E-News

Legislative Update: Budget passes just before shutdown

July 1st, 2017|

Hasegawa banner 2017

Budget passes just before shutdown

Budget

With only hours to go before the deadline, a state budget passed the Legislature and was sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature – narrowly avoiding a government shutdown.

Unfortunately, I had to vote no on the budget because it relied almost entirely on a regressive property tax increase that would have hit the 11th Legislative District especially hard. Balancing our state responsibilities on the backs of middle- and low-income families and individuals who already pay more than their fair share is simply not good enough.

I am grateful to my colleagues who fought to include essential investments for our mental health system, homelessness assistance, implementation of the Clean Air Rule and the collective bargaining agreements for public employees. It also makes significant investments into our K-12 system, however it doesn’t really address the state Supreme Court’s requirement in the McCleary ruling that the basic education funding come from the state is sustainable and reliable. The new money from property taxes is capped for four years and then subject to growth limitations, which will put us in the same situation in four years that we’re trying to resolve now.

Hasegawa ENews Feb

One bit of good news is that I was able to get a budget proviso for the state to convene an interim task force to look at creating a publicly owned state bank. As you probably know, I’ve been working on this issue for several years now and the concept is really starting to gain traction. With the state bank, we would keep our tax dollars in Washington State, working for Washington State and not send it to Wall Street for them to use to make profit for themselves. It would provide huge financing capacity to fund critical infrastructure without having to sell bonds through Wall Street brokers. We simply don’t have enough money to keep going into debt to Wall Street to fund critical infrastructure.  The added bonus is that it would generate much needed new revenue for the people of our state without raising taxes. It’s a win-win. For more information on that effort, please click here.

As I write this, negotiators are still working on the Capital Budget. At last check, a number of 11th district projects were funded, including for the City of Renton’s No. 1 priority, Sunset Park, and a study to look at the efficacy of electrifying our rail infrastructure. This project is known as Solutionary Rail and can help reduce a major source of carbon emissions. The budget, SHB 1075, passed out of the House early Saturday morning with a vote of 92-1. It is now up to the Senate Republicans to allow the bill a vote.

Despite the positive elements in the budget, I simply could not vote for a property tax increase that isn’t fair or sustainable. The Legislature also just passed a full set of new tax exemptions totaling almost $100 Million, including extending the Boeing B&O tax break to all manufacturers. This is another shift of tax burden from corporations onto the backs of working families.

We only had a few minutes in Ways and Means to review the full budget comprised of 680 pages across 3 books before we voted on it – and only a few hours before voting it off the Senate floor. I encourage you to look at the documents by clicking here.

Thank you for being an engaged constituent. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your thoughts regarding Legislative issues.

Respectfully,

Hasegawa signature

Hasegawa in Senate Wings

Contact Me

Phone: (360) 786-7616

Email: Bob.Hasegawa@leg.wa.gov

Website: www.sdc.wastateleg.org/Hasegawa

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    Legislative Update: The regular 2017 session is nearing an end

Legislative Update: The regular 2017 session is nearing an end

April 18th, 2017|

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April 18, 2017

Dear Neighbors,Hasegawa in committee

The regular 2017 legislative session ends on Sunday, and although we have operating budget proposals from the House Democrats and Senate Republicans, negotiations have stalled.

Despite multiple attempts by Democratic budget negotiators to initiate talks, Republicans are refusing to come to the table. While this is very frustrating, talks on education funding are progressing and I am hopeful the rest of the operating budget will begin making progress as well.

In this legislative update, I will share with you how different the priorities are that are laid out in the two state budgets. On the one hand, Democrats propose revenue from progressive sources that begin to right our upside-down tax system, while on the other hand Republicans make deep cuts to the social safety net and rely on a $5.6 billion statewide property tax hike to fund education that includes a levy swap proposal that would provide significant tax cuts for some major corporations and force major tax hikes in Seattle while providing less to our students.

As always, I will continue to fight for working families, progressive tax reform and social justice for our community and state.

Please contact me with any comments, concerns or questions.

Regards,

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Three State BudgetsBudget

There are three separate budgets that fund all the responsibilities of the state. They are passed on a biennial basis, or every two years, with smaller supplemental budgets passed in alternating years.

1.     Operating Budget

The operating budget is the main budget for the state, with proposals this year ranging from $43 – $46 billion. It funds everything from higher education to state agencies to the mental health care system.

I offered an amendment to the budget to appropriate funds to begin the process of studying the possibility of a state-owned bank. While the amendment received a majority vote, it still failed because of a 60-percent rule the majority Republicans invoked for amendments to the budget and so narrowly failed.

On the bright side, support for this idea increases each year – in great part due to those of you who have been speaking up. I still haven’t given up hope for us to make progress on a state bank this session as I continue this fight. To learn more about my state bank proposal, click here.

You can read the state bank amendment by clicking here, or watch my floor speech by clicking here.

To watch my floor speech on the operating budget vote, please click here.

2.     Transportation BudgetSenate cap budget projects 2017

The transportation budget funds everything from pedestrian safety, traffic improvement projects, bridge repairs, ferries and avalanche control.

Negotiations are ongoing with the House of Representatives to pass a transportation budget, and how to deal with major outstanding issues like HOV/Hot Lanes/tolls, and MVET taxes.

