(360) 786-7642|Sam.Hunt@leg.wa.gov

Sen. Sam Hunt Newsroom

2019 Session Recap: Education and Equity

Dear Neighbors,

Thanks for tuning in to the third installment of my Session Recap series. Today’s e-newsletter focuses on legislation regarding our schools  and equity from the 2019 legislative session.

Higher Education

 One substantial achievement this session was the passage of House Bill 2158, the Workforce Education Investment Act. This legislation brings into reach the possibility of earning a family wage by making college and apprenticeships accessible.  It establishes a dedicated source of funding to allow students whose household earnings fall below 55% of the state’s median family income (approximately $50,000 per year) to study at public colleges tuition-free, and provides for partial tuition scholarships for students whose households earn up to 100% of the median family income (approximately $88,000 for a family of four).

To help students train for jobs, the act also expands the Guided Pathways program at state community colleges and technical schools and will grow high-demand degree programs like nursing, engineering and computer science.

Additionally, House Bill 1303 improves access to higher education by making it easier for full-time students in certain fields to qualify for state childcare benefits.

Funding K-12 Education

In response to the state Supreme Court’s finding in the McCleary lawsuit that the state was permitting inequitable funding for basic education across different school districts, lawmakers raised property taxes in 2017 in an attempt to  equalize funding among school districts.  I voted against the Republicans’ funding formula because of its increased reliance on property taxes and what proved to be a flawed regional funding model.  The regionalization provided a small amount of additional funding to North Thurston but not to Olympia and Tumwater districts.

In an attempt to limit the cost to taxpayers, the amount districts could raise locally through levies was reduced, but this shift created budget shortfalls in some districts, including our three districts.  This year, to alleviate the shortfalls many districts would face, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5313 and House Bill 2140 to make sure that districts did not end up with less money from state and levy funds than they previously  received.

The state’s budget this year increased funding for K-12 education by $4.5 billion dollars over the last biennial budget. However, this increase was partially offset by changes in local school levies.  The increase in state funding is directed to fund state basic education requirements, some of which were previously funded by special levies.

With 295 school districts and numerous funding formulas, understanding education funding is difficult, (as is trying to explain it).

Gender Equity in Schools

 It’s important that our kids feel safe to express themselves and have equal access to technology curricula.

This year we passed Senate Bill 5689, which requires school districts to adopt policies and procedures that protect transgender students from discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying.

Another new law, House Bill 1577, will help close the gender gap in tech jobs by ensuring that our public schools identify and track how female-identified students are doing in computer science courses in order to identify inequities and successes. This will shed light on what’s working, what isn’t working, and what changes are needed.

 Equity Statewide

 Senate Bill 5356 establishes the Washington State LGBTQ Commission in the Office of the Governor to monitor relevant legislation and state policies to eliminate barriers to economic and health equity for LGBTQ people.

The Legislature also made progress on establishing systems and policies to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within our state’s public agencies.

 

That is all for now; thanks for reading!  Here in the Senate we are hard at work on legislation to promote the interests of the people of Washington state.  I’d like to hear from you about the issues that are important to you.  My office welcomes you to call, write, or stop by to give us your input.

Sincerely,

Sen. Sam Hunt

Contact Information

October 14th, 2019|E-News|
  • Permalink Gallery

    2019 Session Recap Series: Focus On Housing Affordability and Stability

2019 Session Recap Series: Focus On Housing Affordability and Stability

Dear Neighbors,

Today’s e-newsletter focuses on some key policy achievements the Legislature made this last session to increase the accessibility and stability of housing. We have taken to heart the feedback of constituents regarding the housing affordability crisis and are fighting hard to ensure housing is accessible for everyone in Washington.

Daily we see housing problems.  It seems we cannot build houses, apartments, or condos quickly enough.  And the houseless crisis continues.  Our local governments, churches, and nonprofits struggle to meet these needs, but resources are not adequate.  State funds will help, but even with the funds described here, the problem continues. 

Access to Housing

We increased access to housing services and invested in building up the supply of accessible and affordable housing.

Housing assistance

We expanded services for homeless youth and unaccompanied young adults (HB 1657) and approved a pilot program to provide housing vouchers to families in the child welfare system whose main barrier to reunification is the lack of appropriate housing (SB 5718).

