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Local projects at risk…

July 14th, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

While the Legislature was able to avoid a state government shutdown by adopting an operating budget before midnight on June 30, our work remains unfinished. One of the last outstanding pieces of the session is the adoption of our state’s capital budget. This is the budget that creates jobs, and funds local infrastructure projects across our state to the tune of $4.1 billion.

Funds from the capital budget have helped build our schools, update park facilities and community centers, and provide critical toxic environmental clean-up programs in our district.

This time around is no different. The House of Representatives has already passed the capital budget 92 to 1 (House Bill 1075).

It is now the Senate’s turn to act. The absence of a capital budget would jeopardize thousands of jobs in our state and could stop projects already in progress. If this were to happen, those mothballed projects would likely cost taxpayers more in the future to resume.

projects at risk

The Seattle Times recently wrote on this issue with a focus on the construction of the new Burke Museum in Seattle. The potential damage to our district would be just as devastating.

While the capital budget is usually the “feel good budget” because it creates jobs in every community across the state, the Republican-led Senate is refusing to bring the capital budget for a vote without their fix to what’s called the Hirst decision – a State Supreme Court decision that has to do with water rights and rural well usage. Senate Republicans are now holding the capital budget hostage and are refusing to negotiate a possible fix to the Hirst decision.

This is an irresponsible and dangerous approach to take that puts all communities across the state at risk for losing critical job-creating infrastructure investments. Our state needs the capital budget. It’s time for Senate Republicans to pass the capital budget for the benefit of all Washingtonians.

The Third Special Legislative Session will end on July 20. I will continue to meet with community members and will work to encourage my colleagues to pass a capital budget given the time we have left.

Until next time,

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A Special Session Update

April 28th, 2017|

News from Sen. Jeannie Darneille                                         April 28, 2017


 Dear friends and neighbors,

The legislature had until Sunday, April 23, or 105 days to complete its work during the regular session. While we were able to pass some good bills to help move our state forward, we have not yet passed a state operating budget or resolved how we will amply and fairly fund our state’s K-12 education system. Gov. Inslee called the legislature back into session on Monday – a special session lasting up to 30 days.

An update on education and the operating budget

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed their operating budget proposals. These budget proposals represent different values and outcomes for our state. The Senate Republican budget relies on a $5.6 billion property tax that would impact every household in our state. This budget plan also proposes dangerous cuts to the most vulnerable in our community – the homeless, low-income families, the elderly, and those living with disabilities. Democrats in the House of Representatives have a budget proposal that includes a more equitable revenue structure and invests this money in our kids and our most vulnerable.

It’s time for negotiators to come to the table and begin the process of negotiating a go-home budget. We cannot and must not accept a budget proposal that funds our kid’s education on the backs of our most vulnerable.

A disingenuous tax vote

On one of the last days of the regular session, Senate Republicans held votes on two revenue bills. These two bills – the capital gains tax and the business and occupation tax – are a couple of the proposals that are included in the House budget.

Bringing these bills to a vote knowing they would fail was nothing more than a political stunt. These tax proposals could help reshape our state’s tax structure to make it more fair. No bill should be a pawn in a political game. Sadly, on one of the last days of the regular session, that is exactly what happened.

What’s happening during Special Session?

On Wednesday, day three of the Special Session, the Senate Ways & Means Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 5929, an omnibus bill of the House’s revenue proposals. The hearing room and two overflow rooms filled with people wanting to testify on the bill, both pro and con.

I was proud to hear from so many students, social workers, educators, and small business owners who support the bill. They know our children are our future and need more support in the classroom.

Royal visitors

Princesses

I always enjoy the visit from our Pierce County Daffodil Princesses. This year, I was pleased to welcome Princess Bridget from Stadium High School and Princess Amaya from Wilson High School. I know both of these talented young ladies have a very bright future.

I hope you will continue to contact me with your questions, comments, and ideas about how we can improve our district and our state.

