Sen. Dhingra Newsroom

  • Permalink Gallery

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

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

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.

December 11th, 2019|News|
  • Permalink Gallery

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

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

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.

December 1st, 2019|News|

City Priorities for the 2020 Legislative Session

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

November 26th, 2019|News|

Sen. Dhingra’s Session Report Card

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you for the privilege of continuing to serve as your state senator. After completing another historically productive session, I am proud to provide you this legislative update with an overview of what we accomplished on behalf of our district and state.

For the first time in 10 years, the Legislature completed a 105-day session on time with three balanced budgets that invest in ensuring Washington continues to be an economic and social leader. We continued to build on the foundation laid out last session by focusing on bills that strengthen our communities.

This year we made historic investments in health care, including behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment, higher education, and the environment — and kept our promise to Washington’s 1.1 million students through additional investments in schools in every corner of our state. We tackled criminal justice reform, improved election transparency, increased voter access, enhanced workers’ rights, and worked hard to ensure protections for all residents of the state of Washington.

We continued to put people first by committing our state to a path toward 100% clean energy, adopted the nation’s first public health care option, and became the first state to adopt publicly-funded long-term care.

Thank you to all of you who worked with my office this year to shape legislation and participate in the work we do in Olympia. I am always excited to hear from you about how we can partner to address the needs of the 45th Legislative District.

Please reach out to me using the contact information in this newsletter if you have comments, questions, or suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Manka Dhingra

To read the full update, click below:

August 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Dhingra named NAMI-WA Behavioral Health Champion for 2019

OLYMPIA – Sen. Manka Dhingra was recognized by the Washington branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI WA) for her work as chair of the Senate’s Behavioral Health Subcommittee and for her commitment to improving the entirety of Washington’s behavioral health system.

Because of her work, the Redmond lawmaker was selected as one of NAMI WA’s 2019 Behavioral Health Champions.

“Sen. Dhingra played a pivotal role in improving our state’s behavioral health system,” said Brad Forbes, NAMI WA’s Director of Public Policy & Advocacy. “Her important work on medical privacy and improving the Involuntary Treatment Act will reduce the stigma of mental illness and help patients for years to come.”

Senate Democrats placed an intensified focus of the state’s behavioral health system with the creation of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee. As chair, Dhingra saw through numerous policies to invest in the state’s behavioral health facilities, support services and training opportunities for prospective behavioral health professionals.

“I am so proud of the work we did in the Senate to not only invest in our state’s behavioral health system, but really to start looking at this issue through a modern, evidence-based lens,” Dhingra said. “Every family has been touched by a behavioral health issue in some way. We must speak openly and thoughtfully about it and ensure that we have an early intervention system that leaves no one behind.”

“Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on this issue this year, and thank you to my friends at NAMI for your long history of advocacy for people and families in crisis.”

Dhingra has been on the board of NAMI-Eastside since 2010 and is a past President of that organization’s Board of Directors.

Other recipients of the 2019 Behavioral Health Champion award include: Rep. Eileen Cody (D- 36th District); Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27th District); Rep. Nicole Macri (D-43rd District); Rep. Joe Schmick (R- 9th District); Rep. Carolyn Eslick (R- 39th District); Rep. Noel Frame (D- 36th District); Rep. Tana Senn (D- 41st District); Sen. Manka Dhingra (D- 45th District); Sen. David Frockt (D- 46th District); Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D- 27th District); Sen. Steve O’Ban (R- 28th District).

July 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Dhingra: “Today we will be giving survivors of sexually violent crimes the closure they deserve.”

Dhingra: “Today we will be giving survivors of sexually violent crimes the closure they deserve.”

Legislation to remove the state’s statute of limitation for certain sexual crimes against minors passed off the House floor today.  

“Childhood survivors sexual crimes have worked for years to change our state’s statute of limitations law, I am so proud that we worked together to get this bill done,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), sponsor of the legislation. “Our criminal justice system puts a unique burden on victims of these crimes. SB 5649 strikes a good balance of allowing victims time to process while holding offenders accountable” Dhingra continued. 

“As a law enforcement officer, I have seen first-hand the long-lasting impact these crimes have on victims. One of the worst feelings in the world is having someone confide in you that they were sexually assaulted as a child, and then telling them the law prevents them from getting justice.

