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Scholarships now available for Senate Page Program

October 24th, 2017|

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed SB 5346, creating the Gina Grant Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship program. The scholarship’s goal is to ensure lower income families have the opportunity to participate in the Senate Page Program by helping to offset the expenses of traveling to, and staying in, Olympia the week their child pages. Scholarships are available for the 2018 session.

Who are pages, and what do they do?

Senate pages assist in floor activity, make deliveries around the Capitol campus and go to the Senate Page School where they write bills and participate in mock committee. Pages must be residents of Washington who are at least 14 years of age and have not reached their 17th birthday. Application information can be found here.

Scholarship qualifications:
The scholarship is based on the 2017 federal guidelines for free and reduced lunches. For verification purposes, applicants must supply a copy of the letter of approval issued by the school district when submitting their application. Students in foster care are automatically eligible.

How much is the scholarship amount?
Students selected for a scholarship receive $150 to assist with housing, food, clothing or coverage of daily commuting costs. Additional scholarship funds are available to help defray travel costs; this can range up to $125 depending on where the student lives. Scholarship pages, like all pages, will earn the traditional $35/day stipend.

More details about the scholarship program can be found here. The page scholarship application form can be found here.

Legislative Update: Budget passes, but it’s not over yet

July 10th, 2017|

Nelson banner 2017

Note from Sharon banner

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Budgets show our true values, and the priorities advocated for by the two parties in the budget this year are clear: Democrats committed to fully funding schools and protecting the safety net, Republicans committed to a statewide property tax. In a way both parties got what they were after when the budget passed late last week – a Democratic budget with Republican funding.

In this newsletter I will share with you some details of both the $43.7 billion state operating budget – which I voted for – and the education funding bill, which I unfortunately could not vote for.

Despite the challenges of the session there is undoubtedly a great amount of good that will come from the work done these past months. I am extremely disappointed by the way our schools are funded, but I am encouraged to know that amply funding public education is the best investment we can make in our state’s future. We live to fight another day, and I will not give up working to make our state more affordable and fair for all Washingtonians.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update and stay in touch.

Take care,

Signature

Captiol in the evening

A Democratic budget with Republican taxes

Budget highlights include:

  • Additional funding for a number of essential programs that help struggling families, including Working Connections Childcare (which helps low-income parents have affordable care for their children) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • Additional funding for mental health and homelessness services.
  • More funding for early childhood education
  • A new department that will better serve foster kids and other vulnerable children and families in our state.

Democratic negotiators were also able to beat back many damaging proposals put forward by Republicans, including devastating cuts to essential services, programs that help homeless youth, veterans and the elderly, and a significant cut to family planning.

I voted for the budget because it reflects the values we hold here in the 34th Legislative District – those of good government and protecting the vulnerable.

School kids

Yes for education, no for regressive funding

I am in strong support of the vast majority of the policy included in the education funding bill, as well as the $7.3 billion of new revenue that will go into Washington schools over the next four years. Unfortunately, I had to vote against it because of the reliance on revenue from a Republican property tax that hits communities like ours especially hard.

Numerous progressive revenue options proposed by Democrats, including a capital gains tax on the sale of high-value stocks and bonds and a progressive real estate excise tax, were flatly refused by Republicans. We managed to close several tax loopholes, including on bottled water, big oil and the out-of-state internet sales tax. But in a state that has the most unfair tax system in the nation these steps forward were simply not enough.

Despite my no vote, the education bill did pass.

Budget graphic

Here are some key things to know:

  • Our district will not receive less funding. Vashon Island School District will get an estimated 33% increase in state funding over the 2016-17 school year by full phase-in of the bill in 2021.
  • High cost-of-living districts, like Vashon, will receive “regionalized” pay. That means base salaries for school staff are allocated at a higher rate.
  • Local levies are still allowed for enhancements to basic education, and changes to levies do not take effect until 2019.
  • More money will go into our schools, but we will see an increase in property taxes. I encourage you to go to the Department of Revenue website as there are a number of property tax reductions and exemptions you may qualify for (here).
Mom and kid

Paid Family and Medical Leave passes!

At the end of session the Legislature passed the nation’s strongest Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Washington is now the 5th state in the nation to pass such a program, but this bill – supported by business, labor and family advocates – will likely serve as a model for other states looking to pass similar legislation. Senate Bill 5975 is a huge win for new parents and those caring for elderly family members.

PFML wins graphic

PFML benefits graphic

Graduation

High-stakes testing

The Legislature also passed a bill to address high-stakes testing for high school seniors that ensures thousands of hard-working students graduate.

