News

  • Permalink Gallery

    Comprehensive Sexual Health Education bill passes in the Senate

Comprehensive Sexual Health Education bill passes in the Senate

January 23rd, 2020|

From the Washington State Wire

While not everyone supported the effort to require schools to teach sex ed, those who voted for the bill said the effort to educate children about personal space, physical safety, and violent behavior would decrease sexual and domestic violence.

“The way we do that is that we teach our children about consent, healthy relationships and how to actually live in a world where we don’t have violence,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-45th District). “It really helps each of our children to have these tough conversations in relationships and how to really understand our bodies. Our bodies are not taboo.”

The bill, among other provisions, requires public schools to teach comprehensive sexual health education that is scientifically accurate. The curriculum adopted by each school district must also be inclusive of diverse students, include instruction about abstinence and forms of contraception, encourage healthy relationships, how to respond to sexual violence, and teach affirmative consent.

Opponents of the bill said it should be up to community leaders to decide if that school district teaches sex ed and develop its own curriculum. Sen. Mike Padden (R-4th District) said he wanted the decision to be left to school district officials.

“Let’s just say I trust our superintendents and local school boards to develop the proper curriculum, and they’re doing that,” Padden said during debate on the Senate floor on Wednesday. “I would note that the number of abortions and pregnancies are down in our state, so some of the things we’re doing and what local school districts are doing now seem to be working along with, of course, the implements of parents.”

Padden feared some parents would pull their children out of public schools entirely rather than let their kids attend a school in which sex education is taught.

“A lot of people will leave the public school system rather than have these sort of values, which go against, in some occasions, deeply-held beliefs and morals,” Padden said. “And they’re going to say it’s not worth it. The future of my child is too important to have them harmed by this.”

The new regulations, if signed into law, would be phased in on a timeline. Sex ed that follows the new law would be required for grades 6  through 12 by Sept. 1, 2020. That rollout will have an additional year for students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade. All schools must comply with the new law by Sept. 1, 2021.

The bill also stipulates that parents can still opt their children out of all or parts of the school district’s sex ed program by filing a written request stating as much with the school principal or the school board. Such requests must be granted by the school district.

This bill, Dhingra added, would provide the state with an early intervention tool that would mitigate the need to utilize crisis response resources later.

“I’d love for domestic violence to not be in our state,” Dhingra said. “We do that by making sure we are teaching our children about healthy relationships.”

By Madeline Shannon

Washington State Senate Tackles List of Gun Bills

January 22nd, 2020|

SEATTLE (AP) — A grieving mother, a frightened student, prosecutors and law enforcement officers told a Senate panel that setting certain limits on firearms will save lives, while a home-invasion victim, gun store owners and a tribal chairman argued that changing firearms laws will prevent vulnerable people from protecting themselves.

After two days of public hearings on a list of firearms bill, the Senate Law and Justice Committee is expected to debate the measures on Thursday and possibly vote them on to the next panel.

The measure that drew the most comment seeks to limit firearm magazines to 10 rounds.

“High-capacity magazines enable those with evil intent to maximize carnage,” said Sen. Patty Kuderer, sponsor of Senate Bill 6077. Limiting the size of the magazine allows first responders to intervene and save lives, Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said during Monday’s hearing.

Nine other states have pass laws to limit magazine capacity, she said.

Keely Hopkins, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, said people relay on firearms for their personal protection. Others testified that taking the larger magazines from law-abiding citizens makes them vulnerable to bad guys who don’t care about the law.

Ami Strahan told lawmakers that she never got to say good-bye to her 15-year-old son Sam before he was fatally shot by a student at Freeman High School outside Spokane, Washington, in 2017.

The shooter came to school with more than 400 rounds and planned to unload them in a busy hallway, she said. The only thing that saved the other students that day was the shooter’s gun jammed, she said.

“I am here because I am a grieving mother,” she said, speaking in favor of banning high-capacity magazines. “I lost part of my soul and I am still struggling to recover.”

Adam Cornell, a Snohomish County prosecutor said July 30, 2016, was the worst day of his life. It was the day he was called to a mass shooting at a house party in Mukilteo.

