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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|

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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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Sen. Jeannie Darneille Legislative Update – March 15, 2013

March 15th, 2013|

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

On Wednesday, we reached the halfway mark of this Legislative session.

Good bills die as Legislative cutoff passesfloor
I am disappointed at the number of great policies and bills that didn’t get past the cutoff. As a Democratic caucus, we tried to open up dialogue and create reasonable policies around gun safety, mental health and protecting vulnerable families – however, the Republican majority disagreed. I will continue to advocate for women, children and the vulnerable as we move forward with the budget and move to the second half of the session.

Town Hall Meeting tomorrow!
I encourage you to visit your 27th District delegation at a town hall meeting tomorrow, Saturday, March 16, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Jason Lee Middle School Cafeteria.

We’re eager to hear your questions, comments and suggestions so that we may continue to serve you, help our state recover and emerge better and stronger. If you intend to speak, please arrive early to sign in. Sign-in and information booths open at 9:30 a.m.

We are pleased to be hosting Walgreens Mobile Health—a service provided to community events with health screenings and information. We will also have a representative from Pierce County Aging and Disability Resource Services to provide information at the town hall.

Tacoma Smelter Plume Yard Sampling & Cleanup Program
Public Comment Period begins March 14 – April 29, 2013

The Washington State Department of Ecology’s “Yard Program” will begin sampling and cleaning up  residential yards in some of the most contaminated areas of the Tacoma Smelter Plume — Ruston, west Tacoma and southern Vashon-Maury Island.

For more information to see if your yard may participate in the program, please visit the Tacoma Smelter plume website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites_brochure/tacoma_smelter/2011/ts-hp.htm. There you will find separate fact sheets for the different regions the program serves, and a Frequently Asked Questions sheet.If you have comments or questions, please contact Amy Hargrove at Amy.Hargrove@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6262.

Comment period information and program service area map:http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites_brochure/tacoma_smelter/2013/yard-Sampling.html

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at our town hall meeting. If you are unable to make it, please continue to contact my office either by phone 360-786-7652 or email me at Jeannie.Darneille@leg.wa.gov with any questions or concerns you may have. I look forward to hearing from you.

Take care,

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Sen. Jeannie Darneille