#MeToo moment reaches politics, Hollywood, and beyond

January 12th, 2018|

K5 News/ Jan. 8, 2018
By Natalie Brand

The first day of Washington state’s 2018 legislative session started with a new majority in the Senate. Senator Manka Dhingra’s win in November gave Democrats a one-seat advantage in the upper chamber and full control of state government.

“Go get ’em,” Governor Jay Inslee told Dhingra while delivering flowers to her desk on the Senate floor Monday.

Dhingra, of Redmond, says she was inspired to run in large part because of President Donald Trump’s surprise upset in 2016, and also encouraged by her teen children who led Monday’s pledge of allegiance before their mom took the oath of office.

“To me, you have to look at next generation to see where we’re at,” said Dhingra.

It’s a generation that she says values respect and equality, whether in politics or the workplace.

“I think the #MeToo movement and women coming up and speaking out about the way they have been treated was the next thing bound to happen after the women’s march,” said Dhingra. “I think it really has been awakening that we’ve seen in last few years, and I hope it will continue.”

Oprah Winfrey captured the emotion of the moment with her speech at Sunday night’s Golden Globes, proclaiming “a new day is on the horizon.”

Her speech elicited a standing ovation from Hollywood and caused social media to speculate whether she’ll run for president in 2020.

While Oprah’s longtime partner told the LA Times “it’s up to the people,” a source told NBC News she “has no intention of running.”

“I think there’s lots of people who might get in race—might be Oprah, might be The Rock (Dwayne Johnson),” said State Senator Dough Ericksen (R-Ferndale). Ericksen, who worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign and said he would be interested in working for his reelection campaign, downplayed the possibility of a Trump-Oprah matchup in a couple of years.

However, the larger issue of MeToo — a movement that Hollywood is now transitioning into “Time’s Up” — is one that has bipartisan support and attention, even in Olympia.

“It’s time to change the discussion from #MeToo to Not Me,” said Senator Ann Rivers, R-La Center. “We need to send the message that this is not OK and we need to empower individuals, be they male or female, of any persuasion that this is not OK.”

Both senators Rivers and Dhingra sit on a task force seeking to address the issue of sexual harassment in Olympia. Among ideas being considered are more regular anti-sexual harassment training for members as well as potential training for lobbyists.

Senate Democrats take early aim at gun legislation

January 12th, 2018|

Peninsula Daily News / Jan. 7, 2018
By Alex Visser

With a newfound majority in the Washington Senate, state Democrats have found an early target in firearm regulation as the 2018 legislative session gets set to begin.

Senate Bill 6049 would regulate the ownership and manufacturing of large capacity magazines and make them all but illegal in most cases. “Large capacity” refers to any magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.

The bill was requested by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who cited a motivation in mass shootings across the country, including a 2016 shooting at a house party in Mukilteo in which three were killed and one was injured.

The bill was introduced by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and is sponsored by three other democratic senators: Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond; Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma; and Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have introduced some kind of restriction on large capacity magazines. In Colorado and New Jersey, the limit is 15 rounds, and in Hawaii the ban pertains only to handguns.

Such magazines were previously banned on a federal level under the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which also banned semi-automatic weapons before expiring in 2004.

Pedersen said he feels confident the bill will pass, and that the key is to receive support from rural Democrats and more moderate Republicans. The senator added that he has received at least some vocal support from both parties.

“We’ve obviously had a series of high-profile shootings across the country,” Pedersen said. “This is a small step to take.”

But Dave Workman, senior editor of TheGunMag, said he doesn’t find such a ban necessary, arguing that large capacity magazines haven’t proven to be a problem. Workman said he expects a flurry of opposition from gun owners across the state, many of whom own firearms that would be affected by the ban.

Workman’s sentiments were echoed by Joe Waldron, legislative chairman of the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association, who said his organization is firmly against the potential legislation.

Waldron said the bill emphasizes the role of guns, while legislators should be taking a look at potential societal problems that lead to mass shootings.