House Bill 2224 delays the use of the state science test as a graduation requirement until the graduating class of 2021 (retroactively applies to class of 2017), and provides an appeal process for graduates of 2014-2018 who failed to pass math or English assessments.

Stop sign Capitol

What is the hold up?

Like many of you, I am frustrated at how long the session is taking and how little public scrutiny was allowed before the final vote on the budget.

Because Senate Republicans refused to come to the negotiating table for two months, they brought our state to the brink of the fiscal cliff and shut the public out in the process. Sadly, this is not the first time – every budget cycle since Republicans took over the Senate has gone down to the wire.

The Legislature remains in session because they continue to obstruct passage of the critical capital budget – which passed the House 92-1 – over their unwillingness to compromise on a water rights issue. This is no way to govern, and a real disservice to the people of this state.

Call lawmakers at

1-800-562-6000

to share your views on the capital budget.

July 10, 2017

Hand with mouse click here

Budget Information

Nonpartisan budget summary here.

State agency detail here.

Property tax impact information here.

Summary of K-12 funding here.

Nelson on floor of the senate applause

Contact Me

Phone: (360) 786-7667

Email: Sharon.Nelson@leg.wa.gov

Website: www.sdc.wastateleg.org/Nelson

Legislative Update: Ferries, budgets and more

May 31st, 2017|

Nelson banner 2017
MV Chimacum

Traveling the Triangle Route

As many of you know, the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route was reduced to a two-boat schedule over the weekend and the Seattle/Bremerton route was running at reduced capacity, with the smaller Sealth.

Anticipating a busy holiday weekend, Washington State Ferries (WSF) asked the crew of the newest ferry, Chimacum, if they were prepared to safely operate the vessel for a limited time. After an extraordinary amount of work by the vessel’s crew and support staff, WSF decided to have the Chimacum temporarily start service last Wednesday. I stayed in close contact with WSF officials as they worked out how to best deliver customers to their destinations.

I am so appreciative of the efforts of everyone involved at WSF, and for the patience of islanders and ferry-riders.

Education Funding Update

Education funding map

Democrats and Republicans have endorsed competing plans to fund education and satisfy the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Both sides agree additional revenue sources are needed to meet the state’s obligations to our students and teachers.

But the two plans vary greatly in the total amount of new investments going to schools and impacts on taxpayers.

Statewide, the Democratic plan would invest $8.5 billion additional state and local dollars into K-12 schools over the next four years. By comparison, the Republican plan would invest only $4.5 billion over the same time according to House nonpartisan committee staff analysis.

On the tax side of the debate, Senate Republicans are erroneously claiming 83 percent of taxpayers will see a property tax cut under their plan. This claim has been debunked by nonpartisan analysis.

Click on the Google Map above to see the school investment and taxpayer impact differences for school districts throughout the state.

For more information on the differences in revenue and policy of the two plans, please click here.

Senate Pages from the

34th Legislative District

Van Dusen photo

I have had the pleasure of hosting a number of pages throughout session, including Zachary Van Dusen, an 8th grader at McMurray Middle School (pictured left) and Cameron Bedard, a freshman at Vashon High School (pictured below). The Senate Page Program is a wonderful opportunity for students between the ages of 14 and 17 to come to Olympia and participate in the legislative process. Pages assist senators and staff, attend lectures with guest speakers, and go to page school where they create their own bills in a mock committee setting.

For more information, please click here.

Bedard page

College Junior or Senior in 2018?

Intern announcement

Applications are now being accepted for internships with the Washington State Senate for the 2018 legislative session. Partisan and nonpartisan positions are available in areas of policy and communications. Get credit, get paid and get firsthand experience working in your state government. For more information or to apply, please click here.

Priority Deadline: 11:59 p.m. Oct. 10, 2017

Final Deadline: 8:00 p.m. Oct. 18, 2017

May 31, 2017

WSF logo

VesselWatch: Know Before You Go

Washington State Ferries has critical information on its website for all ferry-goers. Click here for cameras, drive-on space availability, and estimated wait-times. You can view travel alerts here.

Capitol at sunset

Contact Me

Phone: (360) 786-7667

Email: Sharon.Nelson@leg.wa.gov

Website: www

Calling all students ages 14-18!

May 23rd, 2017|

Do you know a student who has a passion for politics or an interest in the legislative process? Then I hope you will encourage them to apply to be on the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC)! Applications are now open for all youth (ages 14-18) interested in serving on the 2017-18 council.

