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    E-news – Mourning for our Black and brown neighbors – and ready to get to work

E-news – Mourning for our Black and brown neighbors – and ready to get to work

June 5th, 2020|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Today my colleagues and I in the Senate Democratic Caucus released a statement voicing our heartfelt grief over the killings of so many of our Black brothers and sisters, as well as our condemnation of police brutality and our commitment to using our legislative power to make real, lasting policy changes.

I want to add my strong support of today’s statement, and add my voice to the chorus of community leaders saying: Black Lives Matter. I will continue using my seat at the policymaking table to elevate the priorities of all of our neighbors, and especially to advocate for adding the voices of folks who have been historically marginalized and unheard.

How else can I stand in solidarity with you? What overdue policy changes can I fight for with you? What priorities can I elevate at the Legislature? Please don’t hesitate to email me or call me – I am always available to hear from you and chat with you!

In gratitude and solidarity,

Mona

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.

E-news – Higher Callings Through Higher Education

December 17th, 2019|

Das Header

Dear friends and neighbors,

Something I’ve learned from conversations with members of my community – whether I’m in Auburn, Kent, Covington, or Renton – is that our cities and our state has so many brilliant, vibrant people in it who want to go to college or continue college but face barriers when trying to do so.

Last session, the legislature invested heavily in higher education to give Washingtonians greater access to degrees and credentials vital to obtaining family-wage paying jobs, and to help meet employers’ increasing needs for an educated and skilled workforce, particularly in high-demand fields. We also increased foundational support for four-year institutions, effectively doubling it for the state’s 34 career and technical colleges, and expanded efforts to support students and keep them on track as they pursue those degrees and credentials.

In this newsletter, I want to share with you what the legislature did through the Higher Education and Workforce Development committee last session to make post-secondary education opportunities more accessible.

In gratitude,

Mona

higher ed 1

Funding for Higher Education and Workforce Development

A postsecondary credential is essential to obtaining a good job. Meeting the increasing demand for credentialed workers is vital to the health of the state’s economy.
HB 2158, better known as The Workforce Education Investment Act, boosts funding for higher education and workforce development above levels slashed in the Great Recession, and will clear the current backlog in funding for State-Need-Grant-eligible students. Per student, the College Grant Program is the most ample need-based aid program in the country.

  • HB 2158, the Workforce Education Investment Act, invests another $375 million, focusing on high-demand fields, and increases foundational support at all public institutions. It replaces the State Need Grant with the Washington College Grant Program, a statewide, guaranteed free college program serving up to 110,000 lower-income students.
  • It also funds an advisory work group and related grant program to help local entities implement Career Connected Learning, connecting young people to high-quality, family-wage jobs. And lastly, it creates a pilot program to refinance student loan debt on better terms for borrowers, gives students greater access to child care benefits, expands a tuition waiver for veterans, National Guard members and gold star families, and allows local governments and Indian tribes to seek state matching funds for students under the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.
  • It does all this thanks to a small increase in the B&O tax rate, from 1.5% to 1.8%, for some 40 services. Businesses providing select advanced computing services with worldwide revenue of $25-$100 billion will pay 2%; those with more than $100 billion in revenue will pay 3%.

At the legislature, we believe that Career Connected Learning increases awareness of career options and allows students to pursue success through multiple avenues, including apprenticeship programs and technical training programs. We also know that student loan debt represents a growing burden on individuals – affecting the ability to save for retirement, purchase a home and start a family – and on the state’s economy.

It is reasonable to ask businesses to pitch in to help educate and train Washington residents to be able to meet workforce needs, especially in high-demand fields. Supporting students improves their chances of success and the likelihood that financial aid is not wasted.

behav health

Expanding Behavioral Health Higher Education Opportunities

We are experiencing a troubling two-trend situation nationwide — the demand for mental health and substance abuse counselors is increasing dramatically. One in five people struggle with mental health issues, but the number of providers is barely holding steady. The Legislature reviewed data showing that the state will come up 250,000 people short in this profession in the next few years.

One of the recommended ways to incentive interest in this profession is by providing affordable education. By expanding the scholarship from 45 to 90 credits for programs that lead to a credential required for a career as a mental health professional, we can increase enrollment and incentivize schools to have those programs approved as an Opportunity Grant Program.