“I saw what an AR-15 with a high-capacity magazine can do,” he said, adding: “maximum harm.”

Lawmakers on Monday also heard testimony on bills that would require firearm safety training for people applying for concealed carry permits.

On Tuesday, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, introduced a bill that would prohibit people charged with felony driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from possessing firearms. Senate Bill 6163 would also apply to people charged with vehicular homicide or vehicular assault.

The bill would ensure that these offenders would not have access to a gun while going through the pretrial process and potentially prevent suicides, she said.

Amy Freedheim, a King County prosecutor, said she recently had two defendant who were awaiting trial and sentencing who shot and killed themselves.

Nearly 33 percent of those charged with alcohol offenses are at risk of violent firearm acts, she said. Passage of the bill would give judges the discretion to prohibit access to firearms as a condition of release from jail, she said.

An NRA spokesman said they support felons losing their firearms rights when convicted, but taking guns away from a person before they’ve been convicted creates due-process concerns, he said.

Another bill before the panel would create the Washington office of firearm violence prevention. Dhingra said the measure “is about understanding where violence occurs in communities” and would secure grant funds for violence prevention.

“It’s a shift from crisis response to an early intervention and prevention model,” she said.

By MARTHA BELLISLE
  • Permalink Gallery

    I-976, affordable housing, other issues discussed at legislative breakfast event

I-976, affordable housing, other issues discussed at legislative breakfast event

January 22nd, 2020|

From the Redmond Reporter

The East King Chambers Coalition held its annual legislative breakfast on Jan. 8 at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue in anticipation of the legislative “short session,” which began on Jan. 13.

The event, emceed by Q13 anchor and correspondent Brandi Kruse, included a keynote address from state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and continued with two panel discussions.

The coalition comprises several Eastside business leaders. Eleven (11) chambers of commerce make up the group, including the Bellevue, Bothell-Kenmore, Kirkland, Snoqualmie Valley and Redmond (OneRedmond) chambers.

The yearly event is timed to commemorate the start of a new political year, and, in this instance, what will be up for discussion at the short legislative session.

Ferguson’s address

In his speech, Ferguson touched on homelessness, the opioid crisis, the importance of nonpartisanship and President Donald Trump.

Ferguson said during his speech that although many people might think of the attorney general in relation to the more than 50 lawsuits filed against the current president, that’s only one aspect of his output.

At one point in his speech, Ferguson spoke at length about the opioid crisis (and the way it intersects with the homelessness crisis) and how it has become a major topic of concern in his office.

“We have filed numerous lawsuits against the entities that we think have helped fuel the opioid epidemic,” he said, adding that one of the primary goals of the litigation is to hold those in power accountable.

In speaking about federally targeted litigation, Ferguson said lawsuits are filed when it’s clear that the state will be affected.

“It doesn’t matter the political party,” Ferguson said, adding, “In all 53 lawsuits we have filed against the Trump administration, they all have a critical nexus for Washington state.”

First panel discussion

After Ferguson’s keynote speech, a panel — encompassed by Sens. Bob Hasegawa (11th District) and Mark Mullet (5th District) and Reps. Larry Springer (45th District), Shelley Kloba (1st District), Vandana Slatter (48th District), Bill Ramos (5th District), Amy Walen (48th District) and Davina Duerr (1st District) — congregated on stage to talk about business, infrastructure and budget.

Mullet was the first to speak. He said he thinks that during the session, legislators are going to have to put a “pause button” on affected transportation projects that were underway beforehand.

“I think in 2021 — the larger session — we’ll have to come up with a more comprehensive plan,” he said. “We need to find ways to find money to finish the projects that we need to get moving on. Our job just became twice as hard after that vote.”

Kruse subsequently brought up the recent recommendation by the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) to replace the currently-in-place gas tax over time with a pay-per-mile tax.

“I think we’re probably years down the road,” Springer said. “I don’t think this is a system that you can drop into place overnight or in a single legislative session… I can envision a highway transportation funding system that includes both the gas tax and vehicle miles driven and then adjust each of those… It’s going to take a while to figure this out.”