Increasing the supply of accessible housing

We passed HB 1219 and HB 1406, which grant authority to cities and counties to use funds from certain local taxes for affordable housing projects and to combat homelessness. This authority will allow local governments to access more immediate funding to build local housing. I look forward to seeing how our local governments apply for and leverage funds from these programs.

We also adjusted zoning rules to empower faith communities to contribute to housing stability, allowing increased density to build affordable housing on property owned by religious organizations (HB 1377).

Additionally, the capital budget added $175 million in affordable housing loans and grants through the Housing Trust Fund, including:

  • $10 million for high-quality modular housing to transition people out of homelessness quickly
  • $35 million for supportive housing and case management services for people living with behavioral health disorders
  • $10 million for competitively awarded grants for state matches on private contributions to fund affordable housing
  • $10 million for housing preservation grants
  • $5 million for housing veterans
  • $5 million for housing to serve people with disabilities

Keeping People in Their Homes

We passed several bills this session that keep people in their existing homes, which is just as important as building new housing when combatting homelessness.

Property taxes

SB 5160 gives a property tax break to seniors, people with disabilities and veterans on limited incomes.  This will prevent people from being priced out of their homes as property taxes rise along with property values.

Tenant protections

Eviction reform legislation, SB 5600, was enacted to extend the notice time for evictions from 3 to 14 days. This aligns our state with national norms and gives tenants time to find money to pay their rent.  For those who live paycheck to paycheck, this extended notice period could mean the difference between staying in their homes or being out on the street. This legislation also allows judges to use their discretion in nonpayment of rent cases to consider factors beyond the tenants’ control and allows landlords to access a mitigation fund in some cases.

HB 1440 increased the number of days in advance that landlords of non-subsidized tenancies must notify tenants of rent increases. This will help tenants prepare for rent increases and assess their options for addressing them. The notice period increased from 30 to 60 days, but remains 30 days for subsidized tenancies where rent is based on household-specific circumstances.

Manufactured/mobile homes

HB 1582 added protections for tenants to the Manufactured and Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Act, like increasing the notice to pay or vacate period from 5 to 14 days and allowing a court to limit the sharing of information about an eviction notice.

SB 5183 increased access to the Manufactured and Mobile Home Relocation Assistance program by expanding eligibility. This program helps with the costs of relocating and securing other housing when a mobile home park closes.

That is all for now; thanks for reading!  Here in the Senate we are hard at work on legislation to promote the interests of the people of Washington state.  I’d like to hear from you about the issues that are important to you.  My office welcomes you to call, write, or stop by to give us your input.

Sincerely,

Sen. Sam Hunt

September 16th, 2019|E-News|
  • Sen. Sam Hunt smiling on the Senate floor.
    Permalink Sen. Sam Hunt smiling on the Senate floor.Gallery

    2019 Session Recap Series: Focus on community health and wellness

2019 Session Recap Series: Focus on community health and wellness

Dear Neighbors,

Today’s e-newsletter focuses on key advances the Legislature made this session in prioritizing health and wellness in our communities. I’m proud of the vast progress we made this year in just one session toward providing access to health care and other quality of life measures to Washingtonians. 

August 16 marks my mom’s 99th birthday.  It is only fitting that this email lead off with a healthcare focus, because she has good health insurance (and evidently good genes) that enables her to encroach upon the century mark. My family and I will be celebrating with birthday cake and a lunch—hamburgers and milk shakes—to help celebrate the day.  Happy Birthday, Mom, Grandma, and Great Grandma!

Access to health care

This year, the Legislature continued to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to protect and expand access to quality, affordable health care.

HB 1870 protects the gains we’ve made in access to healthcare coverage in recent years thanks to the Affordable Care Act, such as prohibiting pre-existing condition exemptions and the lifetime benefits caps. At the same time, we’re expanding options for healthcare coverage for those who are struggling in our current system.

SB 5526 creates Cascade Care, the first public healthcare option in the country, which will decrease the cost of premiums, copays, and other out-of-pocket expenses for those who purchase coverage on the individual health insurance market. This will be available to all Washingtonians who are not covered through an employer, regardless of income.

The budget we passed this year even includes funding for a Pathway to Universal Coverage, which will join stakeholder groups to prepare a plan for implementing a universal healthcare system in Washington.

HB 1087 establishes the first long term care benefit in the nation. This will help families mitigate the high costs of the care our aging community members need.