SB 5635 (HB 1850) extends the Opportunity Grant Scholarship from 45 to 90 credits for students pursuing a certificate or degree required for employment in a behavioral health profession.

testing students

Religious Accommodations

SB 5166 requires post-secondary institutions to accommodate students whose sincerely held religious beliefs impact exam performance or successful program completion.

Six years ago, the Legislature identified a need for accommodations for people to observe holidays important to their faith communities without interrupting schoolwork. A bill passed which allowed an accommodation of at least two days an academic year. This year, we expanded the scope of that bill by removing the arbitrary, two-day accommodation limit.

For example, students fast during Ramadan, and it affects their ability to take tests and give schoolwork their full attention. The bill allows those students to perform 100 percent when they are testing and ensures respect for these community members on campus.

This bill creates a uniform guideline for all institutions. These students always have to ask for accommodations, but there is no uniformity amongst the institutions. This bill changes that.

July 16, 2019

Contact Us

Olympia Office:

(360) 786-7692

Kent Office:

(253) 395-0867

Email:

Mona.Das@leg.wa.gov

Mailing Address:

Sen. Mona Das
PO Box 40447
Olympia, WA 98504-0403

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Go to

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to get frequent updates about the work I’m doing for Washington.

My Committees

Housing Stability & Affordability
(vice chair)

Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade

Environment, Energy & Technology

Transportation

E-Newsletter: What we accomplished in 2019!

May 1st, 2019|

The bill signing for HB 1543, a recycling bill I worked on with Rep. Jared Mead.

Hello everyone,

I’m so proud to have wrapped up a successful, progressive 2019 Legislative Session! This was my first year serving as the senator for the 47th District, and I could not be more proud of the progress we made this year.

We made amazing progress this year for equity, the environment and more. We ended on time, which is significant because the last time the Legislature ended on time during a budget year was 2009.

I had a lot of success this year with my legislation, including bills to help alleviate homelessness, improve the environment and consumer protections.

In this newsletter, I’ll tell you about these wins from the incredibly successful 2019 legislative session.

In gratitude,

Mona

My bills that passed in 2019

  • SB 5025: Washington is facing a homelessness crisis. This bill helps self-help housing organizations (for example, Habitat for Humanity) house folks efficiently by exempting them from real estate excise taxes taxes. With the creation of the Housing Stability & Affordability Committee this session, the Senate is working hard to find solutions to our statewide homelessness crisis. This is just one of the ways we can help.
  • HB 1543/SB 5545: We’ve all read the headlines about China no longer taking many of our recyclable materials. Rep. Jared Mead, the state Department of Ecology and I worked hard on a bill to help solve that problem bring Washington state to the forefront of recycling policy. 
  • SR 8639: In the United States, about 500,000 people identify as Sikh. About 20,000 of those people live in the greater Seattle area. Our Sikh neighbors haven’t always been treated fairly in Washington state, so I introduced a resolution to honor this community’s achievements, and the benefits they bring to Washington state and our nation.
  • SB 5124: This bill protect consumers from inflated home values by increasing transparency in Washington’s appraisal management companies, and ensuring that the state’s appraisal management program remains in compliance with federal regulations.
  • SB 5106: This bill will help make Washington a safer, more resilient place by creating a work group to study disaster mitigation and resiliency activities. Washington is prone to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, wildfires, etc. We must take these events seriously and come up with strategies to recover should they occur.
  • SB 5107: This bill clarifies the definition of trust business to accommodate new business practices. Our goal was to make sure that financial service businesses can innovate and operate in Washington, while making sure consumers are protected.
  • SB 5503: Washington has many rural areas that depend on on-site sewage systems (otherwise known as septic systems). For those areas, residents’ health and safety depends on those systems being properly inspected and maintained. A healthy environment depends on that maintenance, too. This bill helps establish best practices for septic system maintenance and inspection.
We hosted Washington’s Sikh community at the Capitol when we passed our Sikh resolution.