Next, Kruse focused on the business climate, and whether it’s getting more difficult for small to midsize businesses to succeed.

Walen, who owns a car-dealership business — with one location in Seattle and one in Kirkland — spoke of concerns she has as a business owner.

“I am proud of our businesses in Washington state,” Walen said. “I am proud of Amazon. I am proud of Starbucks. I am proud of Boeing. I am proud of companies that have been successful around the world. But our culture is pretty critical and pretty harsh on businesses. And I hope that our legislation will come together to work to support not just the big businesses, but yes, the small ones.”

Kruse then mentioned the new iteration of a proposed head tax as pushed for by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Swanat, and if panelists would support it if enacted. Many of those who spoke voiced their reservations.

Second panel discussion

Following the first panel discussion, a second one, made up of Sens. Manka Dhingra (45th District) and Patty Kuderer (48th District) and Reps. Roger Goodman (45th District), Tana Senn (41st District), Lisa Callan (5th District), My-Linh Thai (41st District) and Debra Entenman (47th District), gathered to talk about human services, housing and the workforce.

Rent control policies drove the first part of the conversation. Kruse turned her attention to Kuderer. In the past, Kuderer has stated that she wanted to see the outcomes of rent-control policies recently enacted in Oregon and California, for example, before potentially implementing them in Washington.

“Before Washington goes down any path… we need to have more evidence, because the last thing we want to do is disincentivize and lose inventory,” Kurderer said. “We don’t want to do that. We’re in a housing shortage right now.”

On increasing costs of living, and how workers progressively have to move farther away from where they work, Dhingra stressed the importance of nuance when discussing affordability.

She noted that, in cities like Redmond, for instance, even with a $100,000 salary it can be challenging to find affordable housing.

Entenman, who lives in Kent, invoked personal experience, and how the gains made by the inclusion of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft in pivotal Washington cities are not benefiting everyone.

“We need to understand that a community needs all different kinds of people,” she said, adding, “We need a number of reforms, and it needs to be looked at holistically.”

Kruse next brought up the possibilities of universal preschool and how to better support residents “from cradle to career,” on which several panelists weighed in.

“The idea — rather than say universal preschool — is to continually increase access to high-quality preschool,” Goodman said.

On mental-health crisis support, Dhingra, who helped create the behavioral health sub-committee at the last legislative session and who is its chair, underlined the positives of early intervention.

“I think a regional approach to this solution is important,” Entenman, replying to the first inquiry, said. “I’m not sure that Seattle is the best example of that… It seems that we have not built any permanent homes for folks… I don’t think that is a positive example, to build really pretty shacks without toilets or running water and say that is a solution.”

Regarding the second question, Thai voiced her dismay at Trump’s use of the term “politeness.”

“As somebody who is a refugee elected to serve in the Washington state legislature, I have issue with that word ‘politeness,’” she said. “Because we, the immigrants… we have always been polite, and where does politeness take us to? …If the president of the United States believes that he’s serving every single citizen, it’s not about being politely asked. It’s about the president asking his citizens, ‘What can I do to serve you?’”

Attorney general Bob Ferguson gave a speech at the event. Blake Peterson/staff photoAttorney general Bob Ferguson gave a speech at the event. Blake Peterson/staff photo

From left to right: Bob Hasegawa, Shelley Kloba, Larry Springer, Amy Walen, Mark Mullet, Vandana Slatter, Bill Ramos and Davina Duerr at the event. Blake Peterson/staff photoFrom left to right: Bob Hasegawa, Shelley Kloba, Larry Springer, Amy Walen, Mark Mullet, Vandana Slatter, Bill Ramos and Davina Duerr at the event. Blake Peterson/staff photo

The coalition comprises several Eastside business leaders. Eleven chambers of commerce make up the group, including the Bellevue, Bothell-Kenmore, Kirkland, Snoqualmie Valley and Redmond (OneRedmond) Chambers of Commerce. Blake Peterson/staff photoThe coalition comprises several Eastside business leaders. Eleven chambers of commerce make up the group, including the Bellevue, Bothell-Kenmore, Kirkland, Snoqualmie Valley and Redmond (OneRedmond) Chambers of Commerce. Blake Peterson/staff photo

