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March 16, 2018

Dear friends and neighbors:

Before the Legislature finished this year’s 60-day session last week, we passed supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budgets to fund everything from public schools to roads. These supplemental budgets are generally minor changes to the two-year budgets that we enact in the odd-numbered years. For my final email legislative update of 2018, I would like to share a few highlights of important community investments for the state and for our district. You can find a wealth of other information about the budgets by clicking here.

Operating budget

The $44.7 billion operating budget for 2017-19 primarily funds public schools ($22.7 billion), health and human services ($13.9 billion), and higher education ($3.9 billion).

Our biggest investment in the 2018 supplemental operating budget was nearly $1 billion of additional funding for public schools. We hope and expect that this money – including roughly $48 million in additional funding for Seattle Public Schools – will finally resolve the McCleary litigation and bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to provide ample funding for public schools. We also passed legislation (E2SSB 6362) to begin to correct some of the defects in last year’s education funding bill, ESHB 2242. These include changing the formula for allocating special education money to school districts. Although this will increase state spending for special education by $97 million over the next four years, we know that we have a lot more work to do in the next biennial budget.

The supplemental budget also sets us on a path to fund the State Need Grant fully over the next four years. This is the state’s principal financial aid program for higher education, which helps more than 60,000 students attend college each year. Roughly 22,000 students who qualify have been stuck on a waiting list that will now be phased out. Making this investment will help expand the opportunity for higher education to everyone in our state.

A third major investment is nearly $300 million over the next four years for mental and behavioral health care to fulfill the state’s legal and moral obligations at our state hospitals and in our communities. This funding should help to address one of the major drivers of our current homelessness crisis: untreated substance abuse and mental health issues.

The supplemental budget includes hundreds of other smaller investments, from increased funding for public defense and civil legal aid to school breakfasts and temporary aid to needy families.

Finally, I want to highlight the great work that Speaker Chopp and Representative Macri have led on affordable housing issues. ESHB 1570, introduced by Representative Macri, will stabilize the state’s primary revenue source for responding to homelessness by increasing to $62 and making permanent a surcharge on certain documents filed at the county level. This will raise $26 million a year for services to help people who are homeless.

Transportation

The $9.5 billion transportation budget for 2017-19 funds construction and maintenance of roads and bridges around the state, as well as the Washington State Patrol and the ferry system. Our district is home to two of the largest current projects in the budget: the SR 99 tunnel under downtown and South Lake Union and the replacement of the SR 520 floating bridge.

Although there was very little money for new investments in the 2018 supplemental transportation budget, I worked to secure three items of note for our district.

  • First, extensions of noise walls along I-5 in the Eastlake neighborhood will be completed four years earlier. Construction will begin in the next biennium and should be completed by 2023.
  • Second, the supplemental budget includes $500,000 for grants to residents most affected by construction noise on SR 520 in Montlake. This could help with window retrofits, insulation, or other measures to make construction over the next few years more bearable.
  • Finally, the supplemental budget includes language directing the Department of Transportation to do everything that it can to preserve the Montlake Market. The market is a both a grocery store and an important neighborhood asset. The department will also be required to engage in regular outreach and dialogue with the community on this issue.

Capital budget

The $4.6 billion capital budget for 2017-19 was not enacted until January of this year because of a standoff in the 2017 session over rural water wells. The capital budget funds construction, including assistance for local districts with school construction and building and renovation of facilities at the University of Washington and other higher education institutions. The biennial budget included funding for the renovation and expansion of the Country Doctor Community Health Center on Capitol Hill and completion of the new Burke Museum project on the University of Washington campus. It also included $10 million to pay for construction of a new wing at West Woodland Elementary School to relieve overcrowding and eliminate portables.

For many years, Seattle legislators have worked together to secure funding for Seattle Public Schools in the capital budget. This year’s supplemental capital budget will add $7.9 million to build additional classroom space at Frantz Coe Elementary School on Queen Anne.

The supplemental budget also provides an additional $1 million to help complete the renovation of our historic Town Hall on First Hill.

Stay in touch

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Although the Legislature has adjourned for the year and I have returned to my other job, I welcome your questions or concerns. It is a privilege to serve you.