Budget Wins

  • Warehousing and Manufacturing: A proviso in the 2019-20 operating budget will help the areas of Washington that were negatively impacted by end of the streamlined sales tax mitigation program. Kent was one of the areas hardest hit by this change. The Legislature allocated $16.4 million over the next two years to mitigate sales tax losses.
  • Seattle Education Access: The budget allocates $500,000 over two years for Seattle Education Access, which provides assistance to students who face profound barriers — such as homelessness. This program doesn’t just serve Seattle and King County. Its impacts stretch into Snohomish and Pierce counties, too. Fittingly, the name of this program will change to Northwest Education Access.
  • Deterring street racing: Many of you know that Kent has a significant problem with street racing. Thanks to the transportation budget, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission will oversee a pilot project implementing noise enforcement cameras in areas that have been designated by ordinance as “stay out of areas of racing.”
  • Washington Main Street Program: This program has been helping downtown communities revitalize their appearance and economy since 1984. New funding ($120,000) in the operating budget will allow the program to add a new full-time staff member. This budget proviso is supported by the Kent Downtown Partnership.
  • 2020 census: The operating budget allocates $15 million to help the state prep for the 2020 census. The goal of this funding is to help the census reach populations that are traditionally hard to count through outreach, use of multiple languages, etc. This proviso is supported by the Senate’s Members of Color Caucus.
  • 224th Street Project: The transportation budget includes $1.5 million for phase two of improvements to 224th
47th District. Soos Creek Hatchery. Auburn, WA.

Capital Budget

The two-year capital budget makes great investments in the 47th District, and the rest of Washington state. Here are the investments for our district:

  • Aquatic and Recreation Center: $1.05 million
  • Auburn Arts & Culture Center: $500,000
  • Health Point Behavioral Health Expansion: $1.03 million
  • Mixed Use Psychiatric Care Facility (Auburn): $20 million
  • Green River Park property development: $500,000
  • Service Club Park drainage: $350,000
  • Soos Creek Hatchery: $1.17 million

E-Newsletter: Less than 25 days to go!

April 5th, 2019|

Hello everyone,

I can’t believe we’re already 82 days into the 2019 Legislative Session — and that we only have 23 days left!

The next few weeks will be busy. Both the House and the Senate will spend a lot of time on the floor passing bills, and we’ll be finalizing our transportation, capital and operating budgets.

I’m pleased to say that many of my bills — including the plastic bag ban and the self-help housing bill — are still working their way through the process.

In this newsletter, I’ll tell you about some of the other things we’ve been up to.

In gratitude,

Mona

We met so many amazing members of our community at the town hall meeting!

Town Hall

As many of you already know, members of the 47th Legislative District delegation hosted a town hall meeting on March 23. We enjoyed meeting so many engaged constituents.

A lot of you had questions about transportation, homelessness, health care and behavioral health. I can assure you that I’m doing my best to ensure that our community’s needs are met through our budgets and the bills we pass of the Senate floor.

Thank you to everyone who attended. And to those who couldn’t make it, I look forward to meeting you next time!

Washington Environmental Council

I had the great honor of speaking at the Washington Environmental Council gala last weekend — an event attended by more than 500 people.

It warmed my heart to meet so many people who are invested in preserving and protecting Washington’s environment. The success we’ve had so far this year with environmental legislation is the result of advocacy and partnerships.

If you’re passionate about the environment, as I am, I urge you to get out and participate! You never know who you might inspire.

LEAP Students

Last week, I met with some of my most inspiring visitors of the 2019 Legislative Session: representatives from LEAP.

LEAP is a program by SeaMar Community Health Centers, designed to promote civic engagement, community involvement, advocacy and educational opportunities for youth. Their one-year leadership program prepares young people to be agents of change.

On March 29, more than 40 students representing four high schools (Kentlake, Kent-Meridian, Kentwood and Kent Phoenix Academy) visited the Capitol Campus. I’m so proud to have such bright young people in my district!

To watch the full work session, click on the image above.

Homelessness, Substance Abuse Disorder and Behavioral Health

This session, I’m serving as the vice chair of the Senate Housing Stability & Affordability Committee with the goal of helping Washington state end our homelessness crisis.

Last week, my committee and the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee held a joint work session exploring the connection between homelessness, substance abuse disorders, and behavioral health. We also discussed efforts state and local governments are making to alleviate homelessness.

We heard a lot of compelling testimony from six knowledgeable speakers. I urge you to listen for yourself by clicking on the image above.

Which Bills are Still Alive?