SB 5602 removes barriers to reproductive health care on the basis of gender identity and expands access for our trans neighbors. The operating budget takes that one step further by funding a program to provide access to reproductive health care for immigrants, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

We also took steps to reverse health disparities and expand access to health care for Native Americans (SB 5415), Pacific Islanders (SB 5274), immigrant communities (SB 5846) and underrepresented communities at risk of maternal mortality (SB 5425).

Vaccines

The recent measles outbreak in our state caused a lot of concern, and we heard from constituents about the risks posed by the growing number of unvaccinated children attending our schools. Children too young to be vaccinated and individuals with compromised immune systems will be better protected from serious preventable diseases thanks to HB 1638, which removes the personal belief exemption from the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination requirements. The measure still allows for medical and religious exemptions to the MMR requirement.

Workplace health and safety

SB 5035 provides workers on public works contracts protections against violations of prevailing wage laws and wage theft.

HB 1817 ensures the workforce in our high hazard facilities is skilled and properly trained.

HB 1155, added new requirements for uninterrupted rest periods for nurses and techs, and closed the loophole that employers previously used to get around the ban on mandatory overtime. This legislation safeguards the safety of patients and the workforce that provides vital frontline patient care services.

HB 1756 adds heightened protections for the safety and security of adult entertainers and requires that workers receive worker rights and safety training.

SB 5550 will establish a Pesticide Application Safety Committee to help us use new technology and farming methods to promote best practices and training to achieve as close to zero pesticide drift as possible, protecting workers and surrounding communities from exposure.

SB 5258 requires employers of certain isolated workers, such as janitors, housekeepers, and security guards, to provide extra protection to prevent sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace.

HB 1568 expands opportunities for port district worker development and occupational programs.

That is all for now; thanks for reading!  Here in the Senate we are hard at work on legislation to promote the interests of the people of Washington state.  I’d like to hear from you about the issues that are important to you.  My office welcomes you to call, write, or stop by to give us your input.

Sincerely,

Sen. Sam Hunt


August 16th, 2019|E-News|

22nd District Legislative Report

Summer 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We’re pleased to update you on the 2019 legislative session, where we showed our commitment to putting people first by prioritizing quality education, health and wellness, strengthening our communities, and protecting our environment.

Improving our behavioral health system  

Help for mental health issues, including substance use disorders, can be difficult to find. We funded more local care resources and programs to help people in need, passed legislation to ease our behavioral health workforce shortage, and will build the nation’s largest behavioral health teaching hospital.

Expanding higher education access  

We’ve increased financial aid and student success programs – including free higher education for low- and middle-income families – to give more people the opportunity to grow and thrive. 

Improving our K-12 education system  

Historic investments in our public school system put our state’s 1.1 million K-12 students first. We increased special education funding and local levy fund flexibility, which was essential for Olympia, North Thurston and Tumwater schools, who faced huge cutbacks under the Republican formula passed in 2017.

Strengthening our safety net  

This year’s budget increases homeless outreach and support, and bolsters the Housing and Essential Needs program to help struggling families and neighbors in need throughout the state. 

Providing affordable housing solutions

We invested $175 million in the Housing Trust Fund to fund programs that provide access to housing. We also passed measures for local governments to invest more in reducing homelessness.

Rising property taxes cause many on fixed incomes to struggle to stay in their homes. Democrats expanded the Senior Citizen and Disabled Veteran Property Tax exemption to provide tax relief for seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. 

To combat homelessness, we also extended the eviction notice timeline from 3 to 14 days to give tenants time to pay rent and avoid eviction.

Protecting our environment  

We’ve enacted innovative clean energy and clean building legislation to combat climate change and invested in efforts to help our orca and salmon.  

Valuing state employees

Our budget values state employees, ratifying and funding their negotiated collective bargaining agreements. It also increases the monthly subsidy for retiree Medicare prescription drug benefits. 

Protecting workers

We passed legislation that requires uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for nurses and other medical workers, protects isolated workers from sexual harassment, and works toward pay equality by prohibiting employers from requesting wage history of job applicants.

Prioritizing health and wellness

We created the nation’s first long-term care trust, which will help fund the long-term care services most people over 65 will need within their lifetime. Employees will begin paying premiums in 2022 and the benefits program will start in 2025.

We also enacted the nation’s first public option health care plan, which will increase access to health care, serve as a safety net against federal government efforts to curtail health care, and establish a path for universal healthcare.

Demanding gun safety

We’ve enhanced protection for victims of domestic violence, banned 3D printed “ghost” guns, heightened requirements for gun purchase background checks, and improved procedures for issuing protection orders.