Until next time,

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A Legislative Update from Sen. Jeannie Darneille

March 10th, 2017|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Reminder! Town Hall Meeting tomorrow 10 to noon, Sat. March 11

I hope you will join Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Rep. Jake Fey, and me at our annual mid-session town hall meeting! This will be a good opportunity for our community to come together to talk about the issues that are most important to you, our district and our state.

WHO: Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Rep. Jake Fey, and YOU!

WHEN: From 10 to Noon, Sat. March 11, 2017 – (Doors will be open at 9:30 a.m.)

WHERE: The Evergreen State College – Tacoma Campus, 1210 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98405, Pierce Transit Route 1

Legislative Deadline: House of Origin

On Wednesday, we hit another milestone of the legislative cutoff calendar – the House of Origin cutoff. This is significant because if votes were not taken on bills, they are most likely dead for this session. I currently have six bills still in motion of the 23 I prime sponsored. As a member of the minority party, this really isn’t a bad ratio, and many will be considered again in the second year of the biennium. The bills being heard and considered in the House of Representatives are:

Senate Bill 5030Concerning human trafficking, prostitution, and commercial sexual abuse of a minor. This bill modifies crimes of the promotion or commercial sexual abuse of a minor, and promoting prostitution by specifying that these crimes can be committed when anything of value is provided. This bill also extends the statute of limitations for survivors of human trafficking and abuse.

Senate Bill 5293Concerning court-based and school-based efforts to promote attendance and reduce truancy. Last session, we passed needed updates to our state’s Becca Law and modified how we treat youth who are truant from school. This bill makes further updates to the work that was done last session to implement Community Truancy Boards by allowing schools to use alternative assessments to identify student needs, allows specialists to be included on community truancy boards, and removes court authority to place a youth in a HOPE center or crisis residential center at an initial truancy hearing. This bill also requires a juvenile court to use a less restrictive alternative to detention when a student fails to comply with a truancy order. Detention for truancy under this bill should be a last resort, not the first option.

Senate Bill 5558Issuing a two-year identicards for offenders released from prison facilities.

Having valid identification is a barrier for many people who are getting out of our corrections facilities and reintegrating into society. It can sometimes take up to 30 days for someone to get some type of identification following their release. Without valid identification, obtaining housing, a bank account, or getting a job can be very difficult, if not impossible. This bill will establish a program between the state Department of Licensing and the Department of Corrections to implement a state-issued identicard program to qualifying offenders. The identicards created under this program will be valid for two years and will cost the offenders $18.

Senate Bill 5614Concerning diversion agreements and counsel and release agreements. We know from evidence-based practices that when juvenile offenders have access to diversion programs, they are less likely to recidivate. This bill removes the cap on the number of diversions a juvenile can receive. The bill also requires the destruction of a juvenile’s criminal record when they reach 18 years of age if their record only consists of completed diversion, counsel and release agreements, and all restitution is paid. The goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate our young people and diversions are the most effective way to accomplish this goal.

Senate Bill 5618Concerning arrest of 16 and 17 year olds for domestic violence assault. This is an important bill for our juvenile justice system, which specifies that a 16 or 17 year old is not subject to mandatory arrest for domestic violence assault. A police officer will have the authority to make a decision regarding an arrest. The bill also removes the requirement for a juvenile detention facility to book anyone under the age of 18 who is arrested for assaulting a family or household member.

Senate Bill 5749Concerning paperwork reduction in order to improve the availability of mental health services to protect children and families. As a member of the Children’s Mental Health Work Group last interim, this bill includes many of the recommendations that will improve the delivery of mental health services to children in our state. A reduction in paper work will allow a higher delivery of services and will help reduce the staff turnover rate. Currently, some staff working within our state’s Behavioral Health Organizations report that they are spending half of their time on paperwork and half of their time on providing services.