I have several bills that are still making their way through the Legislature. Here’s a list of the bills I’m still working on:

E-Newsletter: Less than 40 days to go!

March 20th, 2019|

This photo of Sen. Lisa Wellman (left), Sen. Patty Kuderer and myself was taken during one of our long days passing bills on the Senate floor.

Hello everyone,

We’ve officially passed the halfway mark in the 2019 Legislative Session! I’m happy to report many of my bills are still “alive” and working their way through the Legislative process.

Senate bills had to be passed by the Senate by March 13 in order for them to still be considered. Now, the bills we passed will go to the state House of Representatives for their consideration, and we will be considering House bills for the next few weeks.

In this newsletter, I’ll explain some of the important bills that are still working their way through the process.

And, we’re having a town hall! I’d love to meet you all and tell you what I’m working on. Scroll down to the bottom of this email for more information.

In gratitude,

Mona

Fifth grade students from Glenwood Elementary in Lake Stevens showed their support for SB 5323 by sending my office a series of essays and artwork. Click on the image above to see the full slideshow of the artwork

Plastic Bag Ban

Senate Bill 5323, sponsored by me, would implement a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, and create guidelines for paper and reusable bags. You can learn more about the bill on my website.

The bill passed out of the Senate on March 5 with a 31-14 vote. The House Committee on Environment & Energy heard the bill on Monday. You can track the bill’s progress here.

Self-Help Housing

The Senate passed Senate Bill 5025, another one of my bills, on March 11 with a 46-2 vote. This bill would assist self-help housing organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, by exempting them from the real estate excise tax. You can learn more about the bill on my website.

The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee, but hasn’t yet been scheduled for a hearing. You can track this bill’s progress here.

Sen. Marko Liias and I explained SB 5774, which would provide student debt relief, in a video. Click on the image above to watch it!

Senate Bill 5774, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, would provide some relief for people who currently have student loans, enact consumer protections and explore new ways of helping people pay for college.

It passed off the Senate floor with a 40-8 vote on March 6, and is scheduled for a hearing in the House College & Workforce Development Committee on March 20. You can learn more about the bill and track its progress here.

Clean Energy Act

Senate Bill 5116, sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle, would commit the state to 100 percent clean energy from renewable and zero-emission sources. You can read more about the bill here.

I’m a proud cosponsor of this bill, which passed out of the Senate with a 28-19 vote on March 1. It had a public hearing in the House Environment & Energy Committee on March 5, and is scheduled for executive session on March 19. You can track the bill’s progress here.

Other Issues

Education

This session, we’re continuing our work to improve our K-12 education system. The House and Senate are considering several school safety bills, increasing funding for special education, increasing support for homeless students and more.

Health Care

Access to affordable health care is one of the biggest issues facing Washingtonians — and we’re taking it seriously. So far, we’ve passed bills to increase transparency, create a public option on the state’s Health Benefit Exchanges, and explore the possibility of a statewide single-payer health care system.

Environment

I mentioned some bills above that would help our environment — but the Legislature is doing more than that. We’re addressing plastics pollution in a variety of ways, and taking steps to save our Southern Resident Orca population. We’ve also passed bills that would improve the health of our communities by limiting exposure to pesticides and other toxins.

Transportation

This is a very important issue in the 47th District, and throughout Washington state. We started some important conversations this year about the improvements we want to make to our infrastructure — and how we want to pay for these projects. I serve on the Senate Transportation Committee, and I’m excited to keep participating in these conversations and looking for the best solutions for our state.

E-Newsletter: Bills on the move!

February 22nd, 2019|

This week, I met with leaders from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. From left: Councilman Louie Ungaro, Chairwoman Virginia Cross and former Senator Claudia Kauffman.

Hello everyone,

We just wrapped up week six of the 2019 Legislative Session. I’ve introduced several bills this year that I hope improve the lives of Washingtonians.

But, as we work our way through the process, some bills “die.” Simply put, we get to a point in session where they can no longer be considered because of the Senate’s rules.

In this newsletter, I’ll update you on which bills are still “alive” and which bills could use a little bit of help.

To see a full list of the bills I’ve introduced this year, and to check on their status, visit this website.

Thank you and stay in touch!

Mona

Environmental Priorities Coalition Lobby Day Rally, January 29th, 2019.