Best wishes,
Jamie

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7628

 

March 12, 2018

Dear friends and neighbors:

The 2018 Legislature adjourned last Thursday. It was the first time since 2014 that we finished on time and the first time since 2008 that we completed all of our budgets without the need for a special session. Our new Democratic majority in the Senate entered the 60-day session with a progressive agenda focused on putting people first. In cooperation with our colleagues in the House and with great effort by and support from advocates from around the state, I think that we succeeded!

In this newsletter, I would like to focus on policy issues that we worked on this year. In the coming days, I plan to send a summary of the supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets we passed in the final days of the session, including our work on education funding.

Reducing gun violence

Reducing violence associated with firearms is among my top priorities in Olympia. Although much work remains, I am proud to say that the legislature passed more gun safety laws this year than in my previous 11 years combined. Nearly 1,000 people came down to Olympia to attend public hearings in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on these issues, by far the most for any hearing in the Legislature this year. Here are the bills that passed this session:

  • A ban on bump stocks, the device used in the Las Vegas massacre to give a semi-automatic rifle the rapid-fire capability of a machine gun. (ESB 5992)
  • Adding domestic violence harassment to the list of conditions that prevent people from being able to buy a firearm. (ESB 6298)
  • Legislation to allow anyone struggling with mental illness to place themselves on a firearms do-not-purchase list. (ESSB 5553)
  • Reforms to the concealed pistol license process to make sure that licenses are taken away from people with stalking and other protective orders and are not returned to holders without a new background check. (EHB 2519)

Parentage Act updates

For the last three years, I have chaired a drafting committee of the national Uniform Law Commission to update the Uniform Parentage Act in light of the United States Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision. The new Parentage Act will help protect same-sex couples and their families around the country. I am proud that Washington became the first state to enact this law (with Vermont, Rhode Island, California, and Delaware working this year to follow us). ESSB 6037 will:

  • allow the non-biological mother in a lesbian couple to confirm her status as a legal parent through a one-page “acknowledgement of parentage” and avoid a costly and intrusive second-parent adoption;
  • permit compensated surrogacy arrangements, with substantial regulatory protections for women acting as surrogates, intended parents, and children born of surrogacy;
  • give children born through assisted reproduction access to information about their egg or sperm donors when they reach age 18; and
  • codify Washington’s law that protects the relationship between children and people who are not biological or adoptive parents but function as parents (“de facto parents”).

Visitation by Grandparents and Other Relatives

Since a United States Supreme Court decision in 2000 striking down Washington’s law, our state has been the only state in the country with no way for grandparents or others who have been denied access to children by their parents to seek court review of that denial.  I have been working on this issue for 10 years and am very proud that the legislature passed ESB 5598 this session. While giving a strong presumption that decisions by fit parents are correct and in the best interest of their children, it will create a process by which relatives who have an ongoing and substantial relationship with a child can petition a court to seek visitation.

Police Use of Deadly Force

One of the great achievements of the legislative session happened in the final hours. Law enforcement groups and the coalition of community groups comprising DeEscalate Washington reached agreement on changes to state law on the use of deadly force by police. I was proud to shepherd the agreement through the Senate Law & Justice Committee and across the Senate floor. Gov. Inslee signed HB 3003 into law last Thursday.

The agreement seeks to improve the relationship between law and enforcement and the communities they serve. The new law removes the “actual malice” requirement from the current deadly force statute and changes the language to create a fair, objective standard for police accountability. It also provides for better training, conflict de-escalation, and accountability – as well as a safer environment for police officers and the people who interact with them. We hope that this law will be a model for the rest of the country to follow.

Condo and Homeowners Associations

I have also been working for nearly 10 years with a dedicated group from the Washington State Bar Association to correct deficiencies in the laws governing homeowners associations.  This session, the legislature passed ESSB 6175, the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act, which will create a new and modernized structure for creation, governance, and consumer protection in condominiums, homeowners associations, and cooperatives. The law will apply to all newly formed communities and also to any existing communities that choose to opt in to its provisions.

Progress in 2018

House and Senate Democrats worked closely together to advance an ambitious legislative agenda this session.  Here are few of the more than 300 bills that we passed over the last two months:

Stay in touch

With the Legislature adjourned, I am looking forward to spending time with my family and heading back to my day job. I am also looking forward to seeing and hearing from you about issues you care about. Although we made dramatic progress in many areas, I am painfully aware of our failure to address carbon pollution, abolish the death penalty, fix the individual health insurance market, and create a system to provide long-term care for our seniors, among other critical issues. We have only nine months until the 2019 session, when I hope to be back at work on solving the many problems that our state faces.

