Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: Early progress in Olympia

January 19th, 2018|

Jan. 19, 2018

Dear friends and neighbors:

We are only 12 days into the 2018 legislative session in Olympia, but we are already notching significant victories for the people of our state. Our new Democratic majority in the Senate is working collaboratively with the House to pass legislation bottled up by Republican committee chairs for the last five years.

Capital Budget

Our top priority when we returned to Olympia last week was passing the state capital budget, which funds the construction and renovation of our schools, public health facilities and community projects. The legislature adjourned in July with no enacted capital budget for the first time in living memory, because the Senate Republicans refused to bring it to a vote due to an unrelated dispute involving rural water wells.
We were on the floor late last night to pass the capital budget and send it to Gov. Inslee’s desk. It includes the largest-ever investment in K-12 school construction (nearly $1 billion); $861 million for higher education projects; and $106 million will go to the Housing Trust Fund, the second-highest such investment in state history. More than $65 million will go to community mental health beds, and about $20 million will go to both Eastern and Western state hospitals for patient safety enhancements and renovations. This will mean good construction jobs in communities around our state, and better facilities for our residents.

Major projects that will now be able to go forward in our district include:

• A significant addition to West Woodland Elementary School to relieve overcrowding;
• Renovation and expansion of Country Doctor Community Health Center; and
• Completion of the new Burke Museum project on the University of Washington campus.

Access to Democracy

Another top priority for Senate Democrats is to make sure that all people in our state have easy access to participate in our democratic process. The first bills that we passed out of the Senate were the Washington Voting Rights Act, same-day voter registration, and the DISCLOSE Act, which will shed light on previously hidden political spending. We believe these measures will improve voter participation from the miserable 37 percent of eligible voters who participated in the November 2017 election. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of all of them.

Reducing Gun Violence

I was proud to stand with all the advocates who came to Olympia to voice support for reducing gun violence.
As the new chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, I have held hearings on several bills aimed at reducing gun violence. We heard courageous testimony from victims and their families about the consequences of gun violence in our state. A Seattle couple who survived the Las Vegas mass shooting in October told lawmakers about how the shooting has changed their lives forever. 976 Washingtonians made their way to Olympia on Monday to make their voices heard about responsible gun ownership and public safety.

Our committee has already passed bills to reduce suicide by allowing people to add their own names to the do-not-purchase registry for guns (SB 5553) and to ban “bump stocks”, which are devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more than 300 rounds per minute (SB 5992). Both bills are now on the Senate floor calendar and I expect them to pass with bi-partisan support.

Education funding

The Seattle legislative delegation has been working closely with Seattle Public Schools over the last few months to identify and propose solutions for the defects in the education-funding bill passed by the legislature last summer. As a member of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and the Senate Ways & Means Committee, I will be working hard this session to provide adequate state funding for special education; to make changes to improve the sustainability of state funding; and to provide help to districts across the state with implementation of the increased salaries funded by the state.
Moving to a clean energy economy
In Washington, we are experiencing numerous impacts of climate change: shellfish hatcheries are failing because of an acidifying ocean; record-breaking wildfires are ravaging our forests and communities; and declining snowpack and earlier snowmelt in the mountains jeopardize our summer water supplies.
I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 6203, which would hold major polluters accountable by enacting a carbon pollution tax. Funds generated from this tax would be invested in efforts to reduce emissions, spur new jobs and technology, and support communities that incur the impacts of climate change firsthand. The bill had a public hearing on Tuesday in the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee.

Stay in touch

There are many exciting moments ahead this session, ranging from Senate floor debates on equal pay for equal work and providing equal parentage rights for LGBT families to our Law & Justice Committee hearing next Monday on abolition of the death penalty. In addition to my periodic e-mails, there are many ways for you to follow our work in Olympia over the next few weeks. You can follow the Senate Democrats on Twitter and Facebook. You can watch our committee hearings and floor debates at tvw.org. And I hope that you will join Speaker Frank Chopp, Representative Nicole Macri and me for our town hall on Saturday, February 17 at 1:30pm at Seattle First Baptist Church. Please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you have. We look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Jamie

State Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
jamie.pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(206) 729-3206