3.     Capital Budget

The capital budget funds a variety of building and maintenance projects throughout the state. From affordable housing grants to schools to community and arts centers and parks, the capital budget is critical to building and expanding public spaces throughout Washington state.

I teamed up with our budget negotiators and the other members of the Senate Members of Color Caucus to advocate for key projects and investments in our districts.

Key priorities include the Housing Trust Fund, Building Communities Fund Grants, Dental Capacity Grants, and hazardous/toxic material cleanup money. Specific projects include Sunset Neighborhood Park, Museum of Flight, the Multicultural Community Center, Renton Technical College and many more. I will continue to advocate for these and other 11th District projects as the final capital budget is negotiated with the House of Representatives.

I also offered an environmental and job-creating amendment to the capital budget (the only Democratic amendment accepted by the Republican majority) that studies the feasibility of electrifying our railroads, a project known as Solutionary Rail.

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Fighting for you in OlympiaHasegawa speaking 2017

Finally, I’ve been fighting for racial justice issues, speaking on the Senate floor to various issues that are otherwise swept under the carpet. These issues include legal financial obligations reform, police use of deadly force, racial impact statements for any proposed legislation, and emergency notifications in languages other than English where appropriate.

This is only a taste of the breadth of issues we’re dealing with this legislative session. As you can see there are no shortage of fronts to be fought for our community. Please know that I am here in Olympia fighting for you.

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Differences in the Budgets

Budgets are really a statement of values – what is funded and what is cut shows what each party thinks is a priority and what they don’t. As you can see from the comparisons below, there are stark differences in priorities between Democrats and Republicans in this year’s budget proposals.

D v R policies 2017 Budget updated

D v R policies 2017 budget

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Contact Me

Capitol in springPhone: (360) 786-7616

Email: Bob.Hasegawa@leg.wa.gov

Website: www.sdc.wastateleg.org/Hasegawa

End of Session Update from Senator Hasegawa

July 22nd, 2015|

Dear Neighbors,

After a long six months in Olympia, we have finally finished the 2015 legislative session. The main state operating budget was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on June 30, ensuring we avoided what would have been a devastating government shutdown.

Sunrise over CapitolThe Legislature stayed in session for an extra week to finalize the transportation and capital budgets, and to discuss how we would address the voter approved class size reduction initiative. We also passed a bill that allowed 2,000 hard-working and deserving students to graduate from high school. Please click here to see a video of my Senate floor speech with stories of some of these students.

It was a historically long session with some positive outcomes – but many of our biggest challenges lie ahead. I’d like to share with you where I think our district and state stand as we wrap-up the 2015 legislative session, starting with a letter from a Renton constituent who got to the heart of the difficulties the Legislature experienced this year.

Standing Strong for Education

Thank you for supporting students and educators by voting against HB 2266, the bill to delay implementation of I-1351. You can raise new revenue and fully fund the smaller class sizes our students deserve in every grade level. Please stay strong and support the will of the voters. Support progressive new revenue and fully fund I-1351 giving every student, regardless of grade, the opportunity to learn in uncrowded classes.

Thank you for your past support of education. Please don’t back down now.

Our state constitution calls education our “paramount duty,” and I agree. That is why I did not support either attempt to pass a bill that will delay the voter approved class-size reduction Initiative 1351 for four years. With a price tag of $2 billion, money was the only reason I-1351 was not addressed this year. And money is not a good enough reason to delay implementation of any aspect of basic education, according to the state Supreme Court.

As our neighbor from Renton pointed out, all kids, regardless of grade, deserve to learn in an uncrowded environment. A delay of class sizes reduction is a delay of basic educational opportunities and success for students across Washington – particularly low-income kids and students of color. Click here to watch the Hasegawa in Rules with Framevideo of my floor speech about this measure.

Education funding also gets at the heart of why I voted ‘no’ on the operating budget. While I support that the budget includes long-overdue investments in class size reduction in K-3, all-day kindergarten and money for classroom supplies, materials and operating costs, we missed the chance this year to institute “progressive new revenue” that will ensure we can fully fund public schools and maintain that funding without this yearly gridlock.

Although we started the 2015 session with a $5 billion shortfall, Senate Republicans refused to even discuss increasing revenue until well into the second special session, when they finally conceded that we could not balance our budget without raising revenue. In the 11th hour, they finally agreed to $452 million in tax loophole closures over the next four years – which still left I-1351 unfunded by $2 billion this year. They expected the Legislature would simply overturn I-1351.

Even before session began, Senate Republicans refused to consider more fair and sustainable sources of revenue like a capital gains tax on the richest Washingtonians, or a carbon tax on corporate polluters. This upside-down approach to state revenue will only become more problematic as we face funding both I-1351 and the state’s overreliance on property tax levies, which tops $3.5 billion.

The Legislature had the opportunity this year to make real changes to our unfair tax system and ensure more sustainable funding for our schools and other responsibilities. That challenge was kicked down the road yet again, setting us up for gridlock year in and year out. But with your help and voices, we can push for a more fair tax structure to ensure the biggest corporations and richest in our state pay their fair share so that we can fully fund all of Washington’s schools.