Best wishes,
Jamie

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7628

Dear friends and neighbors:

After five years of Republican control of the state Senate, exciting changes are afoot in Olympia. Democrats gained a one-seat majority as a result of this month’s special election in the 45th Legislative District (Redmond/Woodinville). Senate Democrats will now be able to set the agendas for Senate committees and floor action, determining which bills will be heard and brought up for votes. The shift in power presents many opportunities for Legislature to end the gridlock that has been prevalent in recent years and pass legislation to help families and communities here in Seattle and across our state.

Democrats will control the Washington State Senate for the first time in five years.

New responsibilities

When the Legislature convenes in January, I will have the privilege of serving as the chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over civil and criminal law issues such as gun regulation, family law, the death penalty, and police use of deadly force. I will also continue to serve on the Senate Ways & Means Committee, which writes the state’s operating and capital budgets and reviews every bill with a fiscal impact.

I will also join the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. As the father of two students at Stevens Elementary and two at Thurgood Marshall Elementary, I look forward to working on correcting the significant defects in the education funding bill that we passed this summer in response to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. We will continue to work to lower class sizes and improve outcomes for students at every level.  Finally, I will be serving on the Senate Rules Committee, which decides which bills will be considered by the full Senate.

Capital budget

At the end of the extended 2017 session, Senate Republicans refused to bring up the capital (construction) budget for a vote because of an unrelated dispute with the House on rural water wells. This has held up funding for important projects throughout the state, including school construction (over $20 million for Seattle Public Schools) and environmental cleanup projects; community health center projects such as Country Doctor; and arts and heritage projects such as Hugo House and Town Hall Seattle.  Hundreds of family-wage jobs have been lost. While we are still working to resolve this standoff, I am confident that we can pass the agreed-on capital budget no later than January.

Law & Justice Committee issues

The Senate Law & Justice Committee has a busy agenda this session, including work on some issues that have been largely stalled in a divided legislature:

  • Preventing gun violence: We will have a real opportunity to make progress on a range of public safety measures to address gun violence in our state. The committee will consider banning “bump stocks,” which were used in the Las Vegas shooting in September to make a rifle fire faster. We will develop strategies to ensure that guns are safely stored and kept out of the wrong hands. We know that a majority of all adult firearm deaths are the result of suicide. I will work to pass SB 5553, which would allow individuals to put themselves on a “do not purchase” list for firearms, providing another layer of prevention.
  • Second chances: We will be looking at several measures aimed at giving people with criminal records a fair shot at making a decent living as they re-enter society. The evidence shows these policies reduce poverty, boost public safety, and save taxpayer dollars through reduced recidivism.
  • Visitation rights with kids: It may surprise you to know that relatives such as grandparents have no right to seek visitation with a child if parents object. Washington is the only state in the country that has no effective visitation statute since ours was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2000.  I am proud that 39 of my 48 Senate colleagues agreed to co-sponsor SB 5598, which would allow relatives to petition a court for visitation rights if denial of visitation might cause a risk of harm to the child.

Thank you for the privilege of representing you in Olympia. I welcome your comments and questions anytime.

Best wishes,
Jamie

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

April 3, 2017

Greetings from Olympia!

With three weeks to go in the 105-day legislative session, only about 400 bills out of the over 2,800 introduced are still alive. That includes eight bills that I introduced, all of which are in the House Rules Committee or on the House floor calendar.

Most of our focus for the past two weeks has been on the budget proposals for our state’s spending over the next two years. Senate Republicans and House Democrats have now passed very different operating budgets. The Senate has also unanimously passed a bipartisan capital budget proposal.

