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E News – 2019 Session Wrap-Up

May 9th, 2019|

Dear friends and neighbors,

In my last newsletter, I shared information about the operating, construction and transportation budgets that were passed this legislative session. This week, I wanted to give you a final update on the bills that I sponsored that the governor has signed into law.

SB 5278 makes it easier for consumers to report fraudulent use or theft of credit cards, allowing them to take quicker action to protect themselves.

SB 5410 ensures that passing scores on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International exams receive college credit.

The governor also signed into law a number of other ideas that I championed that were included in bills sponsored by others:

HB 1196 sends a message telling Congress to let Washington and its neighbors stop the annual switch and stay on Daylight Saving Time year-round.

HB 1224 increases transparency to let people know what the prescription drugs that they need and pay for actually cost to make and distribute.

SB 5088, which I co-sponsored, requires all high schools to offer an elective computer science course by 2022.

SB 5334, which I also co-sponsored, encourages the development of condominiums by addressing current barriers to their expanded use as a supply of accessible homeownership opportunities.

I’m proud to have played a lead role in addressing some of the most complex, difficult and important public issues facing our state. I look forward to continuing to fight for our communities throughout this year and in the next legislative session. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts on how we can best do that.

All my best,

E News – 2019 Budget Update

May 1st, 2019|

Dear friends and neighbors,

We accomplished a lot during this year’s 105-day legislative session. In addition to passing a wide range of bills improving the quality of life in our communities, we finished on time and passed construction, transportation and operating budgets for the next two years.

I’m pleased that both the construction and transportation budgets had bipartisan support and that each one makes a number of significant investments in our communities.

Construction Budget – our infrastructure budget includes:

• $3 million to improve affordable, in-district health care options at the Issaquah Opportunity Center.

• $2 million for Encompass Northwest to build a facility in Snoqualmie to provide pediatric therapy and early learning services.

• $400,000 for a pilot project to clean up firefighting chemicals (PFAS) that have leached into drinking water.

• $412,000 to support the outdoor Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activities Center, which is open to the public.

• $113,000 to update interactive educational exhibits at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.

• $102,000 to help construct a new memorial in Maple Valley honoring veterans.

• $200,000 to help make parking improvements at Lake Wilderness Park.

• $154,000 to lay the groundwork to build infrastructure and attract business investment at the legacy site in the heart of Maple Valley.

• $250,000 to strengthen the South Fork Snoqualmie Levee System, to reduce the duration of flooding in North Bend.

• $229,000 for the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie to restore the last surviving Puget Sound Electric Railway interurban.

Transportation Budget: the budget includes funding to keep the project to build a new interchange at State Route 18 and Interstate 90 on schedule to finish by 2023. It also includes $27 million in new funds to begin the design process to make SR 18 four lanes all the way to Issaquah-Hobart Road – the first phase of that project – in 2023.

Operating Budget: Unfortunately, the operating budget did not enjoy bipartisan support and relied too much on raising taxes. I agreed to raise taxes to support the wide-ranging transportation budget package in 2015, to support light rail in 2016 and to solve the McCleary lawsuit over K-12 education funding in 2017. But this year, it seemed we were raising taxes because we could, not because we needed to. I couldn’t support that, so I had to vote “no.”

Moving forward, a number of my bills and others that advance policies I advocated for are now on Gov. Inslee’s desk awaiting his signature. I’ll have another report on them for you in the coming weeks.

Best regards,

E News – 2019 Legislative Update

April 19th, 2019|

Dear friends and neighbors,

We’re entering the final stretch of the legislative session, as the Senate and the House finish negotiating operating, transportation and capital construction budgets for the next two years and wrap up remaining business. I’ll be providing a summary of the finalized budgets in the coming weeks, but for now I wanted to highlight some of the great bills that we’ve passed this session.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Inslee signed into law House Bill 1074, which raises the legal age to buy tobacco and vapor products to 21. The vast majority of daily smokers started smoking as a teen. But people who don’t start by age 21 are unlikely to ever do so, so the bill could potentially save thousands of lives.