Thank you to everyone who wrote, called, emailed, and visited our offices to share your thoughts, concerns, and priorities during this past legislative session. Hearing directly from constituents is the best and most important part of our jobs.

Thanks again,

Capital Budget

Our state’s capital budget lets us build public schools, colleges, state parks and infrastructure.

Projects in the 22nd District

  • Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties – $475,000
  • Family Support Center Olympia – $600,000
  • North Thurston School District Early Learning Facility – $324,000
  • Interfaith Works Shelter – $3,000,000
  • Abigail Stuart House – $250,000
  • Boys & Girls Club of Thurston County – $98,000
  • Family Education and Support Services – $500,000
  • Lacey Veterans Services Hub – $2,000,000
  • Sea Mar Community Health Centers Tumwater Dental – $170,000
  • South Puget Sound Community College – $2,560,000
  • Budd Inlet Toxic Cleanup – $125,000
  • 14th Avenue Tunnel Pedestrian Safety Improvements – $277,000
  • Capitol Campus Physical Security & Safety Improvements – $1,508,000
  • Lacey Museum – $979,000
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Learning Lab – $56,000

Additional statewide investments

  • $120 million to transition behavioral health patients to care in their communities.
  • $1 billion for school construction.
  • $33.2 million to plan and design a behavioral health teaching facility at UW Medical Center.
  • $175 million in affordable housing loans.
  • $148.4 million in toxics cleanup, prevention and stormwater assistance to local governments.
  • $63 million to maintain and improve state parks.
  • $85 million in outdoor recreation projects.

Sen. Sam Hunt

Access to Democracy

We’ve moved our state’s presidential primary to the second Tuesday in March, just one week after Super Tuesday. Washington will use the primary results — rather than precinct
caucuses — to determine the state’s allocation of delegates to the state and national political party conventions. The more accessible format should encourage far more participation than the caucus system. The early presidential primary will also allow our state to play a significant role in the presidential nomination.

We also funded pre-paid postage for all mail-in ballots in 2019-20. You won’t have to look around the house for a stamp anymore to mail your ballot. To save taxpayer dollars, when you return your ballot, I recommend depositing it in a postage-free ballot drop box near you. Just check the Thurston County Auditor’s website for locations.

State workers

Assistant attorneys general can now choose to collectively bargain under the Personnel System Reform Act. These workers defend the state and represent the interests of all Washingtonians, including our most vulnerable communities, on issues like civil rights, consumer protection and public safety. Giving our top attorneys a choice to have a voice in their working conditions will help us retain their expertise to better serve the people of our state.

Emergency services

During the 2017 Amtrak accident in DuPont, outdated analog communication devices prevented Lacey emergency responders from communicating with the newer digital systems of Pierce County and Joint Base Lewis McCord. This hampered the efficiency of the crisis response, and we don’t want to see a repeat of that in Thurston County. A new law allows local emergency services to request voter approval of a slight sales tax increase to fund improvements to local emergency communications (911) services and facilities.

Rep. Laurie Dolan

Student safety and wellbeing

Students need more than just academics in school. As a grandparent, an educator for 30 years, and now as a legislator, there’s probably nothing more important to me than school safety and student well-being. Kids not only need to be safe, but also they need to feel safe in our schools.

This year, the Legislature initiated a multi-pronged approach to provide more resources and training to the state’s nine educational service districts that provide support and training to every district in Washington.

Legislation we passed will establish Regional School Safety Centers to provide training in behavioral health coordination, suicide prevention, and school-based threat assessment. These centers will also provide staff assistance in crisis situations, technical assistance and partnership development. Additionally, we’ve enhanced training mandates for school resource officers.

Special education funding

Increasing funding for special education was a high priority for me during the 2019 session. It is critical to do so in a way that gives districts the flexibility they need, serves students with disabilities in settings where they can achieve the most, and provides quicker access to safety net funds for students with the greatest needs.

We are aware that many students with learning disabilities, as well as students in special education with stronger
academic skills, could succeed in the regular education classroom if they had additional support. This year, we took some major steps forward to successfully include more special education students in the typical classroom setting. We increased the special education multiplier for those students who spend 80% or more of their day in the typical classroom setting to will allow districts to provide the supports students need in order to succeed. Simultaneously, we will provide additional resources for
professional learning to better prepare regular education
teachers, counselors and paraprofessionals to serve students with disabilities in the typical classroom setting.