By Blake Peterson

  • Permalink Gallery

    This group handed out 1,900 feminine hygiene ‘care bags’ to Tacoma girls last year

This group handed out 1,900 feminine hygiene ‘care bags’ to Tacoma girls last year

January 14th, 2020|

From The News Tribune

“I was in the middle of a class … what is happening to me?,” Winesberry recalled. “Absolutely no supplies whatsoever to take care of myself … It was so devastating.”

The experience drove Winesberry, now 65, to volunteer for Raising Girls, a Tacoma nonprofit that aims to overcome the costs and stigma of menstruation for school-aged girls.

“There are many girls who are missing classes because they don’t have access to hygiene products,” said Sharon Chambers-Gordon, the founder and CEO of Raising Girls.
Schools in Washington typically do not provide menstrual pads and tampons, said Chambers-Gordon. In California and a handful of other states, the law requires schools to stock bathrooms with menstrual products.

The 57-year-old Jamaica-raised woman said she’s had a life-long streak of giving back to her community, instilled by her mother. Although she was aware of “period poverty,” as it’s sometimes called, she didn’t realize the magnitude of need in the Tacoma area until her then middle school-aged daughter related stories from her schoolmates.

Raising Girls centers itself around the distribution of large tote bags that contain menstruation products, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, tooth brush, wash rags, deodorant, a small carrying bag and a handwritten note of encouragement.

Each bag contains about two months of supplies, Chambers-Gordon said.

The need for the bags is great, she said. 2018 census data identified 7,500 girls in the South Sound who live in low-income households in Pierce County.

Low-income families will put rent, food, medicine and other necessities ahead of hygiene products if money is tight, Chambers-Gordon said. Food stamps do not cover such products.

“If you are working minimum wage, maybe even two or three jobs, it doesn’t give you enough to pay your basic rent, have transportation to go to work and buy hygiene products,” she said.

When a girl is having her period but can’t afford tampons or pads, she’s likely to just stay home, at least one study has shown.

“A school nurse may have a pad or two but when (the girls) go home they don’t have access to that,” Chambers-Gordon said.

In addition to a degraded education, a girl’s social connections can suffer when she’s in self-imposed isolation.

Middle school and high school girls can get the care bags at six middle schools and five high schools in the Tacoma Public Schools system. All were identified as having high needs, Chambers-Gordon said.

Raising Girls also delivers care bags to local service organizations including Boys and Girls Club of South Puget Sound and the Tacoma Urban League. The bags and hygiene products also are provided to girls in foster care and the juvenile justice system.

About 200 of the care bags were distributed at two Boys and Girls Club branches in 2019, said spokeswoman Jinnie Horan.

“When the girls received them, they lit up,” Horan said. “It was the breadth and the scope of the items inside. It wasn’t just a hygiene kit, it was a pretty girl kit. It had things that made them feel good and smell good.”

Girls were impressed with the name brand items and the personal touches, Horan said.

“Something that stood out for them were the hand written notes,” she said. “That meant a lot to them.”

CARE BAGS

On a recent January evening, Chambers-Gordon’s two-car garage was filled to the ceiling with packed bags and neatly arranged shelves holding the products that go into them. Except for her vehicle, there was room for little else.

Blue bags with menstrual pads go to middle school girls, red bags with pads and tampons are for high school girls and a smaller number of black bags — minus the feminine hygiene products — go to boys.

Upstairs, Winesberry and the 12 other women who serve on the group’s leadership team, were writing thank-you notes to donors.

Chambers-Gordon launched Raising Girls in 2017. A real estate broker, she pursues her avocation after hours.

At first, she and her like-minded helpers spent their own money. Now, they solicit donations.

In 2019, the group distributed 1,500 bags. For some schools, they have become an integral part of the safety net.