Plastic Bags

I’m happy to announce that Senate Bill 5323, which would limit the use of plastic bags in Washington state, is still alive. It’s awaiting executive session in the Ways & Means Committee, and I’m hopeful that it will reach the Senate floor sometime soon.

If this issue is important to you, please contact members of the Ways & Means committee and urge their support.

It’s imperative that we protect our environment, and this bill is a great step toward doing that.

You can read more about the bill here.

Self Help Housing Development

Many of you have heard of programs like Habitat for Humanity, which help people build homes of their own.

Senate Bill 5025, which I sponsor, would provide sales, use and excise tax exemptions for these wonderful programs that help people get back on their feet. We have a housing crisis in Washington state, and we must support programs that help our neighbors achieve housing stability.

This bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on March 1. If this issue is important to you, please contact members of this committee and urge their support.

Warehousing & Manufacturing 

This bill was designed to help areas of Washington negatively impacted by the end of the streamlined sales tax mitigation program — particularly Kent.

Ending the program about $20 million. Kent was one of the areas hardest hit by this policy.

Senate Bill 5862 would create a new account to support Warehousing and Manufacturing Job Centers – the cities eligible to receive funding under that account are those cities that received more than $50,000 in streamlined sales tax mitigation in 2018. You can read more about the bill here.

This bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on March 1. If job creation in the 47th District is important to you, please contact members of this committee and urge their support.

Funding Necessary Legal Services for Children

I’m working with the state Attorney General’s Office on a bill (Senate Bill 5942) that would ensure that we’re appropriately budgeting for the Assistant Attorneys General (AAGs) who help children navigate a complex legal system.

Because of the opioid epidemic, the caseloads for these AAGs have increased drastically in recent years. We need to ensure that this program is adequately funded.

This bill has already passed out of the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee, and heads next to the Senate Ways & Means Committee.  If this issue is important to you, please contact members of this committee and urge their support.

E-Newsletter: What I’m doing as Sen. Mona Das

February 7th, 2019|

Senate opening day swearing in ceremonies, Jan. 14, 2018.

Hello everyone,

The first few weeks of session have just flown by! My first bill has already passed the Senate, and I’m really hoping that more will follow soon.

I want to use these newsletters to keep you all informed of the work I’m doing for the 47th District and Washington state.

Thank you for putting your faith in me as your lawmaker, and I hope to do you all proud.

Thank you and stay in touch!

Mona

Sen. Mona Das and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon with the “Bag Monster.”

Plastic Bags

This session, one of my priority bills is Senate Bill 5323, which would limit the use of plastic bags in Washington state.

Retailers wouldn’t be able to provide single-use plastic bags — although they would be allowed to provide paper or plastic bags made from recycled content for 10 cents each.

It’s clear to me that if we are going to improve our environment and protect all of the creatures that call it home (even humans) we must decrease our dependence on single use plastics.

You can read more about the bill here.

This bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon.

If you care about this issue, please contact our state lawmakers to let them know!

My first floor speech

I delivered my first floor speech last week, on Jan. 31. You can find a video of my speech on Facebook.

It is tradition for new senators to give a personal speech after their first bill passes out of the Senate. It’s also tradition for new senators to give their colleagues gifts. My gift was Indian sweets from India Village in Kent.

My first bill would provide more oversight to appraisal management companies — which act as a buffer between lenders and appraisers, decreasing the likelihood that mortgages will be issued based on inflated appraisals. You can read more about the bill here.

Other priority bills

Senate Bill 5025:

This bill would create sales and use excise tax exemptions for self help housing development — programs such as Habitat for Humanity. You can watch some compelling testimony on this bill here.

Senate Bill 5545:

This bill would create the Recycling Development Center and allow the state Department of Ecology to facilitate more research, development and marketing for processing recycled commodities and products. Local entities would also be able to develop contamination reduction and outreach plans for recycling programs. You can read more about the bill here.

Senate Bill 5862:

This bill would create a new account to support Warehousing and Manufacturing Job Centers – the cities eligible to receive funding under that account are those cities that received more than $50,000 in streamlined sales tax mitigation in 2018. You can read more about the bill here. Remember, if these issues are important to you, contact our state lawmakers! Your voices are important.