Transportation

After ten years, I am happy to report we passed a transportation revenue package that will create over 200,000 jobs in Washington, and make critical investments in 11th district infrastructure. No matter how you look at it, this is a big win for our area and the state. Because even though the Wall Street created Great Recession is over and unemployment in King County is down, too many of our friends and neighbors are still out of work or underemployed.

You might remember that I voted ‘no’ on the original Senate version of the transportation package. There were simply too many strings attached without enough investment in what we really need. The problems included a $1 billion shift from the operating budget to transportation, destructive collective bargaining and prevailing wage measures, harmful environmental provisions, and only partial funding authority for Sound Transit to work on projects like light rail and bus service expansion.

Sound Transit with FrameThe final bill is much better, but still had a major problem; the anti-environment “poison pill” is still intact. This is the stipulation that takes away the governor’s executive authority to implement a low-carbon fuel standard. Although some compromise was made in cutting the poison pill duration from 16 years to eight, that is still simply too long to wait to take action on carbon reduction. Carbon emissions are not just an environmental issue, they are a social justice one too. Air pollution disproportionately affects low-income individuals and people of color because they are more likely to live near major transportation corridors and sites of industrial pollution. More than half of Washington’s air pollution is transportation related, so reduction of carbon emissions is a critical public health issue.

Fortunately, the poison pill only ties the hands of the governor. The Legislature can still act, and so can the people of Washington who have the ability to put a low-carbon fuel standard measure on the ballot. I believe the people of this state are up to the task of standing up to Big Oil and their lobbyists, and can help ensure we take steps to reduce carbon emissions in Washington. Click here for a video of my speech on the transportation package.

Equity of Opportunity is a Public Responsibility

We know that equity of opportunity starts at a very early age. That is why investments in quality early learning is critical to closing the opportunity gap we see that persists between low, middle and high-income students. But I firmly believe that in order to have true equity of access to quality early learning, our systemEquity Isn't Justice with Frame must be public. In the final days of the 2015 session, we passed “The Early Start Act.”

While it aims to improve access to early learning for Washington kids, this bill relies on and provides funding for private institutions without making any assurances that kids in low-income families can have the same access to quality education that high-income children have. It was difficult to vote no on this measure because I strongly believe in early childhood education, but the bill is fundamentally flawed because it threatens to actually increase the opportunity gap. This is not the direction I believe this state should go. Click here for my floor speech on the Early Start Act.

Although this was a difficult session, I believe we are gaining momentum on the common understanding that we need sustainable revenue. Washingtonians know that we need to fully fund education equitably without further burdening middle and low income Washingtonians already paying more than their fair share. I will continue to work throughout the interim and into next session to turn that awareness into action.

Thank you to all of who wrote, called or visited my office in Olympia over the past six months. As always, I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Regards,

Senator Bob Hasegawa

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    Legislative Update: In Your Words: Letters and Responses with 11th District Neighbors

Legislative Update: In Your Words: Letters and Responses with 11th District Neighbors

June 18th, 2015|

Hasegawa with Frame

Dear Neighbors,

I have been getting a lot of good feedback from my recent e-news that includes communications from constituents. As we move into the second 30-day special session, I thought I would continue using emails I’ve received from our 11th district neighbors to frame the conversation about what has happened over the regular session, and what we can expect in the days ahead.

A Roof Over Every Head: Funding and the Capital Budget

From a Constituent who works with Habitat for Humanity in Seattle-King County:

I am writing to request that you support, in the Capital Budget, the Housing Trust Fund at $100 million including affordable homeownership programs.

Over 43% of King County households are rent-burdened. 850+ families with children are homeless awaiting emergency housing placements. Affordable homeownership programs including Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County form a critical part of the affordable housing continuum, and rely on capital budget investments. Habitat has served thousands of families, with significant private leverage. On every dollar invested in Habitat homes through the state capital budget Habitat has leveraged $5 in private capital. The Senate’s capital budget proposal includes an investment in 150 units of affordable homeownership for low income households.

The capital budget is one of the three state budgets written every two years, along with the general operating budget and the transportation budget. Although it often gets the least amount of attention, it is critical to a healthy state infrastructure because it provides funds for school and university buildings, affordable housing grants and clean water projects among many other things.

As we know, Seattle and King County are increasingly difficult to afford living in as rents and property taxes rise. For almost 30 years, the Housing Trust Fund has provided competitive grants to affordable housing projects throughout our area and the state. These building projects support a wide range of Washingtonians, including low- to middle-income families, seniors, the homeless and the developmentally disabled. I agree with the constituent that this program should be funded at $100 million, although I believe it will be difficult to get there in this budget cycle. The House Democrats nearly got there in their budget proposal, funding it at $80 million. Senate Republicans only funded it at $65 million. The high water mark was $200 million in 2008-10, although we’ve had severe cuts since then, forcing more people onto the streets – including over 30,000 school-aged children.

Income inequality is one of the greatest challenges we face today. It is a generational problem that will leave a legacy of increasing inequality if we don’t prioritize finding solutions now. Affordable housing is a critical part of keeping pathways to the middle class open, and as we finalize the capital budget I will continue to fight for funding to programs like the Housing Trust Fund that help people keep a roof over their head.

