(360) 786-7667|Joe.Nguyen@leg.wa.gov

News Release

Governor signs law to expand TANF benefits

April 2nd, 2020|

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law today a bill that expands access to Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by remedying cuts to services made during the Great Recession.

TANF works to alleviate some of the root causes of homelessness in Washington through resources such as cash assistance and job training for those in need. But the program suffered $286 million in cuts over the past decade, even as the housing and homelessness crisis escalated.

In the past, people could receive TANF benefits only for a grand total of 60 months unless they were eligible for extension based on instances such as family hardship or homelessness. Senate Bill 6478, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), eliminates the cap for recipients whose families are without regular housing.

The measure aims to prevent children of families in hardship from being penalized for circumstances outside their control.

“This measure is important now more than ever,” said Nguyen. “Families who are without stable housing shouldn’t find themselves on the street because they reached an arbitrary time limit. Especially now, while we are all staying home due to the pandemic, we should be making sure that as many families as possible have a safe place to sleep and avoid contact with others.”

In addition to exempting more families from the 5-year limit, the new law requires DSHS to report data identifying the race of those whose TANF benefits were reduced or terminated in the last year due to the time limit or sanctions. This is intended to address inequities for families of color, who have been disproportionately penalized by harsh time restrictions.

“These vital changes help ensure that families in crisis do not fall into deeper poverty or homelessness,” said Nguyen. “The funding cuts that these programs have seen since the recession have played a massive role in the homelessness crisis we’re seeing today. This bill addresses those inequities and works to restore the program.”

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Governor signs facial recognition regulations into law

March 31st, 2020|

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today signed into law comprehensive regulations on the use of facial recognition technology in Washington.

Senate Bill 6280, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), prohibits the use of facial recognition technology for ongoing surveillance and limits its use to acquiring evidence of serious criminal offense following authorization of a search warrant.

“Right now, we have seen this technology already being used without much concern for the moral implications that are associated with it,” said Nguyen. “This bill will change that, and ensure that facial recognition isn’t being used unless there are regulatory checks and balances.”

Given reports of the technology’s bias against women, trans individuals, and people of color, SB 6280 establishes guidelines and oversight to protect against discriminatory applications.

“Now is the time to really work on this and find ways to root out the bias, so people across the country can be protected from unnecessary and intrusive surveillance,” Nguyen said.

The bill requires agencies using the technology to produce an accountability report outlining its intended use. Additionally, the use of facial recognition technology would be subject to formal review to ensure accurate representation.

“This bill begins the process of catching our laws up to where our technology is at,” said Nguyen. “I’m proud that Washington is the leader on this issue.”

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    Governor approves legislation to increase availability of ZEVs

Governor approves legislation to increase availability of ZEVs

March 25th, 2020|

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law today a bill that will create a pathway for more zero emissions vehicles to be sold in Washington State.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), Senate Bill 5811 requires auto dealerships to stock a set percentage of zero emissions cars for sale on their lots.

“This is an important step in giving more people access to environmentally sustainable modes of transportation,” said Nguyen. “We need to be actively considering how to make our air cleaner and decrease our emissions, and this is a step towards that goal.”

In 2017, about 45% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the transportation sector. SB 5811 would work to reduce emissions by spurring automakers to sell about 25,000 electronic vehicles per year by 2025. That number is roughly double the amount sold in 2019, and would make a difference of more than 100,000 tons of carbon pollution annually.

The process of applying California’s nation-leading clean air standards in Washington began in 2005, when the Legislature adopted all standards except for zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) standards. This bill remedies the difference by allowing Washington to join California and nine other states in the country as a certified ZEV state.

The bill is just one step of many taken by Senate Democrats to protect Washington’s natural environment this legislative session. Other bills include a ban on single-use plastic bags, increased access to solar projects for lower-income communities, and a commitment to being carbon neutral by 2050.

“As we face an existential threat to our climate, we can’t afford to sit idly by and watch our planet keep degrading,” said Nguyen. “Now is the time to act so that more generations can have a future like ours.”

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Coronavirus funding in the Legislature

March 14th, 2020|

Neighbors in the 34th,

We set off this session with the goal to pass a strong supplemental budget tackling homelessness, transportation, and countless community works projects in our communities. While these goals were all still met, the increasing public health crisis threatened by the coronavirus pandemic demanded an urgent response as well. In the final accounting, we appropriated $200 million.

$175 million of this aid will go to local and state response, with the remaining $25 million funding a coronavirus unemployment account and small business support. This is a scary and uncertain time, and we need to be looking out for our neighbors.

One thing is clear: hourly and lower wage workers will be hurt more by business closures and a lack of available shifts in the face of a struggling economy. These are the people that we were considering most when deciding how to respond. And this is reflected strongly in the final budget.

We also gave leeway to the State Board of Education to adjust graduation requirements for the class of 2020 so that this pandemic does not prevent a whole class of students from graduating.

This is a constantly changing situation, and I will work to keep you as up to date as possible throughout the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you have symptoms and do not have a doctor to call, you can call the King County coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 or the Washington State Department of Health coronavirus call center at 1-800-525-0127.

Take care of yourselves and your families, and follow the advice of health officials and Governor Inslee.