Rep. Beth Doglio

This was the most productive session in decades regarding clean air, clean water, habitat protection, and charting a course to a cleaner future. I’m proud of the breakthrough progress we made this year around climate action, protecting marine life, and waste reduction.

Energy efficient, clean-energy buildings

Buildings are the fastest-growing source of emissions in Washington, but their emissions are also the cheapest to reduce. We passed legislation that sets a first-in-the-nation energy efficiency standard for large commercial buildings, meaning we’ll retrofit older buildings and build even more efficient new ones, cutting carbon emissions quickly and economically while creating good-paying jobs.

Preventing toxic pollution

Reducing exposure to toxic pollutants will not only help our endangered orca and salmon populations, it also helps all of us – particularly children and pregnant women. Legislation we passed this year will help the state identify and remove pollution at its source before it enters our water supplies, food, homes and marine waters.

100% clean electricity

We’re transitioning to a clean energy future by requiring utilities to transition away from fossil fuel-generated electricity. With a preliminary “coal elimination” deadline of 2025, and a final “clean grid” deadline of 2045, Washington is firmly on a path to 100-percent clean energy from renewable and zero-emission sources like wind, solar and hydro power.

Phasing out super pollutants

Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are used as commercial and industrial refrigerants and foam-blowing agents. They are also super-polluting greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more damaging to our climate than carbon dioxide. We’re phasing out HFCs in our state, transitioning to safe and cost-effective alternatives that already exist.

July 25th, 2019|E-News|

News from Sen. Sam Hunt

Dear Neighbors,

Governor Inslee finished acting on legislation passed during the 2019 legislative session on May 21.  Now we can begin to look back and see what was accomplished — quite a lot, in my opinion. It’s unfortunate that as the way we consume media evolves, coverage of what the Legislature actually does continues to decrease, with very little coverage for even the most important bills. For those who are unable to follow TVW or social media coverage of what is happening in Olympia, much of what happens often goes unreported.

In order to bridge the gap, I will be sending out a series of e-newsletters to highlight our major accomplishments of the 2019 legislative session. And, yes, I will mention some failures as well.

Increasing access to democracy

It was an honor to be the sponsor of the first bill to pass the Legislature this year. Senate Bill 5273 moves the state presidential primary to the second Tuesday in March, just one week after Super Tuesday. I worked closely with the major political parties to ensure that Washington would become a state that uses the primary results — rather than precinct caucuses — to determine the state’s allocation of delegates to the state and national political party conventions. Yes, voters will have to select a Republican or Democratic ballot just as they did in 2016 in order to cast a meaningful vote, but even with this requirement from the national Democratic and Republican Parties, the change will increase participation far beyond what we’ve seen previously in Saturday morning precinct caucuses, held in crowded rooms with hours of figuring numbers and waiting. Also, with an early presidential primary, our state can now play a significant role in the presidential nomination. The primary for non-presidential races will still be held in August.

This session, the Legislature also funded pre-paid postage for all mail-in ballots in 2019-20. No one will have to look around the house for a stamp any more to mail their ballot. Even so, if you’re returning your ballot on Election Day, I recommend depositing your ballot in one of the many drop boxes throughout the county to ensure it gets counted. There is one near you. You can find the location on the County Auditor’s website, and you save tax dollars by using the postage-free drop boxes.

Prioritizing health and wellness

This year, we passed the first-in-the nation long-term care bill. Most people over 65 will need some form of long-term care and services within their lifetime, and those of us who have experienced this in our own families know how rapidly these costs can eat up a budget. This establishes a long-term care insurance benefit for all eligible Washington employees, funded through a payroll deduction of 58 cents per $100 in income. Employees will begin paying premiums in 2022 and the benefits program will be implemented in 2025. This will give the state time to organize the program and build up the funding to provide services. In the first effective year, each eligible person will be able to receive up to $36,500 toward a number of long-term care services. More details will become available as the program develops.

Finally, we also enacted the first-in-the-nation public option health care plan, Cascade Care.  When implemented, it will increase access to health care and serve as a safety net against federal government efforts to curtail health care.  It will also help establish a path for universal healthcare for Washington. Starting in 2021, consumers not covered by an employer-provided plan will have the option to buy a state-sponsored plan for healthcare coverage through the Health Benefit Exchange, the state’s health insurance marketplace. This program is designed to keep premiums and out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.