“These bags are vital for students who lack the means — or simply did not anticipate the need — to have access to products vital to their health and hygiene while allowing them to stay focused on school,” said Lincoln High School principal Pat Erwin.

Raising Girls’ work is starting to get notice beyond the school setting.

In December, the organization was given a BECU People Helping People Awards. The grant — $54,400 — was the largest given, and it tripled Chambers-Gordon’s budget overnight.

The cash will go a long way to increasing Raising Girls’ mission, but it’s still short of what Chambers-Gordon estimates she needs to supply those 7,500 girls and some boys six times per year in Pierce County: $1.2 million.

Raising Girls also is pushing for the end of the so-called “pink tax” or “tampon tax” — the tax on feminine hygiene products. Washington is one of 37 states that impose the tax.

Changes to taxes would come from legislative action. In the meantime, a state senator is working on the issue from a different angle.

Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-45th District) has introduced Senate Bill 6037, which aims to require public schools to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost in the schools’ bathrooms.

Dhingra said she was spurred to action after a presentation by girls at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland. Like a lot of girls around the nation, they were forced to ask the school nurse for emergency supplies.

“We don’t ask people to go to the school nurse to get toilet paper,” Dhingra said. “Why would we ask them to get feminine hygiene products from the nurse?”

The bill has bipartisan support, she said. A hearing will be held Friday, Jan. 17. Dhingra expects students to testify.

Funding for the bill would not come from the state. Instead, Dhingra hopes to work with corporations or non-profits like Raising Girls.

“It really is about normalizing the human body and getting rid of the stigma,” Dhingra said.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

▪ Donate to Raising Girls: raisinggirls.org

▪ Host a donation drive or bin to collect personal hygiene products.

▪ Write inspirational cards for girls.

▪ Host a packing party.

▪ Sponsor a school supported by Raising Girls.

 

By Craig Sailor
Founder and CEO Sharon Chambers Gordon, second from right in glasses, is surrounded by Raising Girls teammates bearing bags containing personal hygiene products that will be donated to under-served girls in Tacoma public schools and other organizations. Chambers Gordon says the lack of access to these essentials is born of poverty.  DPERINE@THENEWSTRIBUNE.COM
  • Permalink Gallery

    Yakima Valley priorities: A look at what people want out of their lawmakers in Olympia

Yakima Valley priorities: A look at what people want out of their lawmakers in Olympia

January 12th, 2020|

The Washington Legislature convenes Monday in Olympia. Over the next 60 days, lawmakers — lawmakers we elected — will make decisions that affect nearly every aspect of Washington life.

Yakima Herald-Republic reporters reached out to people who live and work in the Valley to ask what they’d like to see out of the Legislature this year in four areas: Mental and behavioral health, education, homelessness and the environment.

Here’s what they said.

— Greg Halling, managing editor

Mental and behavioral health

Yakima Valley experts on mental and behavioral health want to see mental health get attention — and funding — from state officials on the same level as physical health because it’s just as crucial, they say.

At the same time, mental and behavioral health advocates know funds are limited. But some aspects of mental and behavioral health need increased funding now.

“I also believe their approach to funding should reflect a comprehensive understanding of wellness and thus should include large budgets for substance use prevention and mental health promotion in addition to funding for treatment and recovery,” Schillreff said.

Schillreff recently led Teen Mental Health First Aid training for students and adults in White Swan.

Mary Stephenson, president of NAMI Yakima, is a member of the NAMI Washington Policy Committee and met recently with Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, about the upcoming session.

She noted that 2019 saw the passage of many mental health-related bills, with increased overall funding. The 2020 session will see re-introduction of bills that did not pass last year. They will include House Bill 1240, sponsored by Mosbrucker, which would create a youth suicide review team to focus on the causes of youth suicide in order to develop targeted intervention programs.

“Other legislation which should receive consideration is the creation of a statewide office of a mental health ombudsman,” Stephenson said in an email. “Currently there are regional offices, but no statewide office.”

“Frequently, family members are unable to get help for their loved ones who resist treatment until a crisis occurs and even then, the current definitions of imminent danger to self or others or gravely disabled do not apply,” she said.