Operating budget proposals

When the legislative session started on January 9, everyone in Olympia agreed that securing adequate funding for our public schools was the top priority. The majority parties in the two chambers have advanced two vastly different proposals. I support the House proposal and strongly oppose the Senate Republican plan. (Watch my floor speech on the Republican proposal here.) It will likely take weeks or months to reconcile the two plans, but here are a few high-level observations:

SENATE REPUBLICAN BUDGET
• Republicans balance their budget by slashing funding from programs that serve the most vulnerable in our community, including money intended to support those who face homelessness, disabled individuals, and families trying to break the cycle of poverty.
• The Republican education plan would reduce special education funding, lower teaching standards, and shortchange struggling districts by redefining what “poverty” means to reduce the number of kids who qualify for assistance.
• The Republican education funding plan would impose a new $5.6 billion statewide property tax that would penalize many communities, including Seattle, by raising our property taxes and spending most of the money to reduce property taxes in school districts with low property tax values. In a true “lose-lose” scenario for Seattle, nonpartisan analysis shows the average Seattle homeowner would pay hundreds of dollars more in property taxes while our local schools would receive a funding cut. It would dramatically limit the ability of local voters to raise additional funds to supplement basic education.

HOUSE DEMOCRATIC BUDGET:
• House Democrats would make key investments in both K-12 and higher education without making drastic cuts to the social safety net. Their budget would provide funding to modernize school facilities, provide reasonable teacher compensation, and hire more guidance counselors and parent engagement coordinators. The plan also would freeze tuition at our universities and community colleges and make important investments in the mental health care system.
• To pay for new spending, the proposal would create a new capital gains tax, imposing a 7 percent excise tax on the sale of corporate stocks, bonds and similar gains. Fewer than 2 percent of taxpayers would see an increase in taxes under the plan. It also restructures the state’s Business & Occupation Tax, shifting the burden from small business owners to the highest grossing businesses. Finally, it closes several costly tax breaks and makes progressive reforms to the real estate tax rate.

Operating budget proposals

One of the bright spots this year has been the bipartisan agreement on the capital budget, which funds a variety of building and maintenance projects throughout the state. I was very pleased to see a large number of projects that I advocated for funded in the proposal. In particular, the capital request for Seattle Public Schools that I led for our Seattle delegation was approved in its entirety! Here are a few of the projects in our community that would receive funding in the Senate’s proposal:

Thanks for a great town hall

I want to thank everyone who attended the 43rd District Town Hall a few weeks ago. With nearly 500 people in attendance, it was the largest turnout we have ever seen. I feel fortunate to live in and represent such an engaged community.

Thank you for the privilege of representing you here in Olympia. I welcome your comments and questions anytime.

Best wishes,

Jamie

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7628

 

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March 9, 2017

Greetings!

We are now in week 9 of our 15-week legislative session. This week we reached the “house of origin” cutoff – a deadline for all non-budget bills to move from one chamber to the other. I am thrilled to announce that the last bill that the Senate passed before the cutoff was ESB 5023, which extends the “levy cliff” and averts a crisis for public schools. Roughly 1,300 bills, including Senate bills that would criminalize peaceful protests and require parental notification of abortion, are now dead. Our focus will now shift to considering the remaining 750 bills; passing the operating, capital, and transportation budgets for the next two years; and completing a plan for amply funding public schools.

Town Hall this Saturday

I hope you will be able to attend the 43rd District Town Hall this Saturday, March 11, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church. House Speaker Frank Chopp, Rep. Nicole Macri and I will discuss the Legislature’s work and answer your questions on various issues before the state. Click here for more information.

Public schools update

Providing ample funding for Seattle Public Schools and districts around the state is my first and most important goal for this session. House and Senate Democrats have been advocating since early January for quick action to address the “levy cliff”. I know that at schools across Seattle, parents, teachers, and administrators are wrestling with impossible decisions about whether to cut counselors, math specialists, PE instructors, or teachers. That is true at my sons’ schools (Stevens and Thurgood Marshall) and at many others.

The House passed a bill in January that would allow school districts to collect the levies approved by the voters. Senate Republicans sat on the issue for 43 days without any action, insisting that there was no need for immediate action. They proposed tying action on the bill to several unrelated measures. Senate Democrats attempted several procedural moves to bring the bill to the floor, including trying to amend it onto another bill last week. And then last night, we finally reached a deal and Senate Republicans agreed to bring up the bill with some agreed-on language to ensure that future local levies are not used for basic education. The bill must now head back to the House, which has promised quick action. I feel hopeful that in the next few days, we will be past this needless fire drill and able to focus on long-term education funding.