An update on the Salmon Beach bill

Senate Bill 5542 would have benefited the unique historic district of Salmon Beach in our community. The Shoreline Management Act of 1971 governs the use of shorelines across the state and the Department of Ecology approves and adopts the shoreline master programs. Some structures are exempt from certain shoreline master programs. The bill would have allowed historic, single family, over water residences established before Jan. 1, 2017 to be subject to reasonable shoreline master program regulations. This would allow the homes at Salmon Beach to be renovated and maintained. While this bill did not pass this session, I will work to make sure that all residents of Salmon Beach are able to safely maintain and stay in their historic homes.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

For the last 30 years, International Women’s Day has had a special place in my heart – it’s the day my son was born. I’ve always said that my contribution to International Women’s Day was to raise him as a feminist! This year, I was pleased to stand and recognize many of the women who fought for the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, a fight that continues to this day. March 8 also marked a call to action for accelerating gender equity. The Senate passed a resolution — SR 8628 — to honor all women throughout our state, nation, and world during the celebration of International Women’s Day.

Please follow this link to watch a video featuring Washington women and the women of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Senate takes action on the education crisis

While I am glad to see Senate action on the bill to avert what’s called the Levy Cliff, the gap between what education services are currently funded by levy dollars and what will eventually become more adequate funding from the state general fund. We must now focus on fully funding our K-12 education system without damaging our social safety net. I released the following statement after Senate Bill 5023 passed in the Senate on Wednesday evening:

“Our schools are so much more than places of learning. For many kids, going to school brings stability and normalcy to their lives. I am pleased that we are taking action on the levy cliff bill and will not be cutting $358 million in levy dollars, and creating the largest cut to K-12 education in state history.

“Funds raised by local levies are essential for all of our students who depend on high-quality teachers, classroom support, and small class sizes to help them achieve positive academic outcomes.

“In the 27th, the Tacoma School District would have lost more than $2.6 million in locally approved funding had the Senate refused to take action. Our own school district would have been pushed over the levy cliff.

“Our kids and their teachers deserve better, which is why we must shift our focus to how we will fund education without gutting critical programs within the social safety net. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the coming weeks to do what’s best for our kids and those who are most vulnerable in our state.”

Resentencing of youth ordered by Washington State Supreme Court

On Thursday, March 2, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that two juveniles from Tacoma involved in the Halloween Candy Case must be resentenced. This ruling is a major win for juvenile justice and sets case law about how the legal system may treat cases involving 16 and 17 year olds.

From the sentencing decision announced in 2013, I was concerned that my constituents did not receive the opportunity to have the benefits of the juvenile justice system. Instead, they were tried as adults and received adult sentences. Combined, these two young people faced the prospect of spending 85 years in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court Case of Miller v. Alabama states that, “children are different.” This is the same sentiment that is quoted in our Supreme Court’s ruling and I could not agree more. The Seattle Times Editorial Board ran a good piece of why we need to consider brain science in juvenile sentencing.

To read the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling in its entirety, click here.

Please keep in touch

I encourage you to please keep in touch with me and my office. I would like to thank all the visitors from the district who have come to Olympia! I have a map of the district in my office and every time we have a constituent visit, they mark where they live. Thank you for being engaged with your democracy!

 

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    Legislative Update – Just 9 days left of the Regular Session!

Legislative Update – Just 9 days left of the Regular Session!

April 17th, 2015|

Dear friends and neighbors,

As we hurtle toward the finish line of the 2015 Legislative Session, all eyes are focused on the budgets. The Operating Budget is the largest policy bill of the session and impacts all Washingtonians.

There are three budgets that help keep the state moving – the Operating budget, the Capital Budget and the Transportation Budget. Each biennium, non-partisan Senate staff put together very helpful resource guides on each of the budgets and important tax information.

This year there is ‘A Citizen’s Guide to the Washington State Budget,’ ‘A Citizen’s Guide to Washington State K-12 Finance,’ ‘A Legislative Guide to Washington State Property Taxes,’ and ‘A Legislative Guide to Washington State’s Tax Structure.’ These little guides provide very useful information!

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The Lay of the Land: Bills that continue to move and those that won’t…this year.

