. Our GET program MUST hold its value and promise that families have counted on. You can help ensure that this program remains viable by contacting members of the Senate and House Higher Education Committees to let them know you oppose any changes that might impact the GET program. Click here for link to the committee members.

Photo: (L to R) Lynn Maiorca, Vancouver Education Association President, Sen. Annette Cleveland, Susan VanHouten Vancouver Education Association Board Trustee, Rep. Sharon Wylie during the education funding rally in late April.

2015-17 Transportation Budget passes

Progress was recently made in reaching a compromise on a modest, bare-bones proposal that allows critical services such as ferries and the Washington State Patrol to continue operating. Because these crucial services need to be maintained, I cast my vote in favor of this supplemental transportation budget.

I was disappointed that funding for moving forward on replacement of the antiquated I-5 Bridge was not included in the proposal, despite efforts by many. I am hopeful that we can pursue a path forward. Addressing replacement of this aging piece of infrastructure must be a priority for our community, our region and our state.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the river to find a solution.

Protecting the Columbia River and our environment

Kennedy and ClevelandI recently had the great honor to speak at an event in support of the Columbia Riverkeeper’s 15th Anniversary and introduce acclaimed environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. He has spent most of his life in service to the environment to make sure that we are protecting our natural resources for generations to come.

The Columbia River is a national treasure that we need to continue to protect and preserve. Our community has depended upon the river for generations, and it is our responsibility now to protect this important resource for the future.

As a member of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, I joined with a number of my colleagues to help craft and pass an oil transport safety bill. In 2011, we transported zero shipments of oil by rail. By 2013, 17 million barrels of oil was being transported by rail. Currently, in our state, approximately 20 mile-long unit trains a week cross our state. Nearly every one of these trains move through Vancouver, literally just a few feet from our downtown, numerous neighborhoods and schools, and the Columbia River. The safeguards the bill passed this session puts in place are needed now to better protect our community and river.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Riverkeeper: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sen. Annette Cleveland celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the Columbia Riverkeeper.

Please keep in touch

If you ever have any questions or comments about the legislative process or a state agency, please feel free to email me or contact my office.

Until next time,

Cleveland

Oil trains, Community Projects, Equal Pay for Women – Legislative Update, April 29

Cleveland

Dear friends and neighbors,

The Legislature adjourned two days early as no budget solution was reached within the time frame of the regularly scheduled 105-day legislative session. The requirements we needed to fulfill in order to be finished with the session were not met.

We still do not have an adopted final plan to fully fund K-12 education in our state to satisfy the State Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, a final balanced Operating Budget, a Transportation Budget or a Capital Budget.

Gov. Inslee called the legislature back for a Special Session today, Wednesday, April 29. Budget negotiators began their meetings on Monday in an effort to gain momentum on a final Operating Budget.

While technically we may be called back for another special session, I sincerely hope that we are able to complete what we need to get done in the next 30 days.

VIDEO UPDATE: A strong oil transportation safety must be a priority for our community and state

oil trainsIn my most recent video update, I discuss an issue of vital importance to our community – the need for a strong oil transportation safety bill to protect our communities and our environment. Despite passage of a compromise bill, I will continue to advocate for more protections for oil transport on the Columbia River, through residential areas and downtown Vancouver.

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of UW and WSU branch campuses

In 1989 the Legislature passed a bill that established five new university campuses – UW Bothell, UW Tacoma, WSU Spokane, WSU Tri-Cities, and WSU Vancouver. These campus extensions allow more students the ability to earn bachelors and graduate degrees closer to home.

At the time, this effort was not without its controversy. Sen. Al Bauer, the 49th LD Senator at the time, was a driving force behind the efforts to expand the campuses. Our leaders kept their focus on the future and what was ultimately best for the citizens of this state.

WSU Vancouver has become a hub of research and innovation. In the 25 years since the passage of the branch campus bill, and the subsequent founding of the WSUV campus, countless students have expanded their knowledge and broadened their opportunities as a result of being able to pursue their higher education goals in our community. The campus is integral to Southwest Washington and Vancouver.

I was very pleased to stand in support of Senate Resolution 8633. You may view my speech on the Senate floor here.

Senate Capital Budget proposal includes critical projects for the 49th

There are many projects included in the Capital Budget proposal that will benefit every district in our state and I worked diligently to see that funding for projects that will have a positive impact in our district and community were included in the proposal.

Some of the highlighted projects for the 49th Legislative District include:

  • $3.5 million for the Vancouver Waterfront Development Project;
  • $29.9 million in funding for the Health and Advanced Technology Building at Clark College;
  • $1.14 million for general campus preservation and construction of an independent living cottage at the State School for the Blind; and
  • $1.2 million in new funding for a Clark County Aging Resource Center.

Making infrastructure investments in our communities is the fastest way to help spur economic development. I am especially pleased to have the Vancouver Waterfront Development Project receive full funding. This is a project that I worked hard to have included in the Capital Budget and am working to have it included in the final budget.

The project will help better ensure a vibrant Vancouver for the future, and will further define our community and region as one of opportunity. Waterfront along the Columbia River that has been inaccessible to the community for over a century will be reopened. The Vancouver Waterfront Development Project will change the face of our waterfront and further enhance the quality of life our community is known for.