LYAC is composed of 22 dedicated young people from across the state. Their mission is to ensure the interests and opinions of Washington teens are heard and considered by state lawmakers.

When the Legislature is not in session, LYAC works as a liaison with youth organizations in Washington communities to educate the public on civic engagement opportunities for young people throughout the state. They are looking for a diverse group of voices to speak on behalf of Washington’s youth.

Applications are due no later than June 1st, 2017 at 11 PM, and can be found by clicking here.

Legislative Update: Budget Update

April 3rd, 2017|

Nelson banner 2017

 

Note from Sharon banner

April 3, 2017

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

There are fewer than four weeks until the regular 2017 session ends, and we now have budgets on the table from both the House Democrats and Senate Republicans. While each proposal addresses education and tax reform, the differences in what is funded and who pays are stark.

Senate Republicans fund their budget by creating a new $5.6 billion property tax while also making deep cuts to essential services that help families break the cycle of poverty. Republicans also make a significant cut to family planning funding and reject $1.5 billion in assured federal funds for low-income health care programs.

House Democrats on the other hand have released a budget that puts significantly more money into public schools in targeted investments, and funds their budget by closing costly corporate loopholes, closing the capital gains excise tax loophole and creating a more fair real estate excise tax system.

While no budget is perfect, our state has the most upside-down tax system in the nation and we need to be making changes that fund our responsibilities while not further burdening working families. I will continue to fight for full and fair funding for our schools and responsible government that keeps people at its heart.

As always, please contact me with questions or concerns.

Take care,

Signature

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                               Capitol with cherry blossoms

Budgets Released in Olympia

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.

Operating Budget

The operating budget is the main budget for the state. This funds everything from public schools and universities to state agencies and the mental health care system. You can view the operating budget here.

Transportation Budget

The transportation budget funds everything from pedestrian safety improvements, ferries, traffic improvement projects, to avalanche control on the mountain passes. You can view the transportation budget here.

Capital Budget

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

What is funded? banner

House v Senate policies

Who pays? banner

House v Senate revenue

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Tiny Houses for the Homeless

               Tiny House Tour 2

Students from across Washington came to the Capitol one day last week to demonstrate the skills they are learning in their career and technical education classes (CTE), and the important role CTE plays in their lives. Dozens of high school students from Aberdeen to Walla Walla showed off a very impressive array of skills and knowledge by building tiny houses that will be donated as housing for homeless people in Seattle.

Not only was it a great demonstration of their CTE skills in engineering, design, building and art, it also taught the students about our growing homelessness crisis in Washington and the creative solutions communities are developing to address it.

For more on CTE, click here.

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Honoring the West Seattle Helpline

I had the great pleasure last week of offering a resolution in honor of the vital work done by the staff and volunteers at the West Seattle Helpline. Families in our state are increasingly one crisis away from homelessness. For people in our region, the Helpline offers a variety of services and even steps in to offer emergency assistance to our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet. Their model of “neighbors helping neighbors” is key to turning the tide of homelessness in Washington. I want to thank everyone at the Helpline for their service and the hard work they do. To read the resolution, please click here.

To read a recent article about the resolution, click here.

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Nelson photo with frameContact Me

Phone: (360) 786-7667

Email: Sharon.Nelson@leg.wa.gov

Website: www.sdc.wastateleg.org/nelson

 

Legislative Update: Thank You!

March 21st, 2017|

Thank You!

Thanks to all of you who participated in the 34th legislative district telephone town hall last week. We had robust conversation on a variety of topics, including:

  • Education funding
  • Protecting Puget Sound and the environment
  • Health care
  • Tax reform
  • Ferries and transportation
  • Federal policies and their effects on our state

If you were not able to participate or didn’t get your question answered, please contact my office.

Levy Cliff Fix Signed into Law

I’d like to thank all of the students, teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, PTA members and everyone who worked tirelessly to finally convince Senate Republicans to work with Democrats to pass this bill.

Nearly every school district in Washington would have been affected by the $358 million cut to schools if we had gone over the levy cliff.

With that behind us, we can now focus on fully and fairly funding our schools.

I hope Republicans will join us in this endeavor and resist the urge to fulfill our educational promise to our kids by cutting programs their families rely on, or by doubling down on our upside down tax structure.

Women of Washington

Click here to watch a video by the women of the Senate Democratic Caucus. In this short video we honor Washington women and women around the nation and globe to mark International Women’s Day 2017.