Wednesday was the last major cutoff day before we adjourn Sine Die on April 26. Policy bills sent to the opposite chamber which failed to pass out of that chamber by 5 p.m. yesterday are not likely to be signed into law this year. No bill is ever truly dead until Sine Die, but typically bills that are necessary to implement the budget or bills that are essential to final negotiations are the ones still in play. We will see in the coming days which bills those turn out to be.

At the beginning of every legislative session there is hope that bills that are introduced will pass. This optimism usually lasts until the first great winnowing process happens with the first cutoff.

As the chart below indicates only 22% of the bills sponsored by Senate Democrats went to the House of Representatives for consideration and 36% of bills sponsored by Senate Republicans passed to the House. Less than one third of the total number of bills introduced in the Senate made it to the House of Representatives. I predict that this year we will see a historically low number of bills that make it all the way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Senate Bills

Number of members by Political Party Number of bills introduced during the 2015 Session Number of bills that passed in the Senate and went to the House of Representatives for consideration Percent of the total
Republicans (26) 716 259 36
       
Democrats (23) 381 85 22
       
Total 1097 344 31
       

Capital Budget passes with many great projects for the 27th!

The Capital Budget passed in the Senate this week and is clearly the product of what a bipartisan budget should look like. The budget passed to the House on a vote of 39 to 10. From the first meeting up until the final printing of the budget, Democrats and Republicans worked together.

The Capital Budget invests in affordable housing loans and grants, increased funding for mental health beds, and an increase in K-12 school construction funding to meet the demands of smaller class sizes. The Capital Budget also invests in local projects to improve the quality of life across the State of Washington.

Some of the many projects in the 27th Legislative District included in the Senate Capital Budget:

  • Funding for the Old Spaghetti Factory Building
  • Classroom renovations at the University of Washington Tacoma Urban Solutions Center;
  • Improvements to a section of the Prairie Line Trail behind the Tacoma Art Museum;
  • Support for creating more mental health inpatient services beds through a joint venture with Franciscan Health Systems and Multicare;
  • Upgrades to the heating system at the Balfour Dock building, which will allow the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum to operate year round;
  • Support for the Eastside Tacoma Community Center;
  • Funding renovations of the façade at the 100-year old Pantages Theater;
  • Upgrades to the Washington State Historical Museum; and
  • Cleanup of hazardous properties from the old Asarco Smelter Plume site to the Port of Tacoma.

The two areas of concern, at this point that I see, deal with providing additional funding for clean energy and the proposal to go into more debt by bonding our public works infrastructure projects. There is a tradeoff to these decisions, and while going into debt is not ideal, it does free up additional funding for more projects.

The proposed Senate Capital Budget will need to be reconciled with the plan that the House of Representatives passed before we end up with the final version of the Capital Budget.

Thank you!

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Thank you to everyone who has made the trip to Olympia this session. I am always happy to see so many visitors from the mighty 27th, including these young advocates for family planning services (who even brought their own selfie stick for our photo!)

If you have any comments, questions or concerns about the legislative process or your interactions with a state agency, please feel free to email me or call my office any time.

Until next time,

darneille

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five bill hearings in 90 minutes!

February 13th, 2015|

Dear friends and neighbors,

 Earlier this week I had one of the most unusual days in my 15 years working in the legislature. Five of my bills had hearings on the same day, stretched across three separate committees in an hour and a half! This was certainly a record for any Senator and a unique experience for myself, an event that will probably never have the chance of happening again.

All the bills I testified on hit a different but equally important element of my mission statement. These bills concern everything from opt-out HIV testing, to child support credits to veterans, to access to mental health services.

 Five bills in ninety minutes…readysetGO!

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Two bills in Law & Justice

Starting the day off was my testimony in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Senate Bill 5653, which would create a consistent protocol for collecting DNA samples at our jails and prisons as part of the standard intake process.

DNA samples can mean the difference between innocent and guilty. Since DNA samples are so important, this bill aims to strengthen DNA retrieval laws, requiring offenders who are serving a term of confinement in a city or county jail to give DNA samples immediately after sentencing and as standard procedure. This way, we will be able to get more entries into the CODIS system and hopefully solve more cold cases.

