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    Nelson on House bills: Minimum wage, paid sick leave and the Voting Rights Act are policies Washingtonians demand

Nelson on House bills: Minimum wage, paid sick leave and the Voting Rights Act are policies Washingtonians demand

March 5th, 2015|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson released the statement below following the State House’s passage of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday:

“Our colleagues in the House continue to pursue ideas that will have a positive and lasting impact on people and communities throughout our state.

“On Tuesday the House voted to raise our state’s minimum wage as well as ensure that moms and dads will no longer have to choose between sick children or a paycheck. These fantastic policies will have lasting impacts on hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians.

“The message from the House was clear – ‘we stand on the side of working families.’

“Now, by passing the Washington Voting Rights Act, the House has sent another clear message – ‘we stand on the side of fairness and on the right side of history.’

“I hope the Senate will follow this example. I was disappointed that when presented with an opportunity to pass the Senate’s version of the VRA on Wednesday, Republicans stood in the way.

“The minimum wage, paid sick leave and now the Voting Rights Act are policies people throughout our state demand.

“I’m calling on the Republican-controlled Senate to take up these critical matters so that this body, too, can have a hand in making things better for millions of Washingtonians.”

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    Sen. Nelson applauds the State House’s adoption of minimum wage hike

Sen. Nelson applauds the State House’s adoption of minimum wage hike

March 3rd, 2015|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson released the statement below Tuesday following the State House’s passage of a measure to raise Washington’s minimum wage:

“I applaud the leadership of our colleagues in the House of Representatives for passing a bill today that will benefit hundreds of thousands of working Washingtonians.

“The economy is improving, but not for everyone. This important piece of legislation represents a critical component of the remedy for income inequality.

“This is in stark contrast to the Republican-controlled Senate. While the House works to make life better for more of our friends and neighbors, Republicans continue to work against them. Republican-sponsored bills that create sub-minimum wages, roll back protections for sick or injured working people and legislation to make it difficult for working folks to have a say in wages and working conditions are all being considered in the Senate.

“These common sense ideas coming over from the House will make life better for working families and benefit our entire economy – including those at the very top. These ideas must have their day in the Senate to create an economy that benefits everyone, not just a few.

“There’s no starker contrast between Democrats and Republicans than on these issues. At the same time Democrats took action to make things better for working families, Republicans continue to promote policies that make the gap between the rich and the rest of us even wider.”

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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

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    Nelson: “Transportation is an issue that can be solved without sacrificing our state’s values”

Nelson: “Transportation is an issue that can be solved without sacrificing our state’s values”

February 19th, 2015|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following today’s action by the Senate Transportation Committee’s action to pass a Transportation plan and accompanying policy bills:

“Today’s Committee actions showed that Senate Democrats want a transportation package to get Washington moving.  However, we do not believe that transportation infrastructure is more important than funding our children’s education.  The Senate Republicans insisted today on transferring a billion dollars from education to asphalt despite our objections.

“Additionally this package requires a reduction in wages and apprenticeships for working families.  As we move Washington forward, we should not be moving hard working families backward.

“We would prefer to see a transportation package free of ideology and one that is not paid for at the expense of our children’s future. With this in mind, Democrats on the Committee introduced a proposal with identical revenue and spending measures, but without unrelated and divisive policies. Unfortunately Senate Republicans voted in lockstep in favor of ideology over infrastructure and jobs.

“The transportation plan and policy bills which accompany it, regretfully, roll back standards that protect working people, the environment and will make solving the K-12 puzzle even more difficult.

“We all agree that transportation improvements are critical to every corner of our state, but this is an issue that can be solved without sacrificing our state’s values.

“We look forward to working with Republicans to produce a package which the majority of Democrats can support and one that benefits all Washingtonians.”

E-News 2015: No Challenge Too Great

January 27th, 2015|

2015: No Challenge Too

Great

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Legislative Update from Senator Sharon Nelson

January 27, 2015

Capitol Winter

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Contact Information

Olympia Office

(360) 786-7667

Sen. Sharon Nelson

PO Box 40434

Olympia, WA 98504-0434

Sharon.Nelson@leg.wa.gov

 

Legislative Hotline

(800) 562-6000

NelsonBillig2015

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.