Last week, the House passed Senate Bill 5116, requiring all electric utilities in Washington to move to a 100-percent, carbon-neutral electricity supply by 2030 and to 100-percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. The bill would make Washington one of the first states in the nation to commit broadly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity while adopting a precise action plan to do so.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed House Bill 1196 to put Washington on Daylight Saving Time year-round, once Congress passes a law letting states do so. Californians voted to show their preference to end the annual switch and Oregon is considering a similar measure. As we’ve seen, Daylight Saving Time doesn’t lower our energy bills, it doesn’t improve our health and it doesn’t help our farmers.

These are just a few examples – others include bills requiring prepaid postage on all ballot envelopes, protecting consumers from surprise charges for out-of-network health care, locking existing federal health care consumer protections in to state law, moving our presidential primary up to early March and giving tenants who fall behind on rent a better chance to get caught up.

As your senator, I’m proud to put the needs of our community above partisan politics and deliver good public policy. If you have any questions or comments about these bills or anything else happening in Olympia, I always encourage you to reach out to my office.

Best regards,

E News – Lifting the Local Levy Lid

April 11th, 2019|

Dear friends and neighbors,

You may have heard that teachers’ unions are criticizing me for trying to make sure that funds from local property tax levies support needed programs and services in our schools, like librarians and mental health counselors, and aren’t used to enhance teachers’ salaries paid by the state.

Senate Bill 5313 would partially lift caps on voter-approved school levies that were put in place as part of a legislative package to address the Washington Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in the McCleary case.

The court held that the state failed to adequately fund K-12 education and that this failure led school districts to over-rely on local levies to pay core operating expenses, like teachers’ salaries. Lawmakers responded in 2017 with more state funding for teachers’ salaries and, in exchange, we capped the local levies.

Since then, the teachers’ union and many school officials have demanded a change, arguing that more local money is needed for programs and services. But when I successfully pressed for an amendment to keep that money from being diverted back into boosting teachers’ salaries, the teachers’ union accused me of cutting teachers’ pay.

I strongly dispute that claim and you can read more about that in the Seattle Times and on my website.

But I wanted to reach out today to emphasize that I serve the people in our communities, not interest groups. I spend a lot of time talking to school districts, parents and others in our communities, and it’s clear that money raised locally is needed for programs and services like:

• Mental health counselors;
• More support staff, such as librarians and paraeducators;
• After-school programs for kids who need extra support; and
• Other extracurricular activities, like arts and athletic programs.

My goal is what’s good for our kids. The state took on an obligation to pay teachers’ salaries and it should do that. But it shouldn’t rely on local levies to pay teachers’ salaries – the problem that led to the McCleary lawsuit – unless that money is compensation for having done extra work.

It’s my job to find balance between endless property tax increases and what our schools need to fund the programs and services that teachers, parents and students deserve. As your senator, I’m going to support schools and kids, not interest groups, even when they happen to be the teachers’ union.

Best regards,

E News – 2019-21 State Budgets

April 4th, 2019|

Dear friends and neighbors,

It’s budget season in the capitol, when the Senate and the House negotiate on transportation, operating and capital construction budgets to fund vital projects and services across Washington in the next two years. I’m working hard to make sure that our communities benefit from the hard-earned tax dollars you send to Olympia.

Transportation Budget

Kudos are due to my new 5th Legislative District seatmates, Rep. Bill Ramos and Rep. Lisa Callan, who made sure that the House version included the initial funding to widen State Road 18 to four lanes over Tiger Mountain. As negotiations move forward, I’ll be working to keep those funds in the final version.

Operating Budget

The Senate version includes targeted support for the state’s behavioral health system, K-12 special education, higher education and the environment. I’m proud that it keeps the “We the People” civics education program at Tahoma High School funded and includes money to help the team travel to the national competition in Washington, D.C. if they win the state competition again.

I’m also pleased to note that the Senate version includes funds to help train more teachers in our schools on instructing students in financial literacy.