In that regard, House and Senate Democrats have worked closely with the Governor on a comprehensive approach to meeting our obligations to kids in public schools. I support the Governor’s proposal. By contrast, I strongly oppose and twice voted against SB 5607, the Senate Republicans’ education plan. In a nutshell, it raises property taxes dramatically in Seattle and other “property-rich” districts ($250 million for our city) and uses most of the money to lower property tax rates in “property-poor” districts.  Seattle Public Schools would actually be worse off.

I’m not sure what solution can achieve a majority in both the House and Senate, but am working very hard to make sure that whatever we do substantially increases funding for public schools and does not come at the expense of our safety net or support for higher education.

Seattle’s Right to Govern Itself

A disturbing trend this year is that large, monied interests that have lost (or expect to lose) fights at the Seattle City Council or with Seattle voters on a wide variety of issues have come to the Republican-controlled Senate seeking to have Seattle ordinances overridden. These have included:

• Overturning protections for tenants (SB 5569)
• Overturning protections for people seeking jobs after release from prison (SB 5312)
• Overturning protections for Uber and Lyft drivers (ESSB 5620)
• Preventing protections for small businesses (SSB 5286)

The last three bills have passed the Senate, but not without a fight. You can watch my speech on the small business bill here. Now we will work with House Democrats to make sure that none of these bills makes it to the Governor’s desk without being changed to protect the right of Seattleites to govern themselves.

My bills

Eight bills that I introduced have passed the Senate, including:

SSB 5035, which would allow patients facing terminal illnesses to access drugs that have passed FDA safety testing but are not yet approved for prescribing
SSB 5012, which would create an easier process to update old trusts, including those set up for people with disabilities
ESSB 5552, which amends the universal background check initiative to make it easier to prevent suicides

Thank you for the privilege of representing you here in Olympia. I welcome your comments and questions anytime.

Best wishes, Jamie
Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7628

 

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Feb. 3, 2017

Greetings from Olympia!

We are now a month into the 105-day legislative session. We have spent most of our time so far in committee, reviewing over 1,700 bills introduced so far. Our first major cutoff will come two weeks from today, giving us a much better idea of which ideas actually have support to proceed this year.

Amply Funding Public Schools

I continue to focus my energy on our top priority this session – increasing funding for our public schools. Senate Republicans finally released their education plan last Saturday. Although it makes major policy changes to how we run and fund public schools, they held no public hearing in the K-12 Education Committee. Instead, they held a Ways & Means Committee hearing on the 130-page bill Monday, passed the bill out of committee Tuesday, and passed it out of the Senate Wednesday on a 25-24 party-line vote. I spoke against the plan in committee and on the Senate floor. Here is why:

  • Compared to current school funding levels, families will pay significantly more in property taxes and in return, our schools would receive very modest funding increases.
  • The plan would result in larger class sizes, fewer school resources, lower teaching standards and a loss of local control.
  • The Republican plan fails to meet the Supreme Court’s order to provide ample funding for schools – the main objective of our work in Olympia this year.

House and Senate Democrats have released a plan that would lower class sizes, improve teacher compensation, and increase services offered to our students. Our plan will receive a public hearing on Monday in House Appropriations Committee at 3:30 p.m.

Hope for terminally ill patients

I am also working on legislation that would give patients who are facing life-threatening diseases the ability to access investigational medications that have cleared initial safety testing. Similar “right to try” laws have already been enacted in 33 other states.

This bill gives hope to those who have run out of options. One of our neighbors on Capitol Hill brought the issue to my attention. She is a courageous mother of two elementary school kids, battling an aggressive form of breast cancer that has spread to her brain. After being told she had just months to live and facing numerous barriers to trying medicines that are still in development but could save her life, she has put her energy into making sure that she and others have access to those drugs. The bill (SSB 5035) was unanimously approved by the Health Care Committee on Thursday and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Town Hall coming up March 11

I hope you will be able to join us for the 43rd District Town Hall on March 11 at Seattle First Baptist Church. I will join House Speaker Frank Chopp and Rep. Nicole Macri to provide an update on the legislative session and take your questions. The event runs from 1 p.m to 2:30 p.m. Click here for more information.

Please feel free to contact my office anytime about issues before the legislature. I am grateful for your support.

Best wishes, Jamie

 

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Greetings from Olympia!