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Nurse

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.

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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.

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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

Nelson and House Leader Sullivan on big issues for 2015

January 26th, 2015|

AUDIO: First day of 2015 Session

January 20th, 2015|

Monday – Jan. 12, 2015, marked the first day of the Legislative Session in Olympia. Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, shared some priorities of the Senate Democratic Caucus. (TRT: 44) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

SCRIPT:

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island shared a few priorities of the Senate Democratic Caucus that she hopes will be addressed during the 64th Legislative Session.

Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island: (TRT: 26 ) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: “Well, our top priority is making sure that our budget, which is our most important document… that we are funding education for our children but also funding families. And that means looking at additional investments in early childhood education, higher education, making sure we protect programs for our foster children. They are the children of this state. And, also protect public safety. We operate prisons and we’ve gotta make sure that we fund the needs there.”

The Washington State Senate convened on Monday for the first day of the 105-day session.

2015: No challenge too great

December 20th, 2014|

From the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber

The new year is upon us. That means holiday celebrations, new beginnings and “the greatest gift of all” — the start of another legislative session in Olympia.

In my last guest piece for The Beachcomber, I discussed the business left unfinished by the Republican majority in 2014: education funding, transportation, jobs and the banning of toxic chemicals in children’s and household goods. Addressing these outstanding challenges in 2015 will likely lead to one of the toughest sessions in our state’s history.

And why will it be so tough? Largely two reasons: Another divided Legislature and finding significant funding for an education system that has been short-changed for far too long.

Following November’s elections, Washington largely maintained the status quo with a state House and governor’s mansion under Democratic control, and a Senate that is controlled by a narrow Republican majority of 26-23. A few “yeas” and “nays” in the Senate make all the difference.

That is the political reality, so what is the financial one? Chiefly, 2015 is a budget-writing year. And as we write the biennial budget (covering 2015-17), we face significant outstanding debt regarding K-12 education. So urgent is this funding need that the state was found in contempt by the state Supreme Court over non-compliance with the education funding decision known as McCleary. If we don’t make real progress this session, the state could face court sanctions.

In order to make this necessary progress and fulfill what Washington’s constitution calls our “paramount duty” to our kids, the Legislature must fund school essentials like classroom materials, heating and electricity and busses. We must also lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and provide all-day kindergarten. We’ve committed to this; we just haven’t paid for it yet. In addition, the passage of I-1351 by voters in November calls for lowering all class sizes and increasing school staffing, adding to the state’s financial responsibilities.

That is the skeleton of 2015’s challenges. What is the meat and heart of it? Put plainly — ideology. The question is no longer if we will fund education, but how.

“Fund education first” is something you’ll probably hear a lot if you follow the Legislature in 2015. But it is a slogan, not a solution.

After all, what would that look like? What would happen if we took more money out of mental health and higher education and further put off a transportation package? Policy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If kids are hungry and sick, they don’t get good test scores. You can’t attract and retain great teachers by paying them under market value. And you can’t get kids to and from school safely on crumbling roads and bridges.

We cannot do one-time budgetary tricks and gimmicks or further devastate funding critical to children and families. I think your hard-earned money should buy more than the bare minimum.

Governing requires compromise. I am going to Olympia in January with an open mind and all options on the table. The answers to our funding challenges won’t be found in slogans, but in a combination of measures that will likely include closing tax loopholes, adding revenue and considering tax fairness.

I am also committed to finding solutions that address the inherent injustice in our state educational system. To diminish this is to doom our state to an ever-widening achievement gap between low- and high-income districts. The state has paid less and less to schools over the years, resulting in increased success in districts that can afford to pass levies and put time into grant writing and declining success in districts that cannot.

Equal education is equal opportunity. Education is the bootstrap by which Americans pull themselves up and the early investment that leads to reduced need for costly government services down the road. A recent study revealed that a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year of public school, for children from poor families, leads to “more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty.”

Given the season, I don’t want to end on a note of Grinchy-ness. I hope to shed light on the challenges before us, not drop them into your stocking like a billion-dollar lump of coal.

So I’ll leave you with this: The flip side of a challenge is opportunity.