In solidarity,

Sen. Joe Nguyen
34th Legislative District

 

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    Senate passes Nguyen bill to regulate facial recognition technology

Senate passes Nguyen bill to regulate facial recognition technology

February 19th, 2020|

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate voted 30-18 today to install key safeguards in the use of facial recognition technology by agencies in the public sector.

Senate Bill 6280, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), would prohibit the use of facial recognition technology for ongoing surveillance and limit its use to instances when facial recognition surveillance would provide evidence of serious criminal offense. In these circumstances, a search warrant would be required by law enforcement or other government agencies before using the technology.

As facial recognition technology is already being utilized throughout Washington and online, there are few laws in place to restrict its use. This bill would change that by setting clear standards for the use of the technology by public agencies.

“The companies that are already producing this technology don’t care about the moral implications involved — they care about profit,” Nguyen said. “That’s why we need to take action now to hold these companies accountable and ensure that public agencies don’t keep using this technology without any regulatory checks or balances.”

During a time when many are skeptical of the technology due to reports of bias against women and people of color, Nguyen hopes to establish moral guardrails in Washington state that can be more broadly applied across the country.

“We have an opportunity to look at this technology and figure out how we can make it more equitable for everyone,” said Nguyen. “Now is the time to really work on this and find ways to root out that bias, so people across the country can be protected from unnecessary and intrusive surveillance. This is an issue that we should be leading on.”

The bill would also require agencies using the technology to produce an accountability report outlining their intended use, as well as an annual report disclosing violations to the report and all known uses of the technology. Additionally, the use of facial recognition technology would be subject to meaningful review as a further security net to ensure accurate representation.

“We can’t afford to stand pat and do nothing,” said Nguyen. “We need to regulate facial recognition technology now.”

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

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For information: Courtney James, Democratic Caucus Communications, (360)-786-7853

Senate passes Nguyen bill to reform recession-era TANF restrictions

February 18th, 2020|

OLYMPIA – Legislation passed today by the Washington State Senate would restore recession-era cuts that have exacerbated a number of the root causes of the state’s growing homelessness crisis.

The past decade saw $286 million in cuts to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program – a program that helps to alleviate some of the root causes of the housing and homelessness crisis which people have ranked as their top area of concern.

“As someone who grew up in a family that relied on TANF, I know how important this program is to families across Washington,” said Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill is an investment in the people of Washington state, and part of a larger effort to alleviate homelessness and ensure we have a stable environment for working families in our state.”

A vital resource for those in need, WorkFirst currently imposes restrictions that require recipients to participate in one or more WorkFirst activities such as job hunting training, career development, and vocational training programs. However, the requirement fails to consider those who are unable to meet this requirement due to barriers outside of their control such as inability to access childcare, family illness, mental health disorders, and homelessness.

The Department of Social and Human Services has found that, of recipients who were cut off from TANF due to noncompliance:

  • 80% did not have childcare,
  • 40% were homeless,
  • 57% were unstably housed in the prior year,
  • 63% needed mental health services, and
  • 33% had a chronic disease or serious disability.

Individuals unable to meet the WorkFirst requirement may lose TANF grants as a consequence. Additionally, because those who depend on TANF grants care for at least one child, a termination of the family’s grant results in a penalty to the child who was at no fault of their own.

Senate Bill 6478, which passed on a 30-18 vote, would reform the penalty to allow those in crisis more time to re-engage in work activities to prevent penalizing the children of those unable to meet WorkFirst requirements.

Under the bill, if a recipient is unable to engage in work activities for two months, their family’s grant would be reduced by either 40% or the recipient’s share of the grant. After 12 months of noncompliance, the family’s grant could then be terminated.

“These important changes work to help families in crisis not fall into homelessness or further poverty,” said Nguyen. “The funding cuts that these programs have seen since the recession have played a massive role in the homelessness crisis we’re seeing today. This bill addresses those inequities and works to restore the program.”

The bill will now move to the House for consideration.

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For information: Courtney James, Senate Democratic Caucus Communications, (360)-786-7853

Senate passes bill on zero emissions vehicles

January 15th, 2020|

The Washington State Senate voted today to provide a more direct pathway for zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) production in the state.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), Senate Bill 5811 authorizes the state Department of Ecology to adopt California’s ZEV regulations and includes medium-duty vehicles in ZEV standards.

“As we look across the world and see the devastating effects of a changing climate, it’s important to understand that this is a crisis affecting us today,” said Nguyen. “We should be using every tool we have to reduce the harm we are experiencing and to protect our future generations. Devastating events like the wildfires raging in Australia are warning of a future that we should be working to prevent now.”

Building off work accomplished in the past two years that Democrats have controlled the state Legislature, the bill is another step forward in advancing environmental goals in Washington. Last session, Democrats passed a sweeping range of bills to protect environmental health, including orca recovery, toxic cleanup investments and 100% clean energy by 2045.

“This is a common-sense solution to address an ongoing problem,” said Nguyen. “Creating a clear path for zero emissions vehicles in Washington state is a step towards lowering the greenhouse gas emissions produced by our transportation sector and reducing air pollution.”

Having passed the Senate on a 26-23 vote, the bill will now move to the House for consideration.

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For information: Courtney James, Senate Democratic Caucus Communications, (360)-786-7853