Who Pays Graphs

 

Education Funding Solutions

A Renton constituent wrote:

KOMO-TV last night reported that the Legislature was considering increasing property tax for [education funding]. Please do NOT!! My taxes went up nearly $600 this year. I’ve lived in my home since 1977. Am single with no children and am a senior citizen on a fixed income. Have been happy to pay for education through the years but, can’t afford another increase. Please consider what this increase would do to senior citizens like me.

Lawmakers went into the 2015 legislative session saying education funding was our top priority for this year. The state is in contempt of court for not having come up with a plan to fully fund basic education according to our obligations under the state Supreme Court McCleary decision, and we must come up with that plan before we adjourn or face sanctions.

The House Democrats and Senate Republicans both proposed around $1.3 billion for basics like all-day kindergarten, class size reduction in grades K-3 and funds for class room materials and supplies as well as operating costs like heat and electricity. With decreased state funding for education over many years, school districts have been forced to make up the funding for these basic needs through local levy dollars, which come from property taxes, even though they are not supposed to.

This has created a widening gap between the richer districts that can pass levies, and middle and low income districts that have a harder time with that. Teacher salaries too have been supplemented with levy dollars, making districts with the means to add more to a base salary desirable, while smaller or poorer districts struggle to attract and retain educators.

The constituent letter above speaks to many calls we’ve received regarding revenue for education. We know we need to fund schools, we know we need revenue – so where will that revenue come from? I think most Washingtonians are already paying their fair share in taxes, it is time we level the playing field and ensure all kids get the opportunity for a great education without further burdening working families and small business. Below is a graphic that shows the two different levy equalization proposals: the Senate Republican property tax increase proposal the constituent mentions vs. the Senate Democrats’ capital gains proposal.

Levy Comparison JPEG

Educator Walk-Outs, and the Need to Take a Stand

There has been a lot of coverage of the recent school walk-outs, where educators and students have stood up to voice their opposition to the Senate Republican budget. Although controversial, I think actions like these help highlight the seriousness of situations that are often overlooked.

The walk-outs were spun by some as purely about teacher pay raises, but in reality they were a call to legislators to do our duty and fully fund education. That does include paying the teacher cost of living adjustments (or COLAs) that were approved by voters and haven’t been funded in seven years, and taking a look at salaries to bring them up to a fair market value. But that is only one corner of the bigger picture. Fully funding education means reducing class sizes so kids and teachers can do their best work. Fully funding education means not relying so heavily on local property tax levies, and it means ensuring all kids, no matter their zip code, get an equal shot at success.

Hasegawa teachers rallyThese are the reasons professionals go into teaching in the first place – to make sure we invest the best we can in our students. But that means we need to have the backs of those whose responsibility this falls on – school employees.

On the day of the biggest walk-outs yet, where thousands marched through the streets of Seattle to demand full education funding, the Republican led Senate Commerce & Labor committee held a public hearing on a bill that sought to punish teachers for taking this bold stand (SB 6116). Not only did this bill have a number of legal and logistical problems that wouldn’t even make it possible to implement as written, it has serious moral implications too. In the midst of an over-time special session, where we are tasked with writing the budget, Senate Republicans chose to use their time holding a hearing on a bill that had no chance of going anywhere.

Because this bill was clearly a messaging tool aimed at attacking teachers rather than offering real solutions, myself and my fellow Democrats on the committee chose not to participate. I have never walked out of a hearing before, but in budget writing crunch time, we felt we had much better ways to use our time than state-funded political grandstanding.

The committee was well covered by the press, and I received a number of calls and emails, mostly in strong support of this action.

One constituent wrote:

I am so proud to live in your district, I was cheering when I saw [KING 5’s] story showing you leaving the discussion on punishing teachers.  You are so right, it takes the focus off of the goal.  I have no children in school, but my interest in education comes from the dismal antiquated system and the teachers who put their heart into creating skilled savvy members of society in spite of the infrastructure.  I am tired of a few vocal trolls being able to take away funds from education when our future relies on educating our children to save the planet.  Many thanks to you sir, for being the voice of reason in the legislature!

My office got many calls as well, including one from a Republican who was equally frustrated that committee time was used this way in budget time.

I get all kinds of communications, comments and suggestions through my office every day. Whether they are positive or negative, I listen to each one and take them seriously – after all, it is YOU who I am here to represent. So I hope you’ll keep up the calls and emails, and I will continue to update you as this second special session continues.

As always, thank you for subscribing to my e-newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards,

Senator Bob Hasegawa

LegYouthAdvisCouncil graphic You can apply here, or learn more by clicking here.

Applications must be submitted online by June 21, 2015.

Legislative Update: Up and Coming Voices

April 24th, 2015|

Capitol with Frame - CopyDear Neighbors,

With most budget negotiations at a standstill, we are slowly moving out of the regular 2015 legislative session and into a special session starting next Wednesday.

I’ll send another e-newsletter soon going over special session – and hopefully with more to report on the budgets. If you would like to watch my latest video with some information on the status of the budgets now, and some of my thoughts regarding where the state is as the regular 2015 session winds down, please click here.

In this update, I am going to divert from the usual letter I send and give you the opportunity to hear from some of the up-and-coming leaders in our community.

Omar Jackson and Nikki Saucedo have been helping in my office throughout this session. Omar is 27 year old South Seattle native and has worked on community activism and local campaigns.