You can hear me speak on SB 5653 here.

Immediately after that my bill on veteran benefits was heard, which you can watch here. Under Senate Bill 5793, when the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs apportions a veteran’s benefits to pay child support on behalf of the child, the amount paid will be treated as if the veteran paid the benefits toward the satisfaction of child support obligation. This bill aims to help children in poverty while also giving credit where credit is due.

One bill in Health Care

In my second committee of the day, I testified in the Senate Health Care Committee on Senate Bill 5728, which would permit opt-out screening for HIV infections.

This bill is a big leap forward from the experiences of three decades of HIV response when there was a great amount of stigma attached to HIV testing. At one time not so long ago secret and anonymous testing was the norm to protect people from insurance carriers who would cut health care benefits if it was known that a person was HIV positive.

Today, we have protections in place – HIPAA laws and restrictions on insurance providers from excluding patients based on preexisting conditions. Our new norm is for early testing to assure easy access to medications that will save lives and lower the chance for infecting others.

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Two bills in Human Services, Mental Health and Housing

From there I moved directly on to the next committee, Human Services, Mental Health & Housing for the final two bills of the day.

The first bill heard in this committee, Senate Bill 5792, would establish a centralized Office of Forensic Mental Health services in the Department of Social and Health Services. Forensic evaluators provide services related to competency to stand trial and criminal insanity. The Office of Forensic Mental Health would have responsibility to, among other things, operate control of all forensic evaluation services, train forensic evaluators and develop a system to certify forensic evaluators and monitor the quality of forensic evaluation reports.

Here is the hearing on SB 5792.

My fifth and final bill, Senate Bill 5839, had a hearing. This bill is a technical fix related to our state’s answer to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Miller v. Alabama, which decided it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life without parole if they committed the crime as a juvenile.

This bill clears up any questions that might arise about whether sentencing enhancements apply when determining parole eligibility down the road. The bill adds cross-references that were missed in last year’s bill.

Successfully juggling and effectively multitasking all of these hearings was a day unlike any other for me in the legislature. An even bigger shock is that all the bills are destined to make it out of their committees…what a day!!

As always, it is my pleasure to take on these challenges to make progress on these important issues and work for you, my constituents, in Olympia.

Take care,

darneille

Juvenile Justice: Brain not fully developed until 25 years old

June 19th, 2014|

Sen. Darneille banner


 

Dear friends and neighbors,

Thank you to everyone in Northeast Tacoma who attended the first of our “conversation hours” across the district. We had good conversations centered on tough issues including: education funding, a transportation package with a gas tax, the impact of Pierce Transit cuts, the importance of mental health care, areas that might be prone to slide risks, fiscal responsibility, and the general makeup of our state Legislature.

Another important issue we discussed was the possibility of a Liquid Natural Gas Plant in Tacoma. Please watch for my next email that will focus on this issue.

 

Please join me during our next “conversation hours” in the district – from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24 at International Place, 1701 E 44th St., Tacoma, WA 98404. The full list of scheduled “conversation hours” may be found here on my website.


Legislative Update – April 2, 2014

April 2nd, 2014|

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Dear friends and neighbors,

Much is being reported on the failures of the 2014 legislative session. For example, the Legislature did not pass a transportation package, there was no new education funding, and the Republican majority blocked the Legislature from passing a capital budget for the first time since 1996. However, there were some good things that came from our work.

Today, Gov. Jay Inslee signed two very important pieces of legislation that will have a tremendous impact for thousands of Washingtonians and I was proud to stand with him as they were both signed into law.

House Bill 1651 allows juvenile records to be sealed by the courts

For years in our state, access to juvenile records in our state prevented people from being able to get a job, rent an apartment, or get an education. This helped perpetuate and prolong a cycle of recidivism and poverty among those who have had a juvenile offense.