“It often takes years for victims of childhood sexual abuse to even acknowledge what has happened to them. We know that the effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating on victims.  This bill says the state is taking this crime seriously. We have seen multiple accusations in public this year, but only a handful of victims have been able to seek justice for the crime due to the statute of limitations.”

SB 5649 would remove the evidentiary requirement that the victim clearly expressed their lack of consent by words or conduct to prove rape in the third degree. The legislation would also eliminate the statute of limitations for several crimes.

Having passed both the House and Senate, SB 5649 heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.

May 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Trueblood lawsuit agreement bill heads to Governor’s desk for signature

Trueblood lawsuit agreement bill heads to Governor’s desk for signature

The legislature passes a bill to support outpatient competency restoration services guaranteed to individuals in the Trueblood settlement agreement, a move which signals reforms to Washington’s behavioral healthcare system.

“This bill is about reforming how our state treats individuals with mental illness as they interact the criminal justice system,” said Senator Manka Dhingra (D – Redmond), sponsor of Senate Bill 5554. “Our jails do not have the resources to meet the growing demand for mental health services; we’re seeing individuals with severe mental illness sit in jail instead of being diverted out of the criminal justice system to get the behavioral health treatment they need.”

SB 5444 improves the competency evaluation and restoration services system while also emphasizing arrest diversion and community-based support services for people with mental illness.

The bill will also grant statutory authority to forensic navigators, who will be able to assist individuals who are referred for competency to stand trial evaluations. Forensic navigators will also help with those navigating the forensic court process and coordinate community services for individuals who are ordered to receive outpatient competency restoration.

“I have spent this session working to ensure that our state can adequately care for everyone’s behavioral health needs from cradle to retirement. We must continue to move away from a reactive model of care by investing in diversion and intervention programs. This bill is the first step in reform.”

SB 5444 passed both chambers unanimously; it now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature. 

May 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Dhingra: “We are reshaping how we treat behavioral health through historic investments.”

Dhingra: “We are reshaping how we treat behavioral health through historic investments.”

Senator Dhingra released the following statement on the 2019 capital and operating budgets:

“ Budgets are values statements, and the behavioral health investments made this year sends a clear and strong message to Washingtonians that lawmakers will address the behavioral health needs of people around the state. We are shifting how we talk about and treat behavioral health disorders.

“We are investing in a continuum of care while making sure that our state builds robust programs to meet people where they are at. We can no longer be a crisis focused state. It is time to build for the future.

“What is laid out in this budget package boils down to responsible governing. We can balance a budget while also investing in programs that give Washingtonians a full-spectrum of behavioral care starting at birth. By taking care of the needs of all our communities in a holistic manner up early on, there will be less of a burden on the taxpayers later on.”

The 2019 behavioral health budget investments will help pay for the following projects and programs: forensic mental health care, adolescent behavioral health,  geriatric behavioral health, psychiatric payments in rural areas, behavioral health integration, children’s mental health, UW’s behavioral health campus, arrest & jail alternatives, substance use disorder treatment system, substance use disorder professionals, behavioral health facilities, recovery support services, and adolescent behavioral health.   

Capital Budget Investments

 Community-Based Behavioral Health Beds ($119.9 million)

  • The Department of Commerce is provided $47 million for a competitive process to expand community-based behavioral health services.
  • $70.9 million is provided for community-based projects for a variety of behavioral health services including long-term civil commitments, triage, crisis diversion, detox, and adolescent services.

Mental Health State Facilities ($154.4 million)

  • The University of Washington (UW) is provided $33.2 million for predesign, planning, and design of the new 150-bed Behavioral Health Teaching Facility
  • An additional $500 thousand is provided for UW for predesign of a facility for the Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Hospital.

The Department of Social and Health Services is provided funding for the following behavioral health projects:

  • $58 million for patient safety enhancements, preservation, and ward renovations at Eastern State Hospital and Western State Hospital
  • $1 million for predesign and siting of a new forensic hospital
  • $28.7 million for construction of two new forensic wards providing 60 additional forensic beds at Western State Hospital
  • $8 million for a new Treatment and Recovery Center at Western State Hospital.
  • $25 million for predesign, design, siting, and site work of two state constructed community civil bed facilities; one providing 16 state-operated civil beds and one providing 48 mixed-use beds of which 16 beds would be state-operated civil beds.

Operating Budget Investments

The Senate operating budget increases behavioral health spending by $350.5 million over the next two years in the following ways:

HOSPITAL OPERATIONS – $70.0 MILLION  

  • Funding is provided to cover increased staffing costs necessary for the current state hospital operations at Western State Hospital, Eastern State Hospital, and the Child Study and Treatment Center.

TRUEBLOOD SETTLEMENT – $74 MILLION

  •  Funding is provided for services required for phase one of the settlement agreement under Trueblood et al. v. DSHS concerning the provision of inpatient forensic services within court-mandated timelines by funding diversion and outpatient restoration services.

WESTERN STATE HOSPITAL SAFETY MEASURES – $21.9 MILLION

  • Funding is provided to improve the safety for patients and staff through increased training, more security guards, the enclosure of nursing stations, and the implementation of a STAR ward for patients with increased behavioral issues.

COMMUNITY LONG-TERM INPATIENT BEDS – $47.3 MILLION

  • Funding is provided to contract with private community hospital and evaluation and treatment beds to provide long-term inpatient care for individuals on 90 and 180-day commitments. These beds are intended to replace beds at the state hospitals over time.

ENHANCED DISCHARGE PLACEMENTS – $32 MILLION

  • Funding is provided for enhanced bed rates to create available beds in settings such as adult family homes, assisted living facilities, enhance service facilities, and nursing homes to create discharge placements for individuals coming out of state hospitals.

EXPANDED COMMUNITY SERVICES AND BEDS – $35.3 MILLION

  • Funding is provided for services and beds in the community to meet increased needs and provide more appropriate services for individuals with behavioral health needs. Services include items such as intensive outpatient treatment, clubhouses, intensive behavioral health facilities, wraparound services, assertive community treatment, and suicide prevention.

Both budgets were passed by the legislature and now go to Governor Inslee’s desk for signature.

May 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Dhingra bill to provide property tax relief for seniors and veterans passes out of the Legislature, heads to Governor’s desk for signature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 28, 2019

Dhingra bill to provide property tax relief for seniors and veterans passes out of the Legislature, heads to Governor’s desk for signature

OLYMPIA – The Legislature today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) to provide property tax relief to those who can least afford an increase — senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and veterans who reside in areas with a high cost of living.

“Affordability is a huge problem in the 45th Legislative District and surrounding communities,” Dhingra said. “Seniors and people on fixed incomes, many of whom have called the 45th home for decades, are being priced out of their homes.”

Under current law, the senior property tax exemption is calculated based on statewide income thresholds that do not account for the different cost of living in different counties. Senate Bill 5160 will base eligibility instead on each county’s median household income. The bill also adjusts the disability rating qualification for the disabled veterans property tax exemption program to 80 percent.

“Current exemptions do not account for regional differences,” Dhingra said. “This bill fixes that.”

SB 5160 passed out of the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. It now heads to Gov. Inslee’s desk for signature.

###

For more information: Bre Weider (360) 786-7326

April 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Legislation expanding options for adolescent behavioral healthcare access passed off the Senate floor today.

OLYMPIA – Legislation recommended by the state’s Children’s Mental Health Work Group passed off the Senate floor today. House Bill 1874 expands family-accessed treatment provisions for adolescents throughout the state.

“This legislation will help address the behavioral health needs of youth across our state. We are shifting how we talk about and treat behavioral health disorders,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), chair of the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee. “By centering families in the treatment process, we will be removing barriers to access and eliminating stigma,” Dhingra continued. 

HB 1874 expands family-initiated treatment provisions for outpatient treatment to specify that a parent may access up to 12 outpatient sessions for an adolescent with a specific professional within a three-month period. Partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment would also be authorized if recommended by a professional. The legislation also makes technical amendments to clarify the definition of parent for family-initiated treatment and defines language related to the privacy of a minor’s mental health information.

“This bill is about striking a balance where we get young people the treatment they need while keeping families involved as much as possible,” Dhingra said. “Our youth are hurting; it is the responsibility of the adults in the room to get them the care they need. I am focused on moving Washington to integrated behavioral health models where we holistically treat people. This legislation is key to that kind of systemic change.”

Since HB 1874 was amended on the Senate floor, it now must go back to the House for concurrence.  

###

For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

April 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|