Nikki grew up in Kent and is now a junior at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, where she is majoring in criminal justice.

It has been wonderful having both Omar and Nikki in the office throughout session, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here. I asked that they each write a short piece to share with you about why they got involved in politics. I hope you enjoy reading their stories.

As always, thank you for subscribing to my e-newsletter and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards,

Senator Bob Hasegawa

 

RACE to the Capitol

by Omar Jackson

Omar JacksonAs a young person growing up in low-income neighborhoods a large portion of my life, I never understood the importance of voting. It was something that everyone in my neighborhood knew about, but just didn’t care enough to go out and vote. In high school, I noticed that the person who won the election to become class president made the decisions. And even though I had not yet grasped the importance of voting, I watched closely.

After high school, I became involved in childcare services. While employed, I started noticing critical services and funding being cut from the programs that these families and their children depended on. I became passionate about the difficulties these programs face and began to reach out to organizers. This was my start in taking action for my beliefs. I continued to be involved and, during my journey, I came into contact with Mr. Louis Watanabe. Louis was already a member of the Metropolitan Democratic Club of Seattle, and the 1st Vice Chair for the 37th Legislative Democrats of Seattle when I met him. He almost immediately took me under his wing and brought me along with him to all of the events he believed I could get the most information from.

As time passed and I got more politically involved and familiar with procedure and the terminology, I became enthralled by political campaigns and the race to the Capitol. When Senator Adam Kline stepped down for retirement, Louis stepped up to run. Initially I was brought on as a field organizer and I enjoyed being out and meeting my neighbors – the people of my district. But while on the campaign tragedy struck, and my cousin DesZaun Smallwood was murdered in Leschi on April 24th. He was 20 years old.

Not having answers about the murder and being overcome by the feeling of hopelessness was enough for me to stand up and be a voice for the misrepresented young men not only in Seattle, but for all of Washington. Louis encouraged me to get out and tell the stories that so many young males of color don’t get an opportunity to tell. The stories of racial profiling, institutional and geographical racism, disproportionality and so much more. I realized that I had a message and a valuable perspective from the inside. Having the mind-set of “this will keep happening to us if I don’t do something”, and bolstered by my cousin’s spirit, I carried on and pushed myself further. What inspired me to get even more involved was the high volume of shootings and deaths of young people of color in the south Seattle area. Louis took notice of my drive and ambition, and made me his campaign manager.

Since coming to Olympia to work with Senator Hasegawa, my skills as an organizer and public speaker have dramatically improved. The experience has helped me set a clear goal for what I want to accomplish in my community, and that is to get more young people involved in politics by showing just how much the Legislature directly effects our communities. The work I did for Louis Watanabe helped me immensely, but the wisdom and information I received from my neighbors of the 37th LD will stay with me for the rest of my life. It gave me a better sense of community, neighborhood stewardship, and that we should take pride and care of the city we hope to raise our children in. I have also learned that although we are often dismissed we have a lot to say, there is a need for what we have to say, and it is our right to say it.

My political journey has only begun and, at this point, the sky isn’t even the limit.

 

Why I Got Involved in Politics

by Nikki Saucedo

Nikki SaucedoI come from a family with absolutely no political background. I did not know the difference between a liberal and a conservative until I took my first political science class. Needless to say, I was not interested in politics. All I ever heard about was how corrupt it is. The political science class bored me, and I never considered having anything to do with politics.

I am now in college studying criminal justice, where you’d think politics would be bound to come up in discussion. But after a teacher of mine refused to talk about the events in Ferguson saying “that’s what political science classes are for”, I signed up for one, hoping to put what I was learning in my criminal justice studies into the context of current events. Still, I was bored.

After this second try I began to wonder why I found politics so boring when it has such a big impact on society. Because of the demographics of politics, it can be discouraging as a person of color, especially coming from a family of immigrants, to get involved. But I knew it was important, so I decided to pursue an internship with the state Senate.

Working in a hands-on way with the Legislature made me realize the power of politics. It determines so much of what goes on in our society, and affects everyone’s daily lives.

I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful experience of seeing what lawmakers really do. I don’t think people realize how hard many of them work, and most of the time the process can best be described as organized chaos.

If there is anything I learned by working here, it is that every voice matters. Anyone can be involved and anyone can make a difference. By participating in the process, I found that politics is more than a subject in school.

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    Legislative Update: Thank you for a successful townhall! What’s next?

Legislative Update: Thank you for a successful townhall! What’s next?

March 18th, 2015|

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Thank you for a successful town hall!

I want to thank everyone who took time on Saturday to come to the town hall in Renton. We had a great turnout and productive discussion on the state budget, education and other important issues.

If you weren’t able to make it, or we didn’t have time to answer your question, please contact us!

Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Beacon Hill)

Bob.Hasegawa@leg.wa.gov

(360) 786 – 7616

Home Page: http://sdc.wastateleg.org/Hasegawa/

Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-Tukwila)

Zack.Hudgins@leg.wa.gov

(360) 786 – 7956

Home Page: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/roster/rep-Zack-Hudgins/

Rep. Steve Bergquist (D-Renton)

bergquist.steve@leg.wa.gov

(360) 786 – 7862

Home Page: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/roster/rep-Steve-Bergquist/

Senate v. House: Contrasting Values

We are now over halfway through the 2015 legislative session, and have passed an important cutoff where the Senate begins to hear legislation introduced in the House and vice versa. Looking at what has passed through the Republican controlled Senate and the Democratically-controlled House, the differences couldn’t be starker.