Capital Construction Budget

The Senate version contains investments in infrastructure to support behavioral health, affordable housing, education and other priorities. In our local communities, that includes funding to:

• Support the outdoor Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activities Center, a low- to no-cost outdoor meeting space between Snoqualmie and North Bend;

• Improve affordable, in-district health care options at the Issaquah Opportunity Center, to make sure everyone in the community has access to health care; and

• Help construct a new memorial in Maple Valley honoring our veterans and to make parking improvements at Lake Wilderness Park.

I spend every day of the Legislative Session explaining the needs of our community to my fellow elected officials and building relationships so we can bring your money back where it came from. If you ever have a question or concern, or an idea how we can do that better, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

  • Permalink Gallery

    Mullet responds to inaccurate reports on amendment to levy lid bill

Mullet responds to inaccurate reports on amendment to levy lid bill

April 4th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Teachers’ salaries would not be cut and their rights to collectively bargain would not be restricted by legislation ensuring that school districts put money from additional local levy dollars toward needed services like librarians and counselors, Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) emphasized today.

Mullet spoke out to address what he said were inaccurate reports about his amendment to Senate Bill 5313, which the Senate Ways & Means Committee adopted at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning at the end of a lengthy meeting.

The bill would partially lift restrictions on voter-approved school levies that legislators put in place in 2017 as part of a package to address the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling in the long-running McCleary case that the state was failing its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic education in K-12 schools.

Lawmakers at the time responded to the court’s holding that the state’s failure led school districts to over-rely on local levies by increasing state funding for core operating expenses and capping the levies.

“The McCleary decision made clear that the state is constitutionally responsible for funding basic education, including teachers’ salaries,” Mullet said. “Senate Bill 5313 is an attempt to give districts that feel they need more money to adjust to this new system more access to local levy dollars. But we need to make sure local levy dollars are used to support staff, like librarians and nurses and counselors, and that we don’t go back to relying on local funds to pay teachers’ salaries, which would land us right back in court.”

Mullet’s amendment ensures that additional money from local levies would have to go to education programs and support services, but Mullet said under no circumstances would any teacher receive a pay cut. The amendment does allow local funds to go toward salary increases for extra work – like coaching athletes or leading extracurricular programs – or to compensate teachers for obtaining professional certification.

Mullet said his amendment does not limit teachers’ right to collectively bargain, but it does make clear that if local levy dollars are used to supplement the ample salary dollars provided by the state, then that supplemental money needs to be for compensation for extra work.

The amendment has drawn opposition from teachers unions, which withdrew support for the bill following the bipartisan vote adopting the amendment. But Mullet said that action demonstrated the need for the amendment.

“If the unions weren’t planning to rely on these local funds to pay teachers’ salaries – which was a huge problem in the McCleary case – why are they now trying to kill a bill that would give schools access to hundreds of millions of potential dollars to support programs and other staff?” he asked.

E News – Moving Beyond Landfills

March 28th, 2019|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Preserving Washington’s natural beauty is a top concern and our legislative agenda this year reflects that priority. From putting us on track to achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2045, to electrifying transportation, to increasing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances, to reducing super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons, we’ve taken bold steps forward.

But one issue that we’ve only scratched the surface on is garbage. While we need to do more to reduce waste overall, we also need to realistically address what to do with the trash we continue to generate.

In King County, we’ve traditionally adopted one of two strategies: send our garbage by rail to a distant landfill, as Seattle does, or put it into a local landfill. But landfills leak toxins into the ground and our water, and the methane they emit is a far-more-damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

A sensible alternative is waste-to-energy plants, which burn solid waste to create electricity. An EPA study last decade found that such plants are more environmentally friendly over their life cycle than landfills. Moreover, advances in technology have significantly reduced these facilities’ carbon emissions.

Even better, waste-to-energy plants can reduce the volume of garbage by about 90 percent and can even be used to get rid of the trash that’s already in landfills, helping undo damage already done.

The cost of building waste-to-energy plants may be more than local municipalities can handle, so I think the state needs to take a role in rethinking how we handle trash at a regional level. It wouldn’t be the first time: in the 1980s, we recognized waste-to-energy plants as a preferred alternative to aging landfills due to their waste reduction capacity and the State Legislature invested $60 million to help Spokane build one.