The committee is also looking at a bill for the development of advance mental health directives, which would allow a person to agree to treatment prior to a mental health crisis, a time when they are no longer competent.

Other legislation for consideration, Stephenson said, addresses safety in adult family homes, Medicaid rates that are half those of other states, guardianship and children’s mental health.

— Tammy Ayer

FILE – In this Dec. 4, 2018 file photo, pedestrians make their way toward the Legislative Building at dusk at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Washington schools could offer free menstrual hygiene products by 2021

Washington schools could offer free menstrual hygiene products by 2021

January 8th, 2020|

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A proposal being considered in Olympia might lead to better access to free feminine-hygiene products in schools statewide.

The recently prefiled Senate Bill 6073 states “school districts must make menstrual hygiene products available at no cost in all gender-neutral bathrooms and bathrooms designated for female students located in public schools that serve students in any of grades six through twelve.

The menstrual hygiene products must include sanitary napkins, tampons, or similar items and be for student use only.

Sponsoring senator Manka Dhingra (D-45th District) says her daughter’s school already provides no-cost pads for students, something she says keeps their focus on learning.

She says the taboo around menstruation is already embarrassing for young girls, something she says Senate Bill 6073 can help.

“This is yet another example of our children knowing what they need in order to be successful. I think it’s very important as lawmakers to listen to everyone that has any kind of barrier to success,” Dhingra explains.

So far, 18 lawmakers are supporting the measure which, if passed, would go into effect at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

The proposed legislation stipulates that school districts bear the cost of supplying menstrual hygiene products, though they may seek grants or partner with nonprofit or community-based organizations to fulfill this obligation.

The 66th session of the State of Washington legislature begins Monday, Jan. 13th.

From KEPR 

by Christopher Poulsen

  • Permalink Gallery

    What changes could come to Washington’s public schools in 2020? These bills offer a sneak peek

What changes could come to Washington’s public schools in 2020? These bills offer a sneak peek

January 4th, 2020|

From the Seattle Times 

State lawmakers don’t return to Olympia until later this month, but they spent the final weeks of 2019 filing early versions of bills they hope to advance during this year’s short legislative session.

The total list of pre-filed bills — more than 200 as of Friday — doesn’t represent the entirety of the Legislature’s priorities ahead of its 60-day session, which likely will focus on making tweaks to the biennial budget adopted last year. Still, the proposed legislation offers a preview of what changes, if any, lawmakers want to make to K-12 spending and policy, for this or next year.

Here’s a short list of some of the bills related to public schools that may be up for debate when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 13:

Free feminine-hygiene products in school: Senate Bill 6073

Late last fall, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, visited a social studies class at Lake Washington High School.

There, she heard a presentation from six students about why school districts should provide feminine-hygiene products at no cost to students in middle and high school. And that presentation inspired Dhingra to file SB 6073.

“Without menstrual products, nearly 1 in 5 American girls have either left school early or missed school entirely,” Dhingra said, citing some of the students’ research.

“It is an unfunded mandate,” she said.

“Just having feminine-hygiene products available to young girls helps them stay in schools, helps them focus (and) helps them with their education,” Dhingra added. “This is something that should have been done years ago.”

By Neal Morton

  • Permalink Gallery

    Property tax relief for seniors, veterans coming in the new year

Property tax relief for seniors, veterans coming in the new year

December 11th, 2019|

A new law will help many seniors by raising the property tax exemption limit in King County from $40,000 to $58,423.

From the Kirkland Reporter

By Sen. Manka Dhingra

Rising property values and living costs are squeezing people here on the Eastside, but not all feel the pinch equally. Our state’s strong economy and the prosperity it brings are the envy of the country, but it’s our responsibility to make sure that prosperity for some doesn’t leave others behind. Too many seniors and veterans who bought their homes in a different era are struggling to keep up with property taxes on home values that reflect the economy of today.