We are wrapping up the first week of the 2017 legislative session. I continue to serve as ranking member on the Senate Law & Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over civil and criminal law issues such as gun regulation, the death penalty, and police use of deadly force. I also continue to serve on the Ways & Means Committee, which writes the state’s operating and capital budgets and reviews every bill with a fiscal impact.

Earlier this week, I was pleased to hear Gov. Inslee share his strong commitment for ample funding of our public schools during his second inaugural address. The governor also spoke forcefully about our state’s commitment to equal rights and human dignity. I have heard from many constituents who are concerned and frightened following the national election. I will work tirelessly to safeguard Washington’s strong tradition of protecting civil and human rights and to fight discriminatory laws introduced in the Legislature.

Funding Public Education

As the father of three students at Stevens Elementary and one at Thurgood Marshall Elementary, I care deeply about public schools. The Supreme Court has ordered the state to provide ample funding for the schools and reduce its reliance on local property tax levies to fund teacher pay and other aspects of basic education. For the past seven months, a bipartisan group of legislators has been meeting to develop a plan to provide sustainable school funding. Democrats released a plan before the statutory deadline, but we have yet to see a plan from Senate Republicans. I’m hoping the 25 members of their caucus will release a plan soon so we can start negotiating a solution that will reduce class sizes, increase teacher salaries, and give us the ability to build or renovate schools.

The most pressing concern for Seattle Public Schools is a $74 million shortfall facing the district next school year. A large part of that shortfall is created by the so-called “levy cliff,” which is an artificial limitation in state law on local districts’ ability to collect money that has been approved by district voters. Just this week the Seattle school board met to approve a “worst-case scenario” budget that would cut programs, reduce staff and increase class sizes.

I’m working with our local school leaders and my colleagues in the Legislature to remedy this situation by allowing districts to continue to collect the full levies approved by voters through the end of 2018. I am a co-sponsor of the Senate bill (SB 5023) and strongly support the House companion, which we expect will be the first bill passed out of the House this session. This would give school officials in Seattle and across the state the certainty they need to plan for the 2017-18 school year and forgo the painful exercise of sending layoff notices to hundreds of teachers and staff.

Because we continue to see rapid enrollment growth in Seattle Public Schools, I’m also working closely with our capital budget leads and the Superintendent of Public Instruction on increasing state support for school construction. Both the Supreme Court and voters have directed the state to reduce class sizes. To achieve this mandate and to relieve the overcrowding that many of the schools in our district are experiencing, the state needs to revise the formula for school construction funding. I will again sponsor legislation to address overcrowding and fix the flawed formula that disadvantages Seattle Public Schools and others throughout the state.

Thank you for the privilege of representing you here in Olympia. I welcome your comments and questions anytime.

Best wishes, Jamie

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7628

Greetings from Olympia!

 We are wrapping up the fourth week of the 2016 legislative session. Most of our time so far has been spent in committee, reviewing the 2,000 or so bills that legislators have introduced this session (and some left over from 2015). This year I serve as ranking member on the Senate Law & Justice Committee, and also serve on the Ways & Means Committee and the Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee. Today is our first big cutoff, when bills that have not passed out of committee will die for this year. I wanted to update you on some issues that I have been working on. I also wanted to invite you to attend our 43rd District Town Hall on Saturday, Feb. 20 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Erickson Theater at Seattle Central College. House Speaker Frank Chopp and I will discuss the legislature’s work and answer your questions on various issues before the state.

Pedersen Family

Funding Public Education

 My top priority this year, as usual, is increasing funding for our public schools. As the father of four students at Stevens Elementary on north Capitol Hill, this issue is personal to me. The Supreme Court has directed the state to reduce its reliance on local property tax levies to fund teacher pay and other aspects of basic education. At the request of the Gov. Inslee, a small group of legislators worked to develop a bipartisan plan to address this issue. The House has already passed the plan; Senate Republicans, unfortunately, have amended the bill to remove our deadline for compliance and disclaim responsibility for school construction. Although disappointing, that is not surprising — 19 of the 26 members of that caucus signed a letter last summer urging the legislature to commence federal litigation to overturn the McCleary decision. I fear that we will resolve this issue only with a change in control of the Senate or a more drastic intervention by the Supreme Court.