On the one hand, the House passed bills to:

The Republican controlled Senate on the other hand:

  • Blocked all of the measures listed above.

 Looking Ahead at Education Funding and the Budget

As the second half of session continues, we will be increasingly focused on writing the budget that will fund the state’s operations for the next two years. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came into this legislative session in agreement that funding education is our primary duty. There is also a consensus it will be our biggest challenge, as there is a significant ideological divide between where we will find necessary funding.

As you can see from the graph below, there isn’t much of the budget that can be cut – especially because so many services have been cut so deeply already. We will need new sources of revenue to fund our schools and keep the state running, and I am committed to finding that revenue in places that won’t further burden working families in this state. Capital gains taxes on the state’s richest, and taxing Washington’s largest corporate polluters must be on the table if we are going to fund our kids’ education and address our regressive and unfair tax system. Like I say, I am committed to this, and hope you’ll write to lawmakers expressing how you feel the budget process should move forward.

Regards,

Bob Hasegawa

Budget pie

 

Sen. Hasegawa’s enewsletter update 6/26/2014

June 26th, 2014|

bh-faith celebration
A Khmer dance group performs at the Rainier Community Center in celebration of the passage of Senate Bill 5173.

Dear 11th District constituents,

I knew we had a lot of support this past legislative session for SB 5173, my bill to secure for all public employees and public school students two days leave of absence for matters of faith or conscience, but I was reminded of the breadth of that support when I recently attended a community celebration of the bill’s passage at the Rainier Community Center in Seattle.

The range of faiths, ethnicities and cultures on hand led to a dizzying assortment of foods and entertainment, along with traditional blessings on our celebration by Native Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Christians and Buddhists. Performances included Asian-Indians, Filipino dance group, Pacific Islanders, Muslims and a Chinese lion dance.

While all Americans have the right to practice the religion of their choice, until the passage of SB 5173, they haven’t always had the ability — particularly on holy days unrecognized by our society’s standard Gregorian calendar, or that don’t fall on a Sunday or even on the same day every year. Now public employees may take two unpaid holidays per calendar year for reasons of faith or conscience. It costs nothing, because the holidays are unpaid, and it places no requirements on private employers. At the same time, students may be excused from school for reasons of faith or conscience for up to two days, subject to the approval of their parents.

Tikkun Olam Award for Public Service
In other news, I was honored last week to receive the Tikkun Olam Award for Public Service along with Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, at the annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase that covers social activism, opposition to injustice, and efforts to improve society and repair the world — and I felt very humbled to be recognized in that context.

Host Homes Sought for Exchange Students
The Council on International Educational Exchange, a non-profit high school exchange organization, is looking for households that might be interested in hosting students coming to Seattle for the 2014-2015 academic year.

All kinds of households are eligible — those with families, kids, no kids, empty nesters, single parents, and so forth; the main requirements are kindness and a willingness to learn about a foreign culture.

The students range in age from 15 to 18, have medical insurance and pay their own expenses with the exceptions of food and utilities. They arrive in August on a 5- or 10-month program. Households unable to host a student for the full academic year can also act as a welcome family to bring the student into the community for a part of their experience as well.

For more information or to volunteer to host a student, go to http://www.ciee.org/whoops/.

Out and About
One of the best aspects of the legislative interim is that it frees up time to touch bases across the district and stay current with everyone’s needs and concerns.

This month, for instance, I attended the Georgetown Community Council and North Beacon Hill Community Council meetings, just to hear what’s important to the communities and whether there’s a need for state lawmaking support.

I also toured Talbot Hill Elementary with Renton Schools District Superintendent Dr. Merri Rieger. The enthusiasm of the students and teachers, and success of their Micro Society program is obvious and reaffirms the great work being done in our public schools. Evidence of students’ academic success, individual growth and good citizenship is very apparent after spending time listening to, and talking with the students.

Also in Renton, I met with Mayor Denis Law and several city council members and staff to discuss the last legislative session and how we can move forward in the next session to address the City of Renton’s main concerns.

I also met with State Auditor Troy Kelley about implementing a proviso I had inserted into the budget bill (SB 6002) that requires a cost and profit center performance audit of the University of Washington. The UW needs to conduct transparent operations and the Legislature needs to know how the students’ tuition is being used. Because the UW is such a complex institution, this audit is just the first step in trying to understand its financial operations and improve its transparency and accountability.

I also met with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition to learn more about the Superfund site cleanup operations and how I can be supportive of those efforts. Did you know average life expectancy in South Park is 13 years shorter than in northeast Seattle? Environmental conditions along the Duwamish River are a large contributor to that inequity. I’ll be working with the federal EPA, City of Seattle, King County and other stakeholders to make sure the cleanup is a permanent fix, not a temporary and ineffective capping of the pollutants, and that we resolve the ongoing pollution problem that continues to feed into the Duwamish.