As you may have heard, the King County Council is considering a plan to extend the life of the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill between Renton and Maple Valley until 2040, despite past promises to stop accepting garbage in 2028. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Instead of doubling down on rapidly dwindling landfill space and kicking the can down the road in the hopes that a solution presents itself, it’s time that the Legislature starts looking at alternatives and making smart investments in a sustainable future.

Best regards,

E News – Town Halls Recap

March 19th, 2019|

Dear friends and neighbors,

Last Saturday, I joined Rep. Bill Ramos and Rep. Lisa Callan for a series of town hall meetings in Maple Valley, Issaquah and North Bend.

It was great to be able to see so many people from our communities and to be able to hear from them directly. We discussed a number of issues that are important to our communities, so I wanted to recap some of the main topics briefly for anyone who wasn’t able to be there.

Environment: early this month, the Senate passed a bill to commit the state’s electrical utilities to 100 percent clean energy from renewable and zero-emission sources by 2045. The goal is to make sure that when Puget Sound Energy stops accepting electricity from the coal-fired Colstrip power plant in Montana, we don’t just shift to another type of dirty energy.

Importantly, the bill makes sure that customers’ rates don’t increase more than two percent in any year. We want to replace coal, which is going away as an energy source, but we want to do so without exploding your utility bill, so we’re spreading it out over 25 years.

Property tax relief: the Senate unanimously passed a bill to help keep low-income seniors, individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans from being priced out of their homes by property tax increases that result from rising home prices.

Vaccines: the current Measles outbreak is a stark reminder of the importance of vaccination. I support eliminating the philosophical or personal objection that exempts children from receiving the vaccines required to attend school, but I would retain existing religious and medical exemptions.

Firearms safety: I support measures that focus on keeping guns out of the hands of people suffering from mental illness or who are involved in incidents of domestic violence.

School bonds: unfortunately, school districts looking for money to build new schools will still need a 60 percent supermajority to pass bond issues after a bill to lower that requirement to a simple majority failed.

I look forward to continuing to fight for our communities during the rest of this legislative session and I always welcome your thoughts on how we can best do that.

Best regards,

  • Permalink Gallery

    Bill to increase volunteer firefighters’ pensions passes Senate

Bill to increase volunteer firefighters’ pensions passes Senate

March 11th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Volunteer firefighters, emergency medical workers and law enforcement reserve officers in Washington would see an increase in their pensions under a bill the state Senate unanimously approved today.

Senate Bill 5829, sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), increases the maximum monthly pension amount from $300 to $350.

“Volunteer firefighters and others play a vital role in maintaining public safety, especially in rural areas,” Mullet said. “But some communities are having trouble with recruitment. This increase is a long-overdue step to recognize and compensate individuals who perform an invaluable public service.”

  • Permalink Gallery

    Senate passes Mullet bill expanding employee access to retirement plans

Senate passes Mullet bill expanding employee access to retirement plans

March 8th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate today voted 31-17 to approve legislation to provide employees in Washington who are not offered retirement benefits through their work easier access to retirement plans.

Senate Bill 5740, sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), requires certain employers to automatically enroll, at no cost, their employees in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) in the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program run by the Department of Commerce.

Employers would withhold a portion of each employee’s earnings from each paycheck to be invested in an IRA available to employees when they retire. Employees who do not want to participate could simply opt out. Businesses that have fewer than five employees or which are less than five years old would be exempt.

The bill also would allow the state to partner with Oregon, which already has a similar auto-enroll plan, to avoid spending some $10 million to set up its own program.

“Helping Washingtonians save for retirement has been a top priority since I was elected, but far too many of our workers approaching retirement haven’t been able to save enough, and too many Washingtonians still don’t have access to a retirement plan at work,” said Mullet, who chairs the Senate Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade Committee. “I’m always on the lookout for more cost-effective ways for government to function, and this bill lets us do that in a way that will benefit all Washingtonians.”