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    An open letter to the people of Washington state on the need for police reform

An open letter to the people of Washington state on the need for police reform

June 5th, 2020|

An open letter to the people of Washington state:

The Senate Democratic Caucus – fully recognizing that our own state Senate lacks the voice of even a single Black legislator, a voice that needs to ground us today and always – stands with our Black neighbors throughout Washington as we grieve together the violent and unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Charleena Lyles, Manuel Ellis and too many others, at the hands of law enforcement.

A history of systemic and institutionalized racism and violence leveled against our Black neighbors has manifested in days of protests around our grieving country, including here at home. As the Senate Democratic Caucus, we unequivocally stand with those who are raising their voices in pain, anger and hope to make demands for substantive change.

We are moved by the love and grief displayed over the life and death of George Floyd that has mobilized so many of every background, some for the first time. Though our state and country face a moment of deep pain and renewed trauma, we are also witness to a pivotal moment of potential historic change in public policy; one with an opportunity to craft equitable and compassionate laws that serve all of us.

We recognize that the power to make substantive change lies with us, the policymakers. We recognize this power to make substantive change should have been wielded long ago. We recognize that Black, Indigenous and brown lives have been disproportionately subjected to police brutality in addition to the merciless cycle of incarceration. We are committed to changing these broken institutions.

Our agenda will be shaped by the community. We are committed to listening and working alongside Black leaders and organizers. Their ideas and their solutions to these issues will be elevated so that we may respond to their call for action. Successful efforts toward change have always had their origins at the local level. We are listening.

Know that we grieve with you, stand united in your call for justice and promise to work with you in these next crucial steps toward real change.

On behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus,


Sen. Andy Billig

Majority Leader

Sen. Manka Dhingra

Deputy Majority Leader

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña

Deputy Majority Leader

Here’s some help for working people and small businesses

April 14th, 2020|

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on our economy. All across our state people are struggling to make ends meet and small businesses are struggling to stay afloat. We will get through this, but right now, we need to stay strong, work together and help each other out.

If you have lost your job due to the pandemic, please visit Employment Security. If you are signing up for unemployment benefits, please keep trying. These folks are working tirelessly to make that happen but they are dealing with an unprecedented amount of calls. You can also sign up for updates and find other resources.

If you have a small business, here are some resources that may be of interest:

Washington Small Business Emergency Grant Program: The Legislature provided funding, and the Department of Commerce is implementing, a program offering a limited number of grants (up to $10,000) available to small businesses with up to 10 employees. More information can be found here.

Paycheck Protection Program: The federal CARES Act authorized up to $349 billion to create the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help cover payroll, rent, mortgage and utility costs eligible for non-profits and small businesses with under 500 employees. Find more information here.

Emergency disaster loans: The Small Business Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) Program provides targeted, low-interest loans of up to $2 million to small businesses and non-profits that cannot exceed a rate of 4%, for up to 30 years. The CARES Act allocated $10 billion to provide $10,000 advances to applicants. Find more information here.

Debt relief: The CARES Act included $17 billion for the Small Business Debt Relief Program, offering six months of loan forgiveness for non-profits and small businesses that currently have SBA 504 or 7(a) loans, as well as forgiveness for any similar loans approved, closed or funded before Sept. 27, 2020. Find more information here.

Bridge loans: The Small Business Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program helps businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to potentially access up to $25,000 to bridge the gap while waiting for a decision and disbursement on a direct Economic Injury Disaster loan.


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    Coronavirus info: How we can work together to keep our community safe

Coronavirus info: How we can work together to keep our community safe

March 20th, 2020|

Friends and neighbors

I know that we are all concerned with the coronavirus outbreak and have many questions about what we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy.

Here are a few helpful links that will answer many of your questions.

This is the state portal to many answers to your coronavirus questions. Here you’ll find links to help you know what to do if you feel you may be infected, information about school closures, unemployment insurance, the latest news and statistics and most importantly tips on how to stay healthy.

This link will take you to the Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health Department. Here you can find out the latest news and information about what is happening in our communities in response to this outbreak. You can also sign up for email updates to receive the latest info directly.