At the congressional level, I met with U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott to talk about how to proceed in creating a publicly owned state bank. I also met with Governor Inslee to explain the state bank concept and how it can be useful to resolve our I-502 financial system problem. Did you know the State of Washington uses Bank of America to hold all our tax revenue and provide banking services for the state? Then we borrow from Wall Street to finance our infrastructure and other capital needs. Doesn’t it make sense for us to use taxpayers’ revenue for the benefit of Washington State rather than Wall Street? Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana, will create a billion dollar marketplace that is prevented by federal law from using traditional banking services. A marketplace that is forced to deal in cash only puts the public at risk of armed robbery, organized or other criminal activity, undependable tax revenues, and other assorted general misconduct, not to mention the difficulty it presents in complying with the U.S. Attorney General’s guidance on implementing I-502. A publicly owned state bank is an effective solution to both our I-502 financial system problem and our capital infrastructure funding problem. We should invest in Washington, not Wall Street.

I also attended a Social Security Forum that featured several terrific speakers: Terry O’Neill, national president of National Organization for Women (NOW); U.S. Rep. Adam Smith; and Marilyn Watkins, policy director of the Economic Opportunity Institute. The theme of the forum was Social Security: Preserve It, Strengthen It, Pass It On, and it was sponsored by Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action. The group has been organizing a “Scrap The Cap” campaign, which eliminates the tax break high-income earners get in paying Social Security taxes. Eliminating this tax break for the wealthy would insure the viability of Social Security retirement benefits for generations to come.

This week, I’m pleased to announce the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Strander Boulevard extension project at SW 72th Street. The extension establishes a critical east-west connection between SW 27th Street in Renton and Strander Boulevard in Tukwila.

I spoke to high school students and college freshmen in the Summer Youth Leadership Program through which participants meet Asian American role models and leaders, discover Asian community resources, and build friendships with youths from other parts of the Puget Sound area.

Still later this week, I’ll be attending a luncheon for high school juniors who have been accepted into the Washington Aerospace Scholars program. District participants include Deanta Kelly, Noah Palmer and Daisuke Fukagawa of Raisbeck Aviation High School in the Highline School District; Marco Cheng of Liberty High School in the Issaquah School District; and Constance La of Hazen High School in the Renton School District. The program connects high school juniors with educational and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through independent learning, hands-on interaction, professional guidance, and site-based tours.

On June 29, I’ll be attending the long-anticipated opening ceremony of the hard fought for South Park Bridge. Because the bridge falls at the intersection of three jurisdictions (Seattle, Tukwila and King County), the problem of replacing the state’s #1 rated worst bridge was very complex. Everyone is very pleased to see this day finally arrive.

This is just a sampling of how I’m working to stay engaged with our community to know what the big issues are. If you have a community meeting coming up that you’d like me to attend, just contact my legislative assistant, Chio Saeteurn, and we’ll get it on my calendar.

Well, that’s it for now. Have a great summer.

Best wishes,

Bob

Sen. Hasegawa’s enewsletter update 2/11/2014

February 11th, 2014|

Dear 11th District Constituents,

The 2014 Legislative Session began slowly, but we had a major breakthrough last week which I will detail below, along with updates on a range of significant legislation.

But first …

Come to our town hall meeting on Feb. 22

I’d like to invite you to attend a town hall meeting I am hosting with my 11th District seatmates, Rep. Zach Hudgins and Rep. Steve Bergquist, where we will provide legislative updates and field questions and concerns from constituents.

The meeting is scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the King County Regional Communications and Emergency Coordination Center at 3511 NE 2nd St. in Renton.

Meetings like this promote lively, back-and-forth conversations that shape our lives, so I hope I will see you there.

The Dream Act moves closer to reality

The Washington State Dream Act was one of two major bills last year that had not only bipartisan support but popular support across the public (the other was the Reproductive Parity Act) but which were blocked from consideration by the Republican-led majority in the Senate. Both bills had passed the House, but Republicans in the Senate voted against allowing a vote on either of them. It even reached the point where members of the Republican majority claimed they were in favor of the bills yet voted with their caucus to block the bills from a vote.

That changed on Friday, when a handful of members of that caucus finally broke ranks and voted with all but one member of our caucus to pass the Dream Act. That version of the bill now goes to the House for consideration, where it is expected to pass.

I credit passage of this important legislation to the energetic members of OneAmerica, a committed group of young men and women who worked hard to lobby lawmakers on the merits of the bill. And the merits are considerable: the Dream Act will allow children who were brought here by undocumented parents and call Washington home to apply on an equal basis for financial aid at Washington colleges and universities. These students have grown up here, paid taxes here and gone to school here, and now they want to access higher education so they can develop their skills and contribute to our economy. This is good for them, good for our businesses, good for our communities and good for our state.

One down, one to go

I am optimistic that the success of the Dream Act may embolden the same members of the Republican majority to stop blocking passage of the other unrealized priority from last session, the Reproductive Parity Act. This bill would protect a woman’s right to choose by making sure that her insurance covers reproductive services equally. Making sure that women, and not their insurance companies, have the freedom to make their own medical decisions is a vital and fundamental safeguard for women.

Transportation package faces more gridlock

I continue to be frustrated by the delays in developing the transportation revenue package our state so badly needs, and there’s really no way to speak about this honestly without putting the responsibility where it lies — with the Republican majority in the Senate.

I don’t say that lightly. But the facts speak for themselves.