I am proud to say that with today’s bill signing, more than 6,000 to 7,000 non-violent juvenile offenders each year will be able to have their juvenile records sealed by a judge if the crime is non-violent and is not a most serious offense, a sex offense, or a felony drug offense.

This has been an issue that I and many in the juvenile justice community have worked on for years. Today, Washington state joins the ranks of 42 other states across the country that can seal juvenile records upon completion of the terms and conditions set by the court.

Homelessness housing funding source renewed for another four years

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Who knew that a $40 document filing fee would create such an upset? This minimal fee is essential to providing thousands of vulnerable homeless women, children, veterans, mentally ill and disabled Washingtonians with safe places to sleep at night. It was put in jeopardy during the session, when Sen. Jan Angel unceremoniously killed the bill that would have extended the fee. Fortunately, we were able to restore the fee through legislation in the final days of the session.

The extension of the document filing fee for another four years means that community and county programs that depend on the document filing fee to provide badly needed financial resources will have their grants in place come next year – the year the fee was set to decrease.

While I am relieved that we were able to come to a compromise solution to extend the document filing fee on real estate transactions, we need to seriously consider making the fee permanent as I proposed in the bill I sponsored. Our homeless families and children have enough to worry about without wondering where they will do their homework or sleep at night.

I continue to be concerned that issues that impact our low-income families break down into highly partisan discussions at the end of every session. I will always stand with the homeless.

I encourage you to keep in contact with me if you have any feedback, comments or concern as to how we can make our community, our district and our state a better place to live.

Take care,

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Legisaltive Update – Feb. 10, 2014

February 10th, 2014|

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Dear friends and neighbors,

It has been a busy few weeks in Olympia since I last sent you an update. You may be following what’s going on in the media, but I’d like to share what I’ve been doing for you and our community.

Town Hall Meeting – mark your calendars

Please join us, your 27th District lawmakers for a town hall meeting from 10 to noon on Saturday, Feb. 22 in the Jason Lee Middle School Cafeteria (602 S. Sprague, Tacoma, WA 98405; Pierce Transit bus route #1). Sign in begins at 9:30 a.m. if you wish to participate and ask a question or voice a comment or concern. We will give a brief update of what’s happening this session and be there to answer your questions. We hope to see you there.

War on middle class continues in the Senate

Brace yourself: the Senate Republican’s war on middle-class employees has restarted after a showdown on the Senate floor. The Republican “reform” proposed for our state’s structured settlement system opens the option for all employees injured on the job to accept one lump sum of money instead of a pension that would be paid out over time. This might sound like a good thing, however, young employees who are permanently injured and unable to be retrained in another career might accept cash settlements that don’t truly cover their actual needs, run out of money and end up in poverty. That’s bad for the injured workers’ households and bad for taxpayers, because taxpayers will eventually pay for the safety net services to care for those impoverished employees. Our workers deserve the surety to know that if they are injured on the job, their future is safe. Our working families have enough to worry about as it is; suffering a permanent injury without receiving enough benefits to make ends meet should not be one of them. I opposed this legislation.

Mental health legislation heard in committee

Depression; hoarding; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Bipolar; Schizophrenia — these are the labels and boxes in which society puts people with mental illness. As if those illnesses aren’t difficult enough to live with, society has added the bonuses of: stigma; isolation; fear; anxiety; sorrow; frustration; pain; and feelings of depression and shame.

Left untreated, these combinations manifest themselves in ways that undermine our society: illness; addiction; violence; unemployment; crime; incarceration; hunger; poverty; an inability to care for oneself or one’s family; and even suicide.

One in seven children in our state has a mental illness. Nearly 65 percent of youths in our juvenile justice system have a mental illness. Passing thoughtful mental health bills is the pathway to address how we serve the mentally ill and care for people with mental illness in our communities and in our state. When we stand up and do what is right, we have less hunger, crime and homelessness. Our communities are enriched, people will be safer and — most of all — people living with mental illness can thrive.

