Sen. Pedersen Newsroom

Pedersen enters second full term in state Senate

OLYMPIA – Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) started his second full term in the Washington State Senate today.

Pedersen will continue to serve as chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee. He will also serve on the Senate Ways & Means and Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committees.

Pedersen was first appointed to the Senate in 2013 and elected in 2014. He was reelected in November to represent his constituents in the 43rd Legislative District for another four-year term.

January 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|
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    Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: 2018 budget highlights

Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: 2018 budget highlights

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 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Sen. Pedersen’s Legislative Update: 2018 session wraps up

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

March 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|
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    Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: Education funding and abolishing the death penalty

Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: Education funding and abolishing the death penalty

Dear friends and neighbors:
The 60-day session in Olympia is flying by and our Democratic majority in the Senate continues to make exciting progress. This week we faced an important deadline to move bills out of the Senate and over to the House for consideration. I wanted to provide a brief update some of the issues on which I am focusing.

Reminder: Town Hall on Saturday

I hope that you will join House Speaker Frank Chopp, Representative Nicole Macri, and me for our town hall meeting this Saturday, February 17, at 1:30 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church at 1111 Harvard Avenue in Seattle.

Improving K-12 education

On Wednesday the Senate passed legislation (E2SSB 6362) that will at long last bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to provide ample funding for public schools. Seattle legislators have worked closely with Seattle Public Schools to make sure the legislation starts to address systemic problems in last year’s education funding compromise by increasing funding for special education and moving up the timeline for full state funding of educator salaries.

I am also thrilled to report that the Senate passed SB 6531, which is my bill to modernize the state’s school construction assistance program. The proposed changes should bring more money to Seattle to relieve the overcrowding that many of the schools in our district are experiencing. The bill will have a public hearing next week in the House Capital Budget Committee.

I was proud to stand with my colleague Reuven Carlyle as we voted to abolish the death penalty.

Senate votes to abolish the death penalty

With just minutes remaining to pass Senate bills off the floor, we took a historic vote to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. This is an emotional subject, but I believe SB 6502 is the right direction for our state. We have overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is unfairly administered, expensive, and inconsistently applied across our state.

I recorded a brief video with my colleague Sen. Reuven Carlyle shortly after the vote.

Wrongful death

Another major issue before the Senate Law& Justice Committee and the legislature this year involves legislation to correct defects in our wrongful death statutes. The Ride the Ducks crash on the Aurora provided a clear example of these shortcomings. The parents of the students who were killed were not allowed to sue the operator for damages because they were not US residents and because the kids were over age 18.  2SSB 6015 will correct this injustice and make sure that those who cause damages to others do not escape responsibility just because of the identity of the victims.

Reducing Gun Violence

As the father of four kids in public school, I find the news of the shooting in Florida devastating. It serves as a grim reminder that we must continue to demand action on reducing gun violence. We have taken several important steps in the Senate this year, including:

  • Senate Bill 5992, which would ban bump stocks, the trigger