Legislative Update: Ferries, budgets and more

May 31st, 2017|

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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

Legislative Update: Budget Update

April 3rd, 2017|

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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,


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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.

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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.

Legislative Update: Education, health care and more

February 16th, 2017|

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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


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.
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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

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    Legislative Update: Transportation Revenue, Prescription Medication and more

Legislative Update: Transportation Revenue, Prescription Medication and more

February 25th, 2015|

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As the weeks fly by in Olympia, we still have a lot of work to do – but we have made progress on a couple of important issues. Last week for example, the Governor signed a supplemental budget that will provide emergency funds for the Oso landslide, as well as the record forest fires we experienced in Eastern Washington last summer. There will also be more money restored to underfunded mental health and foster care programs that were cut significantly during the recession.

With the 2015 session nearly halfway done, I thought it would be a good time to check-in and let you know what is happening at the Capitol.

Transportation Funding

After nearly two years of negotiations, a transportation funding package was passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee. This is an important step toward much needed improvements to ferries, roads and bridges across Washington.

Unfortunately, despite the hard work put in by our Democratic negotiators, Senate Republicans included several political provisions that have nothing to do with getting Washington moving, and everything to do with ideology.

What is being referred to as the “poison pill” is just the start. This is a provision that says if Governor Inslee takes action regarding carbon reduction standards, all funding for transit is shifted to asphalt. In my view, an all-or-nothing mandate is not responsible governing, and Washingtonians shouldn’t be forced to choose needed transit over stewardship of the environment.

20140716_LegWA_0323abThen there are the funding sources – which includes a nearly $1 billion sales tax shift from the general fund (used to fund state operations, including education) to transportation. This means a $1 billion funding reduction from efforts to reduce class size, implement all-day kindergarten, and provide more funding for early childhood education and higher education.

Both Democrats and Republicans went into this legislative session saying a transportation package is necessary to keep Washington’s families and economy moving – but fully funding education is our paramount duty.

If Democrats were in the majority, the transportation proposal would have looked different. But in any negotiation there is give and take, and you expect to give up some things no matter who is in charge. We need this funding package. We all rely on safe roads and bridges and ferries to go about our lives, and we need them to make sure our economy can go about its business and continue to grow. I look forward to voting for a transportation package that does not make our state choose between critical funding for transit and reducing carbon emissions or funding education—that package would have broad Democratic support.

News You Can Use: Prescription Medication Unaffordable?

Are you struggling to afford your medication?

Several alarming reports from patients across the country are shining a light on insurance companies’ discrimination against the acutely and chronically ill. Fortunately, Washington’s Insurance Commissioner was authorized by the Legislature in 2012 to monitor health plans for “adverse selection” and take steps to prevent it.RX horiz

What does this mean?  It means insurance companies can’t design their health plans to weed out chronically an acutely ill patients and “cherry pick” only healthy customers. If you are experiencing problems affording your prescription medications, please take a few moments to contact my office as well as Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to let us know.

Email my office at sharon.nelson@leg.wa.gov

Contact Commissioner Kreidler at 1-800-562-6900 or visit the contact page by clicking here.

Other great resources to learn more:

  • Ask the Commissioner a question with “Ask Mike” by clicking here.
  • For the main information page on health insurance from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, please click here.

As always, thank you for subscribing to my newsletter and I look forward to hearing from you!

Kind Regards,

Sharon Nelson

E-News 2015: No Challenge Too Great

January 27th, 2015|

2015: No Challenge Too



Legislative Update from Senator Sharon Nelson

January 27, 2015

Capitol Winter


Contact Information

Olympia Office

(360) 786-7667

Sen. Sharon Nelson

PO Box 40434

Olympia, WA 98504-0434



Legislative Hotline

(800) 562-6000


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

With a New Year comes renewed hopes, goals and best of all – a new legislative session!

I have been back in Olympia for two weeks already and thought I would take the opportunity to update you on what is going on as 2015 gets underway.

No Challenge Too Great

There is a lot to do in this 105-day session, but I believe with hard work and compromise there is no reason we can’t get it all done. We often hear about political divisiveness in this day and age, but the truth is, compromise happens all the time in state government. Unfortunately, it is still too often that significant ideological differences get in the way of finding solutions to our biggest challenges. In 2015, those challenges include:

1)    Writing the state budget for the next two years;

2)    Fulfilling our obligation to fully fund education; and

3)    Passing a transportation revenue package.

That is a tall order – but I believe each challenge we face has a solution as long as we prioritize people over politics, and look for solutions that get to the root of our funding challenges. As session goes on and negotiations get further underway, I will continue to update you on each of these major challenges. In the meantime, if you would like to read more about how I believe the Legislature should meet its education funding needs this session, please click here.


Sick and Safe Leave for Washington Families

January not only means a New Year and new legislative session, it also means flu season is here. Every year in our state, thousands of parents must make the difficult choice between putting food on the table and staying home with a sick child. I am proud to have co-sponsored Senate Bill 5306this year, which would ensure everyone receives some time off sick for themselves or their loved ones.

 No one should be faced with going to work sick or sending a sick child to school – but this isn’t just a matter of fairness, it is also a matter of public health. People without paid sick days, many of whom work in the service industry, are forced to go to work where they risk spreading illnesses that can be deadly to vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. Ensuring sick and safe leave for all workers in our state is a small but significant first step to helping ease some of the burden on working families, and helping Washingtonians stay healthy.

Oil Trains

Oil Transportation Safety

The oil transportation landscape in Washington and around the country is rapidly changing. Just three years ago, virtually no crude oil was being shipped by rail through our state. In 2014, we saw trains carrying roughly 7.8 million gallons of crude oil through Washington every day.

 The risks this increase in oil transportation poses to our communities and economy are very real. Just last week, a pipeline in Montana burst spilling tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River. A similar spill in the Columbia River or Puget Sound is unthinkable, and would cause extensive damage not only to our environment but to the industries that rely on it, like agriculture and fishing. A bill introduced at the start of this session would grant public access to basic information, like the routes of travel and types of oil moving through Washington (Senate Bill 5087). This information would help first responders plan for spills and keep their communities safe.

Senate Floor

It will be a pivotal year in Olympia, and I rely on your input to make sure our state is steered in the right direction – so please stay in touch! And as always, thank you for subscribing to my e-newsletters.

 Take Care,

 Senator Sharon Nelson

34th Legislative District