Thanks for reading. That is all for now, but keep an eye out in the weeks to come for more in this series of recaps of the 2019 legislative session. 

Here in the Senate we are hard at work on legislation to promote the interests of the people of Washington state.  I’d like to hear from you about the issues that are important to you. My office welcomes you to call, write, or stop by to give us your input.

Sincerely,

Sen. Sam Hunt

June 21st, 2019|E-News|
  • Governor signs SB 5297
    Permalink Governor signs SB 5297Gallery

    Governor signs law granting collective bargaining rights to assistant AGs

Governor signs law granting collective bargaining rights to assistant AGs

OLYMPIA — Assistant attorneys general may choose to collectively bargain under the Personnel System Reform Act, thanks to legislation signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

SB 5297 was sponsored by Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) at the request of the Association of Washington Assistant Attorneys General to address concerns about high turnover among assistant attorneys general.  The bill grants assistant attorneys general the right to collectively bargain but does not require them to do so.

Assistant attorneys general represent the interests of the most vulnerable communities in Washington on issues such as civil rights, consumer protection and public safety. The agency also defends the state against tort claims. 

“This is the state’s largest law firm, with over 600 attorneys,” said Hunt. “Like most other state employees, rank-and-file attorneys should be allowed to collectively bargain. Giving our top attorneys a choice to have a voice in their working conditions will help us retain their skills and expertise to better serve the interests of the people of our state.”

April 26th, 2019|E-News|

Ryan Ericson serves as page in Washington State Senate

OLYMPIA — Ryan Ericson, 14, served as a page in the Washington State Senate during the week of April 1.

Pages are sponsored by the senator from their legislative district. Sen. Hunt (D-Olympia) sponsored Ericson’s week at the Legislature.

“It was so great to host Ryan at the Capitol this week,” Hunt said. “I hope that he enjoyed his time with the Legislature.”

The page program offers a hands-on opportunity for students to find out how state government works. The educational experience is furthered by guest speakers. It also includes classes with topics such as budget writing and how a bill becomes a law — which culminates in pages creating their own bills in a mock committee setting.

Ericson and his partners worked on a bill that would encourage the use of green energy by increasing a household’s income tax based on the percentage of nonrenewable energy used. Their bill would increase the amount of renewable energy used in each household by discouraging the use of nonrenewable energy. Ericson was excited to see his bill being heard in mock committee.  

“I enjoyed working with the security officers and learning more about their jobs,” Ericson said. “Also, the page scavenger hunt was fun. It allowed me to walk around the buildings and learn more about the work that people do in them.”

Pages also have the opportunity to work on the Senate floor. Their maroon coats and credentials allow them access to all parts of the Capitol Campus.

Ericson is in 9th grade at Olympia High School. In his free time, he likes to play the piano and is part of his school’s swim team. He also enjoys taking walks and playing video games.

###

For more information about the Senate Page Program, contact SenatePageProgram@leg.wa.gov

April 19th, 2019|E-News|

News from Sen. Sam Hunt

Dear Neighbors, 

The end is near; or so it appears.  April 28th is the last day of the 2019 legislative session, which means we are in the midst of long days and hectic hours working on bills and budgets. Before the 105-day session ends, we must agree upon the 2019-21 operating, capital and transportation budgets. Additionally, any bill that we send to the governor for his consideration must have passed both chambers (the House and Senate) in the exact same form—word for word, period for period.

State Budget and Revenue

While this has been a very good session, there is one major worry I have. We may not have the votes to pass the revenue bills needed to secure an operating budget that will address each of our priority issues including behavioral health care, K-12 special education and the environment. It is also my hope that the Legislature will pass revenues that begin to address our state’s regressive and upside-down tax structure. As I have said all session, I stand ready to vote for measures that can make that happen, including:

  • A capital gains tax ensuring the very wealthiest people in our state pay their fair share toward the cost of state services that are now disproportionately funded by working households.
  • A graduated real estate excise tax (REET) that will reduce the tax on property sales of less than $250,000 and increase it for high-priced sales in excess of $1 million.
  • Changes in the business and occupation tax to help small businesses.

I recently joined other senators in sponsoring Senate Bill 6017, which would impose an excise tax on employers who provide annual compensation in excess of one million dollars. We should require those able to afford multi-million dollar salaries to help support the state’s priorities.