The Capital Budget proposal broken out by legislative district may be viewed here.

Sponsoring Equal Pay amendments to the Operating and Capital Budgets

This session I sponsored a bill that would update the state’s 72 year old Equal Pay Act. While the bill did not move and the House-passed bill died in the Senate, I did offer two amendments on the Senate floor that were aimed at addressing this issue.

floor vote

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act had a hearing in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee before a critical deadline, but because a hearing on the cutoff day was cancelled, the bill died in the committee.

During late night debate on amendments to the Operating Budget proposal on April 2-3, I offered an amendment that would have required state contracts to have a provision to pay women fairly. As a result of a reinstated Senate rule, the amendment needed 30 votes to pass instead of a simple majority of 25. My amendment received 29 votes – just one vote shy of passing.

I also offered a similar amendment to the Capital Budget and was pleased to receive support for the amendment from a few Republican women and the Senate Majority Leader. I am working to make sure that equal pay for equal work will be included in the final Capital Budget.

While we have come so far on advancing women’s rights we must do more.

On average, women in Washington state earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the same position. If we continue at the same rate of progress without changing our state policy, women in our state will not achieve pay equity until 2071! That is far too long to wait.

Boys & Girls Club Southwest Washington Youth of the Year – Fabiola Flores

I recently attended the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year recognition breakfast at the Governor’s Residence to honor students across our state who have made significant contributions to their communities and Boys & Girls Clubs across our state.

Cleveland and Flores

This year, the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Washington named Fabiola Flores as Youth of the Year. Fabiola has been a member of the Club for four years and is a senior at Hudson’s Bay High School. Club staff describe Fabiola as one of the most humble, driven, passionate, kind and confident young women they have encountered. I was so proud to have presented her with this award for her outstanding accomplishments. Congratulations!

I am honored to serve as your representative in Olympia. As we continue our work throughout this Special Session, please continue to contact me, or my office with your questions, comments and concerns. I always look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time,

sig

Legislative Update – March 23, 2015

Dear friends and neighbors,

This week we have been back in committee hearing the bills that have come over from the House of Representatives. The next committee cutoff deadline is on April 1, so we have a little more time to hear testimony on bills before we are back voting on the Senate floor. Legislative deadlines help move bills through the process and can act as a barrier to both good and bad legislative proposals.

Structured settlements bill passes Senate despite concerns for injured workers

During floor debate the Senate considered and passed Senate Bill 5513 – a bill that removes protections for younger workers who are injured on the job, many of whom may have young families. These workers may not have the resources to weather a sudden loss of income and may be forced to accept a lump-sum settlement to pay for immediate needs to the detriment of a longer-term solution that offers sound financial security and reliable wage-replacement.

When I was a child, my family could have been greatly impacted by this legislation. My father was working one night loading lumber onto ships with his crew when an accident happened. A hook holding the lumber broke free and knocked off my father’s hard hat and threw him 40 feet into the hold of the ship. With the injuries he sustained and with the existing protections in place as he recovered, my family was able to get by and survive. These important protections need to remain. We need to make sure that we are protecting our workers today from the accidents that could happen tomorrow. (Please click the photo to hear my floor speech).

 floor speech

Legislative deadlines weed out bad bills that would harm our community in particular

One bill I was pleased to see not advance to the Senate floor for consideration was Senate Bill 5197 – a bill that would allow entities who have applied for project permits to circumvent the permitting system if a permit is not issued after 90 days and could allow entities to go directly to the Superior Courts in their county for project approval. Many very large and complex projects involve extensive permitting review and analysis that requires more than 90 days, while often smaller projects take much less than 90 days for a permit to be issued. For the larger projects, this bill could, in effect, substitute our already overburdened courts for the agencies in reviewing and issuing permit decisions.

In our community, this bill could have had the potential to sidestep the current Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) process for making decisions around the proposed oil-by-rail facility. We need to allow that process the chance to have all of our input and hear our concerns. I respect the process and its integrity. This bill would have potentially circumvented the current process in our state and allowed the courts to decide the future of many communities across Washington, including ours.

Equal Pay Opportunity Act advances through the House and comes to the Senate

I am proud to be the sponsor of the Equal Opportunity Pay Act in the Senate. The House version of this bill, House Bill 1646, passed through the chamber and has made its way to the Senate. When our state recognizes that equal pay should be given for equal work and when employees are not afraid of retribution for asking questions about their wages, we will have made significant progress in our state. Fairness and justice for equal pay for equal work will help all Washington families thrive. I look forward to actively advancing this bill in the Senate and would welcome your help in contacting the Chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, (Committee information, click here) to ask that this important bill be heard. I will be sure to update you on this bill’s progress.

Thank you for listening in and participating in our telephone town hall meeting!

Last Thursday night, Reps. Sharon Wylie and Jim Moeller joined me in hosting a telephone town hall. It is a great and convenient way to connect and speak directly to many of you! We covered a number of topics including: oil transportation safety, the proposed oil facility, education funding, reducing class sizes, how to get more people involved in the political process, and protecting our social safety net to name just a few. I encourage you to check my website soon for the full audio recording of the telephone town hall.

LULAC Students1 

I always enjoy when constituents come to visit me in Olympia. Last week, I met with many constituents including a wonderful group of young people from the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Until next time,

 sig