Back in the 2013 legislative session, the House developed and passed a transportation revenue package and sent it to the Senate. Sometimes each chamber will develop and pass a package of its own, then reconcile the two in late-session negotiations; in other years, it’s not uncommon for one chamber to pass a package and the other chamber to amend it back and forth until they reach agreement on a final version. But last year, Republicans with the help of two former Democratic Caucus members took control the Senate and declined to develop a Senate transportation package and refused to consider the House package. We Democrats tried to pull the package to the Senate floor in an effort to get things moving, but the Republicans used their majority to prevent even that from happening.

After months of continued inertia during the legislative interim, Gov. Jay Inslee called a special legislative session in November to jump-start talks. But after more negotiations, Senate Republicans insisted on putting off a decision until the 2014 legislative session that began last month.

Now, less than halfway into the session, we’re hearing that Republicans again want to postpone any serious negotiation of a transportation package — this time until next December, nearly a year down the road!

The problem with that, of course, is that communities across our state have urgent transportation needs that are going unmet. We have roads that need to be maintained, bridges that have to be repaired or replaced, ports that need easier access by the trucks that haul our manufactured goods — in particular, State Road 167 and Interstate 405.

When we neglect to maintain our roads and bridges, or to improve dangerous roads and intersections, we jeopardize public safety. When we fail to provide infrastructure to relieve congestion and connect our ports, we make it unreliable and expensive to move the freight that drives our economy. When we decline to provide additional transit alternatives, the congestion on our roads only worsens.

We can do better. The Democratic majority in the House fulfilled its half of the bargain a year ago. It’s time for the Republican majority in the Senate to stop dragging their feet and fulfill their half of the bargain.

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I continue to fight for a state bank

Many of you know of my longstanding effort to create a state bank, or trust, that could loan state funds for public projects and keep the interest on those loans and put them toward other public uses. Under the existing system, state funds are handled by commercial banks that funnel the interest to their corporate masters on Wall Street.

My proposal, Senate Bill 5955, took on added urgency with last fall’s passage of Initiative 502 to legalize recreational marijuana. Though this made marijuana legal in our state, it is still illegal at the federal level — and the conflict between state and federal laws has created serious problems for those who would cultivate, sell or buy marijuana in our state.

One, commercial banks cannot handle marijuana funds because they are illegal under federal law and subject to seizure. Two, marijuana farmers and sellers wind up with large stockpiles of cash, making them cash-rich targets for robbery or other criminal activities. Clearly, those who would grow or sell or buy marijuana need a safe, reliable marketplace that doesn’t endanger their earnings or public safety — and that’s where a state trust can step in.

Even though marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated it would be less likely to investigate marijuana activity if it were closely regulated and met certain criteria — actions that commercial banks are ill-equipped to meet.

While no entity can provide an ironclad guarantee against federal seizure of funds, a state-owned trust can mitigate the risk because we can structure a trust specifically to meet the attorney general’s criteria.

But we need to act fast. The state expects to begin handing out licenses and receiving tax revenues from marijuana sales as soon as March. And that means we need to have a solution in place. My proposal has had a hearing in the Senate Financial Institutions and Housing & Insurance Committee but has yet to make it out of committee and to the Senate floor. I’ll keep you posted on how things proceed.

Religious respect in the workplace

While all Americans have the right to honor the religion of their choice, they don’t always have the ability — particularly when their holiest days aren’t recognized by our society’s standard Gregorian calendar or workplace schedules. What if your holy days don’t fall on a Sunday or even on the same day every year? That’s the frustration faced by Muslims, Jews and others, and the reason I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 5173.

This bill would allow state employees to two unpaid holidays per calendar year for reasons of faith or conscience. It costs nothing, because the holidays are unpaid, and it places no requirements on private employers. But it would also allow students to be excused from school for reasons of faith or conscience for up to two days, subject to the approval of their parents.

For many of us, this bill would change nothing. But for those who are currently unable to properly observe days that are central to their religious beliefs, this bill would be a welcome change indeed. SB 5173 was heard by the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee, from which it can be pulled to the floor for a vote of the full Senate

A COLA for teachers is long overdue

We all know that talented, dedicated teachers are key when it comes to improving our children’s education. If we want to have the best possible teachers for our kids, we need to attract and retain the best possible teaching
candidates — and that means paying a fair market wage. This is especially true as we strengthen our teacher evaluation programs and implement new and innovative curriculums to improve student learning.

Cost-of-living salary adjustments for teachers and educators, or COLAs, were approved by 62 percent of voters in 2000 when Initiative 732 went on the ballot. But since the beginning of the Great Recession, the Legislature has suspended the COLA for six straight years. During that time, rising inflation has reduced the purchasing power of teachers’ wages by 16 percent. As we recover from the recession, it’s high time that we give our teachers the COLA that the voters approved to address the needs of our schoolteachers and children across the state.

The entire Senate Democratic Caucus has signed on in support of legislation to restore the COLA. This also helps us address our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education – the Supreme Court just pointed out that the state wasn’t paying its share of teacher compensation.

From the classroom to the lunchroom, from the library to the nurse’s office, dedicated teachers and staff are working together for the quality education of our children. Let’s give our educators the COLA they deserve so we can attract and keep the best educators possible for our children.

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