The legislative chairman pointed out that many pistols carry large capacity magazines, but the bill doesn’t differentiate between handguns and the assault weapons Waldron believes the bill is targeting.

Waldron called the bill “meaningless” and “unenforceable,” and said it would force Washington citizens to give up private property that is arguably protected by the Second Amendment.

“The bottom line is we oppose the bill because it’s a waste of time,” Waldron said. “They focus on the inanimate object; what they need to be focusing on is the behavior.”

The senate plans to hear SB 6049 on Jan. 15.

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    Washington Moves to Fight Trump Administration’s Net Neutrality Rollback

Washington Moves to Fight Trump Administration’s Net Neutrality Rollback

December 15th, 2017|

State leaders vow to preserve net neutrality in Washington state.

Seattle Magazine / Dec. 14, 2017
By Dan Shafer

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other state legislators and business leaders announced Wednesday that Washington would seek to “preserve an open internet” on the state level if the Federal Communications Commission votes to undo the nation’s net neutrality rules.

This would make Washington state the first in the nation to pursue a state-level solution to address this issue.

The FCC voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules. The vote was 3-2.

Following the vote, Ferguson announced that he intends to file a lawsuit along with other attorneys general challenging the decision.

“We are 5-0 against the Trump Administration because they often fail to follow the law when taking executive action,” he said in a statement. “There is a strong legal argument that with this action, the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act — again. … Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses.”

Making the initial announcement on Dec. 13 in anticipation of the vote, Inslee was joined by Ferguson, Reps. Drew Hansen (D) and Norma Smith (R), newly elected state senator Manka Dhingra, Moz.com Chief Executive Officer Sarah Bird, and Sub Pop Recordings Information Technology Director Andrew Sullivan.

In a post on Medium, Inslee’s office said, “While the FCC’s vote will preempt states from ensuring full net neutrality, there are a number of steps that can be taken at the state level to promote an open internet and strengthen protections for consumers.”

Inslee’s proposal would include “pursuing the following actions,” it said.

Hold companies to their commitments not to block websites, throttle speeds, or impose prioritization pricing

•Direct the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to establish a process for ISPs to certify that they will not engage in practices inconsistent with net neutrality principles.

•Limit state-conferred benefits to ISPs that have made such certifications.

•Limit applicability of UTC pole attachment rules to ISPs that are net neutral.

•Review other state-conferred benefits such as easements and taxes.

Leverage the state’s power as a large purchaser of ISP and telecommunications services

•Use the state government’s role as a big customer, and our ability to establish state master contracts used by local governments, to incentivize Washington companies to adhere to net neutrality principles.

•Pursue regulatory and legislative action to award contracts to vendors that meet net neutral business requirements.

•Lead the exploration of a multi-state purchasing cooperative to procure internet service from providers that adhere to net neutrality principles.

Hold companies accountable for warranties made to consumers

•Create a state-wide internet speed test. This will allow Washingtonians to test their own broadband speed at home, and submit the test to help appropriate state agencies determine what internet speeds consumers are receiving and where companies may be blocking or throttling.

•Collaborate with legislators to strengthen our consumer protection laws to include the principles of net neutrality.

Encourage new entrants into the currently concentrated ISP market

•Pursue legislation authorizing public utility districts and rural and urban port districts to provide retail ISP and telecommunications services.

•Prohibit government-owned ISP services, such as municipal broadband networks, from engaging in blocking, throttling, or priority pricing for Internet services.

Inslee wrote a letter expressing concern with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to repeal net neutrality last week, saying “Net neutrality principles ensure large corporations are never in the position of deterring innovation, obstructing entrepreneurship or disenfranchising citizens. They are essential to preserving the very foundation of the internet as we know it, while enabling digital innovation in Washington State and across the country to grow unbridled by corporate interference. Unfortunately, the Commission’s draft order undermines these core principles and for the first time allows broadband providers — rather than the marketplace — to pick the winners and losers in the 21st century economy.”

Inslee was recently elected chair of the Democratic Governors Association. It remains to be seen if the other 15 states with Democratic governors will follow Washington state’s lead.