Washington State Community Action Partnership at work on the War on Poverty

 

MDC Award

This year is the 50th anniversary of the start of the War on Poverty. I was deeply honored to be recognized by the Washington State Community Action Partnership for my work to reduce poverty in Washington state. The event took place in Olympia on Feb. 4, and included a keynote speech by David Bradley, one of the original authors of bills first primed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. We should all be grateful for the work of MDC, our community action agency here in Tacoma. MDC stands for “Making a difference in communities,” and they do.

Medical marijuana and what’s ahead

While we’re working with everyone who has come to the table on the issue of medical marijuana, we can’t find a solution that keeps access to medical marijuana separate from the implementation of voter-approved Initiative 502.

Distributors and people who used and are familiar with the old medical marijuana system are concerned about the state’s pan to bring together the two systems. We will continue working, though so far I haven’t seen a way the two can be reconciled, and predict that medical marijuana users will become part of the larger group that will legally purchase marijuana in the future.

DREAM Act and veterans higher education bills passed in the Senate

For three years, young people in our communities who came to our country as kids, who have grown up in our schools and communities have fought to get the DREAM Act passed. The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act on the first day of the 2014 Legislative Session and the Senate unexpectedly followed suit nearly 20 days later. These Dreamers will now be eligible to apply to our State Need Grant program like the rest of their classmates. These students will not have to put their aspirations and goals on hold as they will have equal access to critical grants to help them achieve their higher educational goals. I was proud to support this bill and all our students who seek higher education.

The other bill I was proud to support was a bill that offers our military men, women and veterans the ability to qualify for in state tuition without a year-long wait for residency. This bill passed in the Senate unanimously and will go to the House for their consideration.

Constituents in Olympia

Over the past couple weeks I have been pleased to meet with many groups from our district. I’ve met with Hannah Fumiko Russ, a member of our district’s Legislative Youth Advisory Council, a number of architects from the district and I received a BIG thank you card from the students at Browns Point Elementary. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to come down and meet with me. Please visit the photo gallery on my website to find photos of some of my visitors in Olympia.

Continuing the commitment to clean-up

As part of my continuing commitment to address areas of our district that were contaminated lead from ASARCO, I’d like to share the latest information from the state Department of Ecology on their clean-up efforts.

The state Department of Ecology is taking over a piece of the Tacoma Asarco Superfund cleanup. The department will continue yard clean-up work started in the 1990s by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Residents of the Ruston/North Tacoma area will start hearing more from their local Dirt Alert Program. Ecology is renewing its efforts because arsenic and lead in neighborhood soils still pose a risk. You may enter your address in the interactive map to find out if you live in an affected area and what services are offered.

Take care,

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Week One Legislative Update – Jan. 15, 2014

January 17th, 2014|

Dear neighbor:

To all of you who joined in on the 2014 telephone town hall meeting last week, thank you! We had a peak attendance of over 1,200 people, and most of the time had over 300 people on the line. Although we were not able to answer all the questions, we hope that it was informative. The telephone town hall is one of the many options we utilize to communicate with you: Watch for an announcement of our annual in-person Town Hall meeting, usually held on a Saturday in February at a public location in the district, and constituent coffee hours during the interim. 

Pictured above L to R: Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Rep. Jake Fey answer questions during the telephone town hall.

This week kicks off the 2014 legislative session. Sessions in even-numbered years are shorter, just 60 days. Despite the shorter session, we will still have a number of contentious issues to grapple with in these coming weeks.

Unfinished business from 2013

This year, the Legislature will be considering two key pieces of legislation that failed to pass in the Senate last year.

The Washington State Dream Act would allow the children of illegal immigrants raised here in Washington to be eligible to apply on an equal basis for financial aid at Washington colleges and universities. These students have grown up here, paid taxes here and gone to school here, and now they want to access to be eligible for higher education so they can develop their skills and contribute to our economy and society.

The Dream Act has strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Last year, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House. In the Senate last year, Rodney Tom and the Republicans voted to block it from coming to the floor for a vote. We are hopeful that we’ll pass the bill in 2014.  This bill passed the House on the opening day of Session.  