News You Can Use

Know Before You Go

Click here to get real-time traffic alerts from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

FREE medication take-back program for veterans

There is a free medication take-back program for veterans. Simply go to your VA pharmacy and ask for an envelope, or use one of the safe deposit sites at VA hospitals. Click here for more details.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Nelson, fellow women legislators celebrate Int’l Women’s Day

Nelson, fellow women legislators celebrate Int’l Women’s Day

March 8th, 2017|

OLYMPIA – A Senate Resolution was offered in the state Senate on Wednesday in honor of International Women’s Day. This year’s International Women’s Day theme was, “Be Bold for Change.” With that in mind, Sen. Christine Rolfes and her fellow women state senators made a short video to mark the day and celebrate women in Washington and throughout the nation and world who are bold for change.

Join Me! For a Telephone Town Hall, March 15

March 2nd, 2017|

Legislative Update: Education, health care and more

February 16th, 2017|

Nelson banner 2017

Feb. 16, 2017

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2017 legislative session is underway and a great deal of progress has been made, with a lot of work left to do. This short update will give you some of the highlights regarding the biggest issues before the Legislature this year.

I would also like to take this opportunity to let you know that in uncertain times like these, I am continuing to defend the values we hold as Washingtonians. We are a state that embraces diversity and rejects the politics of bigotry and resentment. Unfortunately, we have heard some disturbing rhetoric coming from Senate Republicans, and seen an unconstitutional proposal introduced to the Legislature that would undermine our right to free speech. Democratic colleagues and I will not tolerate this. We will continue to stand up for fairness and opportunity for all, and lead the fight to resist division and fear.

Thank you for taking the time to read my e-newsletter.

Take care,

Sharon Nelson

School kids

Education

Full and Fair Funding

Senate and House Democrats have proposed a comprehensive education bill, SB 5623, to fully and fairly fund education for Washington’s 1.1 million students. The companion version of the bill is expected to passed out of the House of Representatives as early as tomorrow.

Some key elements of the proposal include:

  • Reducing class sizes, as directed by Initiative 1351.
  • Ensuring teachers and staff are paid as professionals, and raising starting teacher salaries.
  • Providing additional funding for the Learning Assistance Program,Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program, Special Education and highly capable programs.
  • Increasing allocations for guidance counselors and parent involvement coordinators.
Levy cliff media

Addressing the Levy Cliff

Another significant issue facing the Legislature this year is addressing something called the levy cliff. This is a looming multi-million dollar budget cut to Washington’s 295 school districts if the Legislature doesn’t act immediately. Although a bill to postpone the levy cliff passed with strong bipartisan support from the House in January, Senate Republicans won’t allow a vote on the bill. While they say it is to keep pressure on the Legislature to fully fund schools, in reality it only holds hostage their own school districts and those across Washington.

Many school districts  already face deadlines to develop next year’s budgets. The Seattle school district, which stands to lose tens of millions of dollars if we go over the levy cliff, has indicated it must send layoff notices as soon as Feb. 28. Passing the levy cliff bill is a simple insurance measure for  districts to continue the work we rely on them to do – educate our kids.

Fighting for Affordable Health Care

Despite the uncertainty coming from the other Washington, Democrats in this state are committed to maintaining affordable health care for Washingtonians. We have had great success in getting hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians insured under the Affordable Care Act. I will continue to fight for affordable health care for all Washingtonians.

ACA graphic

For information on Washington state’s Health Benefit exchange, please click here.

Nelson floor photo 2017

Contact Me

Phone: (360) 786-7667

Email: Sharon.Nelson@leg.wa.gov

Website: www.sdc.wastateleg.org/nelson

Nelson: Senate Democrats resolute against fear and division

November 17th, 2016|

State Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, released the following statement in response to recent actions by members of the Senate Republican Caucus following the presidential election:

“In the last week, we have seen behavior from Senate Republicans that a vast majority of Washington residents would find disturbing. Since the presidential election, members of the Senate Republican Caucus have used words and actions to create division and instill fear among members of our communities.

“We have already seen an unconstitutional proposal that would undermine our right to free speech and heard divisive and false language about immigrants in a Senate committee. At the same time, we are seeing a dramatic and alarming rise in hate crimes and increased fear in our communities of color.

“Senate Republicans may be successful in generating headlines, but they will not be successful in their attempt to bring ugly, Trump-style campaign rhetoric inside the Capitol in Olympia.

“It’s imperative that Senate Republican leaders immediately and forcefully rebuke these actions and statements.

“Washington is known for embracing diversity and rejecting the politics of bigotry and resentment. Senate Democrats will stand by our shared values of fairness and opportunity and lead the fight to resist division and fear.”