Aristotle said, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” This is going to be a tough session. But done right, we can sow the seeds of a better Washington that will be seen not only in our classrooms, but on our highways and in our communities from Maury Island to Harbor Island, Port Angeles to Pullman.

— State Sen. Sharon Nelson represents the 34th District. She lives on Maury Island.

Nelson takes a look at the 2015 session in The Beachcomber

December 18th, 2014|

This article was published in the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber on December 17, 2014

Funding schools presents a challenge in 2015

By SHARON NELSON
For The Beachcomber

The new year is upon us. That means holiday celebrations, new beginnings and “the greatest gift of all” — the start of another legislative session in Olympia.

In my last guest piece for The Beachcomber, I discussed the business left unfinished by the Republican majority in 2014: education funding, transportation, jobs and the banning of toxic chemicals in children’s and household goods. Addressing these outstanding challenges in 2015 will likely lead to one of the toughest sessions in our state’s history.

And why will it be so tough? Largely two reasons: Another divided Legislature and finding significant funding for an education system that has been short-changed for far too long.

Following November’s elections, Washington largely maintained the status quo with a state House and governor’s mansion under Democratic control, and a Senate that is controlled by a narrow Republican majority of 26-23. A few “yeas” and “nays” in the Senate make all the difference.

That is the political reality, so what is the financial one? Chiefly, 2015 is a budget-writing year. And as we write the biennial budget (covering 2015-17), we face significant outstanding debt regarding K-12 education. So urgent is this funding need that the state was found in contempt by the state Supreme Court over non-compliance with the education funding decision known as McCleary. If we don’t make real progress this session, the state could face court sanctions.

In order to make this necessary progress and fulfill what Washington’s constitution calls our “paramount duty” to our kids, the Legislature must fund school essentials like classroom materials, heating and electricity and busses. We must also lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and provide all-day kindergarten. We’ve committed to this; we just haven’t paid for it yet. In addition, the passage of I-1351 by voters in November calls for lowering all class sizes and increasing school staffing, adding to the state’s financial responsibilities.

That is the skeleton of 2015’s challenges. What is the meat and heart of it? Put plainly — ideology. The question is no longer if we will fund education, but how.

“Fund education first” is something you’ll probably hear a lot if you follow the Legislature in 2015. But it is a slogan, not a solution.

After all, what would that look like? What would happen if we took more money out of mental health and higher education and further put off a transportation package? Policy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If kids are hungry and sick, they don’t get good test scores. You can’t attract and retain great teachers by paying them under market value. And you can’t get kids to and from school safely on crumbling roads and bridges.

We cannot do one-time budgetary tricks and gimmicks or further devastate funding critical to children and families. I think your hard-earned money should buy more than the bare minimum.

Governing requires compromise. I am going to Olympia in January with an open mind and all options on the table. The answers to our funding challenges won’t be found in slogans, but in a combination of measures that will likely include closing tax loopholes, adding revenue and considering tax fairness.

I am also committed to finding solutions that address the inherent injustice in our state educational system. To diminish this is to doom our state to an ever-widening achievement gap between low- and high-income districts. The state has paid less and less to schools over the years, resulting in increased success in districts that can afford to pass levies and put time into grant writing and declining success in districts that cannot.

Equal education is equal opportunity. Education is the bootstrap by which Americans pull themselves up and the early investment that leads to reduced need for costly government services down the road. A recent study revealed that a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year of public school, for children from poor families, leads to “more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty.”

Given the season, I don’t want to end on a note of Grinchy-ness. I hope to shed light on the challenges before us, not drop them into your stocking like a billion-dollar lump of coal.

So I’ll leave you with this: The flip side of a challenge is opportunity.

Aristotle said, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” This is going to be a tough session. But done right, we can sow the seeds of a better Washington that will be seen not only in our classrooms, but on our highways and in our communities from Maury Island to Harbor Island, Port Angeles to Pullman.

— State Sen. Sharon Nelson represents the 34th District. She lives on Maury Island.

See you in the fall

June 30th, 2014|

Dear Friends,

From July 1, election-year restrictions begin on my external communications, including updates to my website.

If you need more information or have a legislative issue to discuss, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

sharon.nelson@leg.wa.gov

(360) 786-7667

As always, it is an honor to serve you in Olympia.

Regards,

Sharon