The Reproductive Parity Act would protect a woman’s right to choose by making sure that her insurance covers pregnancy termination services. Making sure that women, and not their insurance companies, have the freedom to make their own medical decisions is a vital and fundamental safeguard for women. Like the Dream Act, the Reproductive Parity Act passed the House on a bipartisan vote last year but similarly got stuck in committee in the Senate. 

Work on transportation continues

One of the most contentious issues of the 2014 session will be whether or not to make new investments in transportation infrastructure. Our transportation system is in dire need of new investment to complete major important projects, maintain our roads and bridges, and support additional new infrastructure for transit and safe streets for pedestrians. A transportation package would create up to 85,000 much-needed jobs and make key improvements that would benefit our economy for decades to come. At the same time, we need to make sure that any package respects and reflects local priorities and needs. Here in Pierce County the completion of Highway 167 is critical.

Work will continue on this subject to see if we can come to agreement on a plan that works for Washington. The next step must be for Senate Republicans to produce and pass a plan that can then be reconciled with the package already passed by the House. I will keep you updated on new developments.

Supreme Court calls for more K-12 funding

Last week the Washington State Supreme Court held the Legislature to task for our lack of progress towards fully funding K-12 education under the Court’s McCleary decision. The Court told the Legislature that we must continue to increase funding for basic education and that we must outline a plan showing how we will implement it by 2018. The Court specifically mentioned the need to increase funding for books and supplies in our schools, as well as the need to pay a fair market wage to our educators so we can recruit and hire great teachers. Their message made it clear that full funding for our children’s education cannot continue to be delayed.

Meeting our McCleary obligation and fully funding education for our kids was a priority for us last session and it will be a priority again this year. We cannot ignore the court or the pressing need to reduce class sizes, hire more and better teachers, and increase our investment in our next generation.

AMTRAK in Freighthouse Square

I was very pleased to hear that the Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking additional community input on the redesign/demolishment of the westernmost 150 feet of Freighthouse Square. I wrote to Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson in early December to express my deep concern that the design proposed for the relocation of the Tacoma Amtrak station would destroy the face of a local icon. WSDOT has announced that two open houses and a workshop will be held in the next six weeks: dates are not final, but information will be available on www.wsdot.wa.gov.

 2013 Senate Democratic Caucus Leader of the Year

On Thursday, I was honored to receive the 2013 Senate Democratic Caucus Leader of the Year award from the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS). Each year, WACOPS honor members of each caucus who demonstrate the strongest support to the law enforcement community. This year’s honorees included: Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe; Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane; and Rep. David Hayes, R-Camano Island. To view a few pictures from the event, please visit my website.

My legislative priorities for 2014

As I have throughout the last 14 years, my energies will be focused on policy changes that address the issues of racial inequity and poverty, especially in state programs. I am particularly interested in the intersection between the juvenile justice system, the foster care system, teen homelessness, and the failure of the educational system to graduate students who are impacted by the other issues and will be working on several bills in this area. 

I hope that you will contact me about any legislation that interests or concerns you. Let me know if you will be in Olympia, and I will do my best to get you on the schedule. Or, please call and email me any time. My staff this year, Lisa Fisch, Legislative Assistant, Nancy Ryan, Session Aide, and Nessa Thomas, Legislative Policy Intern will do their best to answer any questions you might have.

Take care,

darneille

Telephone Town Hall, Jan. 9 at 6:15 p.m.

January 8th, 2014|

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Rep. Jake Fey and I will host a telephone town hall on Thursday, Jan. 9 from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. You will be able to talk with us in real time about the upcoming legislative session, and hear about the issues that matter most in our community.

Under the telephone town hall format, thousands of constituents will receive automatically generated telephone calls to their homes in the 27th Legislative District. Constituents may pose questions to me, Rep. Jinkins and Rep. Fey and may stay on the call to listen to the questions and concerns of your neighbors.

If you would like to participate in the telephone town hall you may dial 1-877-229-8493 and enter PIN code 18646.

I look forward to speaking with you tomorrow.

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