Clock. Photo Credit: Chuttersnap on Unsplash

Daylight Saving Time

In my last newsletter, I mentioned my efforts concerning daylight saving time. The House and Senate have passed House Bill 1196 that will, if Congress approves, put Washington on full-time daylight saving time. California adopted similar legislation through initiative in 2018, and the Oregon Senate passed a permanent daylight saving time bill that is now being considered in its House. British Columbia is also considering such a move – its premier is an advocate, and a member of the British Columbia legislature has introduced legislation in support of what she calls permanent “time shifting.” While this will not happen immediately, there appears to be interest in Congress to provide this authority to the states.

Vaccines

In response to threats against public health, like the ongoing measles outbreak in Clark County, the Senate passed House Bill 1638 this week.  HB 1638 eliminates the personal belief exemption for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations, but continues to allow medical and religious exemptions. It also does not affect personal belief exemptions for all other required immunizations. Current state law requires children who attend school to have received vaccinations for a number of diseases, with exemptions on the basis of medical necessity, religion, and personal belief. This legislation will make Washingtonians safer from measles and other diseases.

Issues Affecting Our District

Representatives Dolan and Doglio and I have been working together on a number of issues and budget items that impact our district.  One such bill that passed this week is Senate Bill 5272, which will enable local emergency services in certain counties to ask voters to approve a 0.1 percent increase in the sales tax to support improvements to local emergency communications services and facilities.

During the 2017 Amtrak accident over I-5 in DuPont, emergency responders from Lacey found that their outdated analog communication devices would not communicate with newer digital systems used in Pierce County and Joint Base Lewis McCord. In order to communicate, someone from Pierce County had to navigate around the wreckage and sit in a vehicle with Lacey officials so that messages could be relayed from one side to the other. This, obviously, is no way to run a railroad crash or any other emergency response. Voter approval would allow Thurston County emergency services communications to move into the 21st century.

Thanks for reading. That is all for right now; more details will be coming soon, including wins and losses from the 2019 session.

Here in the Senate we are hard at work on legislation to promote the interests of the people of Washington state.  I’d like to hear from you about the issues that are important to you. My office welcomes you to call, write, or stop by to give us your input.

Sincerely,

Sen. Sam Hunt

April 19th, 2019|E-News|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Senate passes legislation granting collective bargaining rights to assistant AGs

Senate passes legislation granting collective bargaining rights to assistant AGs

OLYMPIA — The Senate passed legislation today to allow assistant attorneys general to elect to collectively bargain under the Personnel System Reform Act.

SB 5297 is sponsored by Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) in response to concerns from the Attorney General’s office about high turnover among attorneys.

“This is the state’s largest law firm, with over 600 attorneys,” said Hunt. “Like most other state employees, rank-and-file attorneys should be allowed to collectively bargain.”

Assistant attorneys general are tasked with protecting the most vulnerable communities in the state on issues such as civil rights, consumer protection, and public safety. The agency also defends the state against tort claims. 

By giving our top attorneys a choice to have a voice in their working conditions, Hunt’s bill seeks to ensure their retention to better serve the interests of the people of Washington. It grants assistant attorneys general the right to collectively bargain but would not require them to do so.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

March 5th, 2019|E-News|
  • Joan Benoit Photo Courtesy of Washington State Archive
    Permalink Joan Benoit Photo Courtesy of Washington State ArchiveGallery

    Senate approves renaming Marathon Park to honor Joan Benoit Samuelson

Senate approves renaming Marathon Park to honor Joan Benoit Samuelson

OLYMPIA — A resolution passed by the Senate today would rename Olympia’s Marathon Park in honor of athlete Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Benoit Samuelson won the first women’s Olympic marathon trials in Olympia in 1984, with the race’s start and finish lines at Marathon Park. She went on to win the first women’s Olympic marathon gold medal in Los Angeles that same year, upsetting the favorite to win gold, Grete Waitz of Norway.

The resolution to change the park’s name to Joan Benoit Samuelson Marathon Park was introduced by Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) and directs the Department of Enterprise Services to update signs to reflect the change.

“This change commemorates the milestone in sports history that happened right here on the shores of Capitol Lake,” said Hunt. “We want to honor Joan Benoit Samuelson as well as the event, and encourage girls and women to engage in sports.”

It is anticipated that Joan Benoit Samuelson will be in Olympia in mid-May to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the race.  “It will be a fitting honor to see the park named after her,” said Hunt.

The resolution now moves to the House for consideration.

March 5th, 2019|E-News|