The crunch is being felt across the state. Take Peggi Reese and her husband Jim Reese for example. The couple have been pillars of the Yelm community for a long time. They worked for the school district for 35 years and in 2016 were chosen to be grand marshals of the Christmas parade. When Jim, a Vietnam War veteran, died in late 2018 from the lingering effects of Agent Orange, Peggi was in danger of losing her ability to stay in her home.

People like Peggi have given decades of their lives to their communities, and now that they’re on fixed incomes, they’re struggling to stay where their families, friends, doctors and churches are.

That’s why I sponsored a bill this year (SB 5160) that provides $20 million in property tax relief to help people like Peggi who can least afford an increase — senior citizens, people with disabilities and disabled veterans — stay in their own homes.

The previous senior property tax exemption was only available to households with incomes of $40,000 or less per year, no matter where they lived. We all know that the cost of living and home values are a lot higher in King County than in Spokane.

The new law sets the income limit at 65 percent of the median household income in each county. That means that for King County, the new limit is $58,423 and will rise with incomes. In addition, the law expands eligibility so that more disabled veterans will qualify.

Using a threshold tied to the county median income targets the policy so it assists seniors who need it most while protecting the budgets of small counties that aren’t seeing fast growth.

The benefits of this expansion will go beyond its recipients. Giving people the ability to age in place leads to much better quality of life and health for them, decreasing medical costs and helps keep communities intact. It also prevents homelessness before it starts. One of the most effective tools to end homelessness is keeping people in their current homes.

The law takes effect in 2020 and applications will be available in January. You can find information about eligibility and how to apply on the King County Assessor’s website.

In May, Peggi joined us at the bill signing for the new law. The changes that it makes will allow her to stay in the home that she and her husband Jim shared. In the coming years, it will help thousands more seniors, veterans, and disabled people stay in their homes too.

The Kirkland Senior Council and the city of Kirkland want to help local older adults understand the new senior property tax exemptions and deferments by hosting a community forum with King County tax assessor John Wilson from 2:30-4 p.m on Jan. 10, 2020 at the Peter Kirk Community Center (352 Kirkland Ave). This new law will help many seniors by raising the exemption limit from $40,000 to $58,423. You can pre-register for this free event by calling 425-587-3360.

Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) represents the 45th Legislative District. She is the deputy majority leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Sex-trafficked children are victims and deserve help — not detention

Sex-trafficked children are victims and deserve help — not detention

December 1st, 2019|

Special to The Seattle Times

This past summer, the world stopped for a moment in collective horror when ultrawealthy financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was once again indicted on a charge of child sex trafficking and sexual abuse of young girls.

His ties to the rich and powerful were splashed across tabloids, reflecting a garish political soap opera. Most of the media coverage focused largely on Epstein’s connections from across the political spectrum, reaching a full-blown frenzy following his sudden death.

It was sensational. It was appalling. And there was no justice for survivors.

That moment of global outrage from last summer didn’t last long enough. Epstein may be gone, but child sex trafficking remains an international epidemic. Washington is no exception.

The number of cases of child trafficking counted by the National Human Trafficking Hotline each year has more than doubled since 2012, to 2,378 — and those are just the cases that get reported. In the Seattle/King County area alone, law enforcement estimates 300-500 children are being trafficked on average.

This isn’t an easy issue to tackle. We must make sure that the voices of our children are not stolen and silenced.

This is exactly how Epstein operated. And it’s happening quietly across our state and our nation.

But in Washington, we are listening and doing something about it.

In the last decade, we have seen positive changes at the local level. Collaborative regional public information campaigns in King County between government and private industry have brought the issue out of the shadows, increasing the number of trafficking survivors who are connected to resources. King County has stopped charging children with prostitution and has more than quadrupled the number of charges brought against men trying to buy sex from minors. And our society is slowly changing the culture, moving away from harmfully labeling abused youth as “child prostitutes,” because children cannot consent to their own sexual exploitation. They can’t consent to sex at all.

These are our children. They are suffering from complex trauma. They have unique challenges that need thoughtful, tailored interventions. And it’s on us to help them heal. But we are nowhere near eradicating this form of slavery. Our Legislature must do more to support the victims of these crimes.