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    Five years after Sandy Hook, what is Washington doing about guns?

Five years after Sandy Hook, what is Washington doing about guns?

December 15th, 2017|

Crosscut / Dec. 14, 2017
By Allegra Abramo


Five years after a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, some state lawmakers see a chance to finally pass key gun-control and safety measures that have eluded the other Washington.

With Democrats’ new one-seat majority in the state Senate, plus control of the House and governor’s office, they anticipate a “historic session” on gun issues, said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D–Seattle, speaking Tuesday at a press conference announcing the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s 2018 legislative priorities. Pedersen will chair the Senate Law & Justice Committee when the Legislature begins its two-month session Jan. 8.

“I view this as one of my main charges in [the] Senate Law & Justice [Committee], to do something about addressing gun violence,” Pedersen told Crosscut.

But, he admitted, “the bar is low” given how little the Legislature has accomplished in past years.

Top priorities for the Alliance and their allies in Olympia include bills to incentivize safe storage of guns and to require a license to buy semi-automatic firearms, similar to requirements for concealed pistols. They also want to ban “bump stock” devices that make semi-automatic rifles fire nearly as fast as fully automatic weapons, and which contributed to the high death toll in the Las Vegas shooting in October.

The tide in Olympia is shifting in favor of modest gun-control measures, advocates say. Much of that change has been led by voters, who in recent years have shown more appetite for gun-control policies than their elected leaders. In 2014 and 2016, sizable majorities passed statewide initiatives extending background checks to include private firearm sales, and allowing family members and police to seek court orders to keep guns away from those at risk of harming themselves or others.

“It is time for us elected officials to stand up and take leadership in this role,” said state Sen. Manka Dhingra, the Eastside Democrat whose November victory flipped control of the Senate.

Dhingra said she’ll sponsor gun legislation next session, including a bill that would keep guns away from those charged with a crime who have a history of violence.

Such changes in gun laws will be led by the wave of women elected to state and local offices in recent years, said state Rep. Nicole Macri, a Seattle Democrat who joined the House last year.

“We know that local communities have elected these strong women leaders for a reason — they want to improve the quality of life and improve safety in their communities,” Macri said at the Alliance event. Macri will be introducing a bill that overturns the state’s so-called preemption law, which prevents local governments from enacting gun laws that are stricter than state statutes.

Gun-rights advocates say an aggressive push by Democrats could backfire in the next election, potentially endangering Democratic seats in rural and more pro-gun districts.

“You’re talking about laws that could have a profound effect on a large segment of the Washington state population,” said Dave Workman, communications director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, which shares a building and leadership with the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation. “You run a risk of incredible backlash over that.”

Safe storage legislation — or “dangerous access prevention,” as the bill’s sponsors call it — is one Democratic priority that gun-rights lobbyists have blocked for more than a decade.

Modeled after a Florida law, HB 1122 seeks to prevent both children and people convicted of a felony — and anyone else prohibited from owning a firearm — from accessing guns stored in people’s homes. Last year’s bill provided for criminal penalties under some circumstances, but Sen. Pedersen said he is open to considering regulatory approaches or civil penalties.

Workman thinks such a law is unenforceable. “You can’t legislate against stupidity,” he said.

Reducing the risk of gun suicides, which make up 80 percent of gun deaths in Washington, is the goal of two additional bills lawmakers will reintroduce next session. More than 36,000 people in the U.S. died from firearms injuries in 2015, a significant increase from the prior year.

One bill (SB 5441) that has made the rounds in Olympia for at least three years would temporarily restrict gun access for people who have been involuntarily held for mental health treatment for 72 hours, not just those who have been involuntarily committed for more than 14 days. Pedersen admits that the measure is a “big stretch” due to National Rifle Association (NRA) opposition, even though similar bills had bipartisan support in the past.

The second bill (SB 5553) would allow people to voluntarily add their names to the list of those prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

“I’m hopeful that will give people who know that they have mental health issues an opportunity to take a preventive measure to prevent them from getting access to firearms in a crisis,” Pedersen said. He called it a “Libertarian idea,” co-sponsored by two Republicans, which has the votes to pass out of committee. If the “voluntary waiver” law passes, it would be the first in the nation.