Because of the rapid enrollment growth in Seattle Public Schools and direction from the Supreme Court and the voters to reduce class sizes, we also need to increase state support for school construction. I am proud to have introduced SB 5859, which would revise the formula for state school construction funding. For many years, the formula has underfunded school construction across the state; it especially disadvantages Seattle Public Schools. Last year, I helped lead efforts by the Seattle delegation to secure $25 million in extra funding that will help to reopen two closed elementary schools to address overcrowding. This year, we are working together again to request about $7 million to expand West Woodland Elementary School. Both of these items await action by the Senate Ways & Means Committee, which handles the operating and capital budgets for the state.

Transgender Discrimination

Although Senate Democrats have tried to focus this year on education funding, mental health, and homelessness, others have been intent instead on occupying our limited time with divisive policies attacking our clean energy initiative; rolling back abortion rights for women by prohibiting “sex-selection abortions”; and preventing transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity. I have been fighting all of these bills, and wanted to take a moment to write in particular about civil rights protections in our state for transgender people. Bills seeking to roll back these protections have been before me on the Senate Law & Justice Committee.

As you may know, Washington passed a law in 2006 that provides protection for transgender people against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. I am proud that that landmark law was the product of decades of work by two of my predecessors in this seat, Senators Cal Anderson and Ed Murray. Since that law was passed 10 years ago, transgender people in Washington have been able to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Nothing in Washington’s 2006 law changed the fact that separate facilities exist for men and women. The law allows a person who has undergone or is undergoing gender transition to use the restroom or locker room that matches the gender they live every day. Nothing in the law or in the adopted rules changes the fact that it is illegal to enter a restroom or locker room to harm or sexually harass people, or to invade their privacy.

In November 2015, the Washington Human Rights Commission adopted rules to clarify how Washington schools and businesses should implement the Law Against Discrimination to protect transgender people. Those who have consistently opposed our progress on LGBT issues thought that they had a chance to roll back these protections and have filed multiple bills to attempt to do so.

All of us, including transgender people, care about safety and privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms. I understand that there has been confusion and concern recently about what implementation of these non-discrimination regulations means. However, the experience that we’ve had over the past 10 years in Washington, as well as the experiences in many other places, show that non-discrimination laws and policies can be successfully implemented while upholding the safety of everyone.

I am therefore proud to support the rules implementing our hard-won anti-discrimination law. I have led the fight against bills seeking to overturn the rules in the Senate Law & Justice Committee and will continue strongly opposing efforts by legislators to reverse them or partially repeal our law.

Pedersen _Floor

My Bills

In addition to my work on the school construction funding formula, I have been working on several other issues that I wanted to mention briefly.

SB 6550 would allow terminally ill patients to access drugs that have passed initial testing but have not yet been approved by the FDA. Many potentially lifesaving medications and treatments in the long testing and approval process could potentially save the life of someone who has only months, weeks or days to live. “Right to try” laws have passed in more than 20 states and give hope to people who are fighting for their lives. This bill has passed out of the Senate Health Care Committee and awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee.

SB 5029 concerns “digital assets” – which could be anything from your photos stored in the cloud and e-mail correspondence to online banking and health records. Under an antiquated federal law, these assets can be stranded if you die or become incapacitated. SB 5029 would allow you to decide whether you would like would your fiduciaries (such as a guardian or the personal representative of your estate) to have access to your digital assets. The bill passed out of the Senate Law & Justice Committee and is currently on the Senate floor calendar awaiting a vote.

SB 5635 would enact a Washington version of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. This bill is the product of many years of work by the national Uniform Law Commission (on which I also serve) and several sections of the Washington State Bar Association. It would modernize our power of attorney statute, clarifying for everyone the uses to which a power of attorney may be put and protecting principals against potential abuse. This bill also passed out of the Senate Law & Justice Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate.

Thank you for the privilege of representing you here in Olympia. I welcome your comments and questions anytime.

Best wishes, Jamie

Senator Jamie Pedersen

43rd Legislative District

Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov

(360) 786-7628

 

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Dear neighbors:

Greetings from Olympia! We are just over three weeks into the 60-day 2014 legislative session, so I wanted to provide you with a brief update about my work for you since I was appointed to the state Senate in December.

 Town Hall

Speaker Frank Chopp, Representative Brady Walkinshaw, and I will be holding a legislative town hall on Saturday, February 22, from 1:30-3 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church on First Hill.  This will be a great chance to meet Brady, who is off to a terrific start this session, and to speak with all three of us about the issues you care about that are before the state Legislature this session.  I hope that you will attend!