In preparation for the 2020 legislative session, we are crafting evidence-based policy reforms to the way our justice system interacts with children who are victims of these sex crimes.

First, the legislation will prohibit charging anyone under the age of 18 with the crime of prostitution. Second, it will allow law enforcement officers to take child victims into custody for their protection when circumstances present a danger to the child’s safety. Finally, it will pilot two therapeutic receiving centers, one on each side of the Cascades, where law enforcement can take sexually exploited youth instead of detention. There, they can finally begin to process and recover.

If these children were victims of other sexually motivated crimes, law enforcement would consider bringing charges of statutory rape or sexual assault of a minor against their abuser. Simply because their abuse is paid for, it is the child who ends up in the criminal justice system. That is not justice.

The media spectacle centered on Epstein showed that sexual exploitation can come clothed in the outward signs of wealth and respectability, but it also gave the impression that the crimes it uncovered are rare. They aren’t. Ultimately, it distracted the world from the gravest injustice: Our legal system should not be in the business of further punishing children for the horrors inflicted upon them by predatory adults.

These young people don’t deserve punishment — they’ve experienced enough for a lifetime. They need help and resources. Getting them out of danger and providing them wraparound services is how we can begin to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children and heal our kids.

City Priorities for the 2020 Legislative Session

November 26th, 2019|

From the Woodinville Weekly

With the Washington State Legislature preparing to begin in January, now is the time for Woodinville to compile a list of priorities for the 2020 session.

The legislative agenda will direct the city of Woodinville’s efforts in the state legislature. City Council discussed key issues of concern at the meeting on Nov. 19. The draft agenda will be considered for adoption Dec. 3.

The legislature will convene for a short 60-day session Jan. 13. Since this is the second year of the biennium, many issues addressed will either be carried over from the 2019 session or needed corrections to previously passed legislation.

Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator Diana Hart said the legislators will likely focus on necessary budget issues and policy changes, while also updating the state’s 2019-21 biennial operating budget.

Lots of bills will be introduced, but not a lot will be enacted into law, she added.

In the last session, Woodinville was successful in securing continued streamline sales tax mitigation payments but was unsuccessful in obtaining funding for the State Route 202 capacity and pedestrian safety improvements.

The 2020 agenda still aims to achieve these requests.

Hart said her staff took 2019 priorities and tweaked them to include updated needs.

The current draft agenda identifies two primary items and four key issues for the upcoming session.

“We often like to keep things high level for broad coverage of issues,” Hart said. “Things kind of come up on the fly. Knowing a high level where you stand allows staff to quickly respond to things and make any comments necessary to legislatures as needed.”

The City requests $5 million in funding to remove a critical bottleneck in Woodinville’s portion of SR 202, according to staff reports.

The funds would also create a safe and accessible transportation corridor for SR 202, existing freight service, and a future multi-use trail corridor that crosses at the same location.

“We rely heavily on partnerships with the state to fund those projects,” Hart said.

City staff requests funding for fish-blocking culverts, affordable housing, homelessness prevention, mental health and dependency programs, tools to assist local communities and infrastructure programs.

Staff also recommends the City request maintenance of the streamlined sales tax mitigation payments secured during the previous session. Planning efforts related to the Growth Management Act is another priority carried over to this year.

Councilmember Susan Boundy- Sanders asked staff to clean up “muddy language” and add specificity in the draft agenda. She said legislative efforts should be more concrete and crisp.

Mayor Elaine Cook said the City should not be hesitant in asking for more money to fund projects. She said other local cities are receiving more funding for transportation projects simply because they showed specificity when asking.

Staff was uncertain if the state’s transportation budget would be altered after Initiative 976 was passed in the recent November election. Council expressed concern about future requirements as a result of the voter-approved measure.

Woodinville is in the 45th district, along with Duvall and parts of Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish, and unincorporated King County. Reps. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, and Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, represent the House.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, won a special election in November 2017, giving Democrats full control of the state Senate. Both the House and Senate chambers are currently controlled by Democrats as the session nears.

By Madeline Coats