For now, the two sides of the gun debate aren’t talking, though both assert they are open to dialogue.

“I don’t know any gun guys who wouldn’t be willing to sit down and talk to somebody about some of these issues,” said the Citizens Committee’s Workman. “They’ve just never been given the opportunity.”

Pedersen said he spoke with the NRA and Second Amendment Foundation last year about his voluntary waiver bill. “I implored them to give me comments on that bill and to tell me what would make it acceptable from their perspective, and they did not do that,” he said.

“And I told them that if they chose not to do that last year,” Pedersen continued, “that I was frankly not going to be as interested in their concerns about the bill if I were the chair of the committee and had the ability to run it through.”

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    State Democrats announce push for far stricter gun control in 2018

State Democrats announce push for far stricter gun control in 2018

December 15th, 2017|

The Redmond Reporter / Dec. 13, 2017
By Aaron Kunkler


Democratic state legislators announced their intention to pursue sweeping gun control reforms in the upcoming 2018 session at a press conference on Tuesday morning in Seattle.

Central to this would be SB 5444, which was introduced in the 2017 session, and would require an annual permit to own assault rifles, as well as for magazines for rifles or pistols capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

Washington state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, chair of the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee, said the proposed legislation would bring ownership requirements up to par with concealed carry, but a review of the bill shows it would greatly expand the state’s gun control authority.

Currently, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than a handgun in the state. Someone buying a handgun must be over 21, and pass a background check and undergo a waiting period before receiving the gun, unless they have a concealed carry permit, which expedites the process.

Concealed carry permits are issued by local law enforcement agencies.

State residents need only be 18 and pass a background check to purchase longarms like a shotgun or AR-15 and leave with it the same day.

SB 5444 would increase the age to buy assault rifles to 21, and establish a required permit that would need to be renewed annually for people to own magazines with more than 10 rounds.

Violations of this would result in class C felony charges.

Under the proposed bill, a license would cost $50 plus fees imposed by the FBI, and renewal would cost between $20 to $30 each year.

Pedersen touted another bill, SB 5463, which they hope to pass next year, which would allow prosecutors to bring felony charges against a gun owner if and “unauthorized person” uses the gun to cause harm or shows it in public.

Finally, he hopes to create a law that lets people put themselves on a “do not sell” list, which would bar them from purchasing a firearm in the future.

This could be useful for people with mental health conditions who want to prevent themselves from buying a gun.

“We will be moving that bill along this year,” Pedersen said.

State Rep. Nicole Macri spoke at the press conference and said the Legislature will be looking to pass laws allowing local governments to preempt state laws.

City and county laws cannot currently be more strict than state laws.

Newly-elected state Sen. Manka Dhingra also spoke. She was elected on a strong gun control platform in the Eastside’s 45th district.

“Our children are scared,” Dhingra said.

During her campaign, she promised to close two loopholes in state gun law.

The first would place an all-encompassing ban on perpetrators of domestic violence. A provision in current state law lets some people with a record of domestic violence harassment to own guns.

Another loophole allows people with mental health issues and a history of violence who have been charged with a crime and found to be incompetent to own guns.

Dhingra said during her campaign she would seek to put a ban on bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic assault rifle to essentially shoot like a fully automatic firearm.

Bump stocks gained national attention after they were attached to AR-15s and used to murder 58 people and injure 546 during the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1.

In the wake of the shooting, the national debate turned again to gun control.

Alliance for Gun Control CEO Renee Hopkins spoke at the press conference, saying they were pursuing a different strategy.

“We are making change state by state,” she said.

Across Washington during the November election, some 16 candidates endorsed by the organization were elected to various positions.

Hopkins said they were creating a “gun responsibility” majority in Olympia.

With Dhingra winning the election, both houses of the state Legislature have Democratic majorities, and the party is represented in the Governor’s office by Jay Inslee.