Friends, we will get through this crisis, but we have to work together and follow the simple guidelines being laid out by the governor and public health officials.

Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and if you can, please stay home.

We can do this Washington.

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    Sen. Conway: We must keep our promise to all of Washington’s public servants

Sen. Conway: We must keep our promise to all of Washington’s public servants

February 19th, 2020|

Washington’s retired teachers and other public employees educated generations of Washingtonians, worked tirelessly to improve public health and provided countless other services for people throughout our state.

Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Steve Conway, retired public employees will receive a modest three percent cost of living increase to help make ends meet.

“It’s important that we keep our promises to these people who taught us, taught our children, worked on our roads, dedicated their lives to public health and safety,” said Conway, D-Tacoma. “This is a modest yet critically important cost of living increase for thousands of Washingtonians.”

The increase will be a maximum of $62.50 per month for people enrolled in the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS Plan 1) or the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS Plan 1).

The bill, SB 5400, passed out of the Senate unanimously on Feb. 19. It is scheduled to be voted out of the House Committee on Appropriations on March 2.

“This money will not be spent on luxuries. The folks in this retirement system are aging and this increase will be spent on medical expenses, rent, groceries and other necessities,” Conway said. “This is about keeping promises and making sure our retired public employees can live their lives in dignity.”

Conway bill will help Washington’s military spouses

February 18th, 2020|

When a one member of a military deploys, the entire family serves.

Sen. Steve Conway is sponsoring a bill to ensure that the people who are left behind while their loved ones are protecting our freedoms abroad, have the resources they need stateside to continue life as normal as possible.

Senate Bill 6626 will establish a liaison office inside the state’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs to work with military spouses. Military spouses face a variety of challenges during deployment including childcare, employment, education and simply making ends meet.

“Military spouses are potentially thousands of miles away, but in many ways they serve right alongside their family member,” Conway said. “Many of these folks turn into single parents during deployment. This liaison position will give these brave men and women and their families a resource they can lean on during an extraordinarily stressful time.”

The bill passed the Senate with unanimous support on Feb. 18. It now awaits further consideration in the House.

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    Legislature honors Franklin on Senate floor, celebrates oral history

Legislature honors Franklin on Senate floor, celebrates oral history

January 31st, 2020|

A groundbreaking former state lawmaker has chronicled her experiences in the Legislature in a biographical oral history.

All proceeds from sales of Rosa Franklin — A Life in Health Care, Public Service, and Social Justice will go into an account that funds Capitol preservation, the state library and archives, and the legislative oral history program.

“When Sen. Sam Hunt called me several months ago and said ‘the legislative oral history committee has voted for you to tell your story,’ I thought maybe he was kidding,” former Sen. Rosa Franklin (D-Tacoma) said Monday while being honored on the Senate floor. “It is indeed a deep honor to be back. It’s overwhelming, really.”

Franklin was the first black woman elected to the Senate and represented the 29th Legislative District in Tacoma for 20 years, but her long legislative career is only one aspect of her storied path. Sen. Steve Conway succeeded Franklin upon her retirement following the 2010 session.

Before Franklin won election to the Legislature, her 42-year career in health care brought her from South Carolina to Washington state and included stops in Brooklyn, Colorado, Germany, and the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, among other venues.

An inductee in the Washington State Nurses Association Hall of Fame, Franklin holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Puget Sound and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington State Democratic Party.

“Rosa Franklin’s lifelong commitment to social justice is an inspiration in a time when many have lost faith in government,” wrote Tamiko Nimura, the book’s author.

Franklin’s legislative achievements ran the gamut from establishing the state’s housing and anti-discrimination policy in her freshman year, to eliminating redundant requirements for nursing credentials, to enabling voters to approve public financing of election campaigns. She served as Democratic Whip, as Majority Whip, and twice as President Pro Tempore.

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    Ground broken on housing for veterans experiencing homelessness

Ground broken on housing for veterans experiencing homelessness

October 15th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Steve Conway (D-South Tacoma) joined local officials in Orting on Oct. 1 to break ground on a new tiny house village that will provide supportive housing to up to 35 veterans in Pierce County experiencing homelessness.

Located on a five-acre portion of the campus of the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) Soldiers Home, the Orting Veterans Village will give veterans access to fully furnished tiny homes, as well as one-on-one staff support and a built-in community, starting in 2020.

Quixote Communities – a non-profit known for Quixote Village, a tiny house village supporting 30 individuals in Olympia – will operate and manage the Orting project, in partnership with the WDVA and the Puget Sound Veterans Hope Center. Community Frameworks, a non-profit affordable housing developer that also worked on Quixote Village, is serving as the contracted developer.

The Veterans Village is being built in part with $3 million in funding that Conway secured as part of the 2017-19 capital construction budget. In addition to tiny homes, it will have a large community building with a double kitchen, dining area, multipurpose room, staff offices and laundry facilities.

Quixote Communities plans to partner with the WDVA and community resources to provide residents services including transportation, care coordination, behavioral health services and life skill classes.

A rendering of the future Orting Veterans Village.

Conway helps kick off construction of SR 167 completion

October 14th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Steve Conway (D-South Tacoma) joined Gov. Jay Inslee and other officials at the Port of Tacoma on Oct. 1 to kick off construction on completion of State Route 167 in Pierce County, part of the $1.96 billion Puget Sound Gateway Program connecting ports with manufacturing and industrial centers.

The program, which also includes completion of SR 509 in King County, closes two of the state’s major transportation gaps. It makes critical “last mile” connections to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, and provides greater transportation choices to move people and goods more reliably through the Puget Sound region and enhance Washington’s national and global economic competitiveness.

It is the biggest project of the state’s 2015 Connecting Washington transportation revenue package, which provides the majority of the program’s funding.

In Pierce County, the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will build four miles of new highway to complete the missing link between SR 167 in Puyallup and I-5 in Fife. WSDOT will also build a new two-mile connection from I-5 to the Port of Tacoma.

Extension of SR 509 will increase connectivity between Seattle and south King County, and provide a much-needed north-south alternative to I-5. It also will create a new southern access point to Sea-Tac International Airport and serve as an alternative to I-5, SR 99 and local streets.

WSDOT is scheduled to complete stage 1 of the Puget Sound Gateway Program in 2026. Stage 2 projects are set for construction between 2024 and 2028.

The project was initially scheduled for completion in 2031, but that timetable was moved up three years after the Legislature authorized WSDOT to accelerate the project schedules.

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    Conway joins commission administering long-term care benefit program

Conway joins commission administering long-term care benefit program

August 7th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Steve Conway (D-South Tacoma) has been appointed to serve on the commission that will help administer Washington’s new long-term care benefit program.

The Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Commission will establish rules and policies for the program, which gives residents who need assistance with activities of daily living up to $36,500 for long-term services and supports like caregiving, wheelchair ramps, meal deliveries and nursing home fees.

The Legislature passed House Bill 1087 establishing the first-in-the-nation program during its 2019 session in order to help Washington households deal with the ballooning costs of long-term care. Conway co-sponsored a companion bill in the Senate.

House Bill 1087 passed with bipartisan support and the support of family caregivers, aging and disability advocates, small business owners, long-term care providers, labor unions and consumer rights organizations.

In addition to the newly established long-term care commission, the program will be jointly administered by the Health Care Authority, the Department of Social and Health Services and the Employment Security Department.

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    Franklin Pierce School District unveils state’s first electric school bus

Franklin Pierce School District unveils state’s first electric school bus

June 17th, 2019|

TACOMA – Sen. Steve Conway (D-South Tacoma) was on hand on June 17 as the Franklin Pierce School District unveiled the state’s first electric school bus.

The bus is part of a pilot program intended to lead to the replacement of the district’s fleet of diesel buses, reducing carbon emissions and saving the district thousands in maintenance and fuel costs.

Conway joined Gov. Jay Inslee and others aboard the all-electric Blue Bird school bus for a victory lap around the track at the district’s stadium, cheered on by students, parents and teachers.

Seating 72 and with a range of 120 miles, the bus features a custom educational energy dashboard showing real-time energy use and savings.

The district purchased the bus with help from a grant program funded by TransAlta as part of its agreement to phase out its coal-fired plant in Centralia.