 Election year restrictions

 As we are entering an election year, there will be some restrictions on how I can get in touch with you to prevent the risk of using any state resources for campaign purposes. If you want to continue to receive e-newsletters from me for the remainder of session, you’ll need to click this link and re-enter your email address to confirm that you wish to continue to receive emails from me. I apologize for the hassle, but it’s important we have stringent ethics rules to protect the integrity of the Legislature and I’d love to be able to keep in touch with you about the work that I’m doing for you.

New session, new duties

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This session has brought a lot of changes for me. Not only did I move from the House to the Senate, but I also left a position as a senior member of the majority party and chair of a major committee (House Judiciary) to be a very junior member of the minority party in a chamber controlled by Republicans. Because the Senate has been the obstacle to much progressive change, I hope that over time I will be able to do more good from here. I am serving this session as our caucus’s leader (called the “ranking member”) on the Health Care Committee, which handles issues such as medical marijuana (more on that below), long-term care for people with developmental disabilities, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I was also appointed to the Law & Justice Committee (which handles a broad range of civil, criminal, and family law issues) and the Trade & Economic Development Committee (which considers issues such as tourism and various tax incentives).

DREAM Act

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We have had one very pleasant surprise so far this session: after several years of resistance, the Senate Republicans allowed the DREAM Act to come to the floor last week, where it passed with a large, bipartisan majority. I am a co-sponsor of that bill and of a similar bill that the House passed on the first day of session. The bill will authorize college financial aid for students illegally brought to the United States as children, making higher education a real possibility for a large group of Washington kids.

Education

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My top priority this session is securing adequate funding for our public schools. In Seattle, we are facing a real crisis due to the dramatic increase in school enrollment in recent years. Seattle Public Schools enrollment has grown by more than 5,000 students in the last five years, to more than 51,000 students – and we do not have the classrooms and desks to provide space for these students to learn. I witnessed this problem firsthand last fall when I dropped off my oldest son for his first day of kindergarten. Ninety kids arrived for the three kindergarten classes. Eventually, the district was able to hire a fourth kindergarten teacher, but there are no more classrooms available. This is a common problem across much of Seattle, which will only worsen with the continued growth that is projected. I have introduced Senate Bill 6451, which would revise the outdated formula by which the state matches local capital levy money and help provide resources to make sure that kids have classrooms to learn in.

Preventing gun violence

Last week, the Senate Law and Justice Committee held hearings on competing initiatives concerning background checks for gun purchases. Initiative 594 would require background checks for all private sales of firearms; Initiative 591 would prohibit state-level background checks that exceed federal requirements. Initiative 594 is largely based on a bill I prime-sponsored last year: SHB 1588, which would have closed the “private sale” loophole and required background checks on all purchasers of firearms. It does not appear likely that the Legislature will take action on either of these initiatives, so you will have a chance to vote on both of them in November. I am hopeful that if Initiative 594 passes, we will have a real opportunity to make progress on a range of measures to address gun violence in our state.

Medical marijuana

The Legislature has been wrestling with how to reconcile the provisions of Initiative 692 (passed by the voters in 1998 to permit the medical use of marijuana) and Initiative 502 (passed by the voters in 2012 to permit the recreational use of marijuana and impose strict regulation and taxation of the supply chain). Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated that it will allow implementation of Initiative 502 to proceed only if more structure is imposed on the medical marijuana market. Having heard substantial testimony from people who rely on marijuana for a variety of serious health issues, we are working to ensure that patients have access to safe, reliable and affordable medical marijuana and avoid federal interference.

Affordable Care Act

Another major issue for this session in the Senate Health Care Committee is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As with any dramatic policy change, we are working through a series of logistical issues. But in the big picture, we can rejoice that literally hundreds of thousands of Washington residents who previously had no access to health care now enjoy that access. Thanks to the Legislature’s work with Medicaid expansion and our well-run exchange, Washington has been one of the nation’s success stories for the Affordable Care Act.

I invite you to watch my latest video report for some additional information about the session. Thank you for the privilege of representing you here in Olympia. I welcome your comments and questions anytime.

Sincerely,
Senator Jamie Pedersen
360-786-7628
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov