Monthly Archives: April 2015

Child welfare programs will be stronger under new law

April 30th, 2015|

Legislation to provide additional support for children and families going through the child welfare system was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

SB 5486, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, will improve the Parents For Parents program, which engages families who have children in foster care and connects them to parents who have successfully gone through dependency and are prepared to offer support.

The legislation will help vulnerable families reunite or stay together, and provide the best possible care for the children involved. Parents who have successfully reunified are prepared to offer support by sharing the necessary steps they took in order to successfully reunite with their children. This firsthand account can help parents who are currently trying to get their children back make it seem possible despite the challenging process ahead.

“The child welfare system can be a scary process for families,” said Frockt. “It’s very unfamiliar, people are worried that they’ll lose custody of their children, and the cases often include substance abuse situations or severe economic challenges. Connecting families with other people who have already been through the dependency process and are trained to help will make the process easier and less confusing for those who are trying to responsibly keep their families together.”

The program has been implemented in a few courts across the state and has shown great promise. If funds are available, the program will be formally evaluated to better understand its impact.

“Peer mentorship can make an enormous difference when it comes to helping families navigate the complicated and confusing child dependency system,” said Alise Hegle, Parent Engagement Coordinator with the Children’s Home Society of Washington. “Parents familiar with the system can show parents currently going through the system that challenges like substance abuse and communication difficulties can be overcome, and that families can be reunited or kept together if the parents fulfill their responsibilities. This is a great program and this bill will make it better.”

Democrats offer amendment to reduce tuition at all state colleges and universities

April 30th, 2015|

A proposed amendment to Senate Bill 5954, co-sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, would have reduced tuition by 5 percent for all students of public colleges and universities in Washington.

Today’s effort by Senate Democrats would have helped an additional 9,000 eligible students receive State Need Grants.

“This amendment is all about finding some sort of middle ground,” said Frockt. “Not only is this important for our community and technical college students, it’s important for our students attending independent colleges and universities. This bill ensures fairness for these students who otherwise would receive less financial aid under the current Senate budget proposal that eliminates $75 million for State Need Grant funding.”

Under Senate Bill 5954, students in community and technical colleges would only see a 2 percent reduction and only in the second year. They would get none in the first year, unlike their counterparts in the baccalaureates. In addition, tuition rates would be based on the average state wage, which may not be the most effective metric to use. The amendment offered by Frockt and Kohl-Welles would instead reduce current rates across the board by 5 percent for all students in public colleges and universities.

“Unlike the Republican tuition plan, this proposal lowers tuition now for all state schools including community and technical colleges,” said Kohl-Welles. “Our community college and technical college students are often forgotten when we discuss tuition reduction. These students are oftentimes the ones who need financial help the most when pursuing higher education. Let’s get this right and make sure all of our citizens seeking higher education can afford it, not just the ones who choose to attend a four-year university.”

The amendment also called for a study by Washington State Institute for Public Policy of eliminating tuition at Washington two-year institutions. Other states have experimented with this idea and President Obama unveiled a proposal in January that would split the cost between the federal government and states. This amendment does not include a specific plan but asks for a study of the issue.

Earth Day

April 22nd, 2015|

It doesn’t seem like an outrageous statement to me to say that today, in 2015, we should listen to what scientists have to say on the major issues of the day. It just so happens that on one of the most urgent issues of our generation – the threat of global climate change – the science happens to be agreed upon. An overwhelming scientific consensus agrees – climate change is real, it will have major consequences on all of our lives, and human activity is contributing to it.

Today is Earth Day, which offers an opportunity to reflect on the challenge of climate change and what we are doing to combat it. Transportation produces an enormous percentage of our carbon emissions – about 44 percent here in Washington – and we’ll need to offer folks more choices for how to get around so we can get congestion off our roads and produce less pollution. I’ve been working hard to ensure that Sound Transit gets the full authority to make a serious investment in transit and light rail throughout the entire Puget Sound region, including rail to Ballard and projects like a light rail station at 130th St in our district.

When the Senate voted on its transportation investment proposal earlier this year, I offered an amendment to provide the full funding authority for Sound Transit – unfortunately the Republicans voted it down. Now, I’m working with Gov. Inslee and leaders in the House to ensure that the full funding is provided in whatever compromise proposal we come to between the House and the Senate on a transportation package. I was proud to stand with the Governor and other legislators at a press conference at the soon-to-open Husky Stadium light rail station in our district to discuss these efforts – you can read about it in the Seattle Times.

I’ve also worked to fund the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington in our operating budget and to maintain the governor’s authority to protect Washington’s environment with stronger clean-fuel standards.

Climate change is real and we need to take real action to protect our environment, our economy and our way of life. That means making transit investments, offering more transportation choices, ensuring cleaner fuel in our cars and building a market-based system for protecting the public from carbon emissions. These steps should not be controversial – they are smart, reasonable ways to improve people lives and protect the environment. Today, Earth Day, let’s reflect on these priorities, and move forward to protect our planet and our environment for generations to come.

Seattle Senators add school construction funding for Seattle Public Schools to capital budget

April 15th, 2015|

The Senate capital budget would provide money for critical school construction projects in Seattle School District under an amendment proposed by the Seattle Senate delegation and adopted by the full Senate. The amendment was signed by Senators David Frockt, Jamie Pedersen, Sharon Nelson, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Pramila Jayapal, Bob Hasegawa and Maralyn Chase.

The amendment to SB 6080 would provide an additional $33 million over four years for school construction, renovations and improvements for local Seattle schools. This was the full sum requested by Seattle Public Schools from the capital budget.

“Seattle has some of the most crowded classrooms in the state, and the legislature needed to step up and help,” said Frockt, who offered the amendment on behalf of the delegation. “To provide a great education for all students we need to make sure they have school buildings in decent shape, with enough classrooms, and with the infrastructure they need to succeed. If we can secure this funding in the final capital budget, it will contribute to accommodate the extraordinary population and enrollment growth we have seen and are expected to continue to see in our city. We have a long way to go to fully accommodate population growth, but this is a good step in the right direction.”

Beginning in the 2008-09 school year with a population of approximately 47,000 students, the Seattle School District has grown by at least 1,000 students each year. At this projected pace, the Seattle School District could have enrollment of approximately 60,000 students by the year 2020. The addition of 12,000 students over that time frame would itself be larger than 90 percent of the school districts in Washington.

“Our state’s paramount duty is to provide ample funding for public schools, including for construction of school buildings,” said Pedersen. “Seattle legislators have worked closely together this session to make sure that the state will help Seattle meet the challenge of our extraordinary enrollment growth.”

More patients, more doctors

April 13th, 2015|

As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Care Committee, one of my top legislative priorities has been to expand our medical workforce, including both physicians and other health care professionals. Health care expansion has finally brought health insurance to hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured Washingtonians but without meaningful access to the right providers, having insurance coverage itself may not make much of a difference to many people.

There remains a significant debate about how to finance more medical education through the University of Washington’s exceptional medical school and the new proposed WSU medical school, and I am working hard to ensure the full funding required for the UW medical expansion in the final budget. In the meantime, we’re taking additional critical steps.

Earlier this year, I proposed legislation to fund the Health Professional Loan Repayment program. This provides better medical school loan repayment options for health care professionals willing to locate in underserved areas. That funding is now in the budget proposal under consideration by the House and Senate. Additionally,  today the Senate passed key legislation to expand medical residencies in underserved areas. I worked with colleagues in both parties,  the Washington State Medical Association and the UW on this measure and was the prime sponsor of the Senate version of this bill. UW will continue to manage the network in close consultation with the other medical schools and both budgets contain expanding funding for the residencies, albeit at different levels. I am hopeful that by the end of the session, we will see an expansion of this funding and the new structure for managing the residency program.  This is important because where a doctor serves their residency is the best predictor of where they’ll continue to practice.

Between expanded residencies and better health loan repayment options, I believe we’re making real progress this session on expanding our health care workforce in parts of our state that have the greatest need.