Dhingra sworn in, Democrats gain control of both chambers

November 30th, 2017|

King 5 / Nov. 29, 2017
By Allison Sundell


State Senator Manka Dhingra was sworn in to office Wednesday giving Democrats control of the state House and Senate for the first time in five years.

Dhingra, who won a special election in the 45th Legislative District, said the victory is huge.

“The hope really is that a lot of these bills that had bipartisan support in the House that died in the Senate will be able to be passed,” Dhingra said. “We’re really looking forward to governing, governing inclusively, making sure everyone’s voices are heard.”

Washington also joined Oregon and California with Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.

“The blue wall is significant,” Dhingra said. “I think it’s more like the blue wave. It’s significant, because it helps to highlight the issues that are coming from the other Washington.”

Dhingra said her top priorities will be education funding, mental health issues, and gun reform.

The seat replaces late Republican Sen. Andy Hill, who died in October 2016.

Dhingra is a King County prosecutor who supervises a mental health court, a veterans court, and diversion program.

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    Manka Dhingra sworn in; Washington State Senate now has a Democratic majority

Manka Dhingra sworn in; Washington State Senate now has a Democratic majority

November 30th, 2017|

The Cascadia Advocate / Nov. 29, 2017
By Andrew Villeneuve


Control of the Washington State Senate officially passed into Democratic hands for the first time in five years this afternoon as Senior Deputy Prosecutor Manka Dhingra was sworn in as the state’s newest senator, succeeding Republican Dino Rossi, who was appointed to take the place of the late Andy Hill a year ago.

At a ceremony in the King County Courthouse, surrounded by friends, family, and jubilant supporters, Dhingra took the oath of office and now begins her duties as the newest legislator from Washington’s 45th Legislative District.

“I’m humbled and proud to represent the communities of the 45th Legislative District,” Dhingra said. “I promise to represent each and every one of my constituents with integrity, honesty and a commitment to solving problems with my colleagues—regardless of their party affiliation. We have a lot of work ahead of us. I am confident that by working together we can make progress toward a better future for our district, our state and our country.”

Dhingra will serve on the Transportation, Law and Justice, and Human Services & Corrections Committees; she will also serve as vice chair of the latter two.

The 45th is a suburban, increasingly Democratic district that includes neighborhoods in Redmond, Kirkland, and Sammamish as well as the cities of Woodinville and Duvall. The fast-growing district has been represented in the state House of Representatives by widely respected Democrats Roger Goodman and Larry Springer for more than a decade. Now it has a Democratic state senator too.

Dhingra is the second Democrat to represent the district in the Washington State Senate, following Eric Oemig, who served from 2007 to 2011. The term she was just elected to will end on January 14th, 2019, but she will have opportunity to win a full four year term next year during the 2018 midterms.

Washington’s Legislature failed to pass a capital budget during the 2017 regular and ensuing first three special sessions, so participating in the completion of that unfinished business is likely to be one of Dhingra’s first tasks as a legislator.

Governor Jay Inslee has the option of calling a special session in December to pass the capital budget, but Republicans would need to provide enough votes to authorize the bonds that are necessary to implement much of the budget as written. A three-fifths vote of the Legislature is needed to authorize the bonds

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    Manka Dhingra sworn in as senator to the 45th Legislative District

Manka Dhingra sworn in as senator to the 45th Legislative District

November 30th, 2017|

OLYMPIA – Manka Dhingra was sworn in today as the state senator for the 45th Legislative District. Dhingra’s swearing in gives Democrats a 25-24 majority in the Senate ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session.

“I’m humbled and proud to represent the communities of the 45th Legislative District,” Dhingra said. “I promise to represent each and every one of my constituents with integrity, honesty and a commitment to solving problems with my colleagues—regardless of their party affiliation. We have a lot of work ahead of us. I am confident that by working together we can make progress toward a better future for our district, our state and our country.”

A King County senior deputy prosecuting attorney and longtime advocate for women, children, and veterans, Dhingra is slated to serve as vice chair of the Senate Law & Justice and Human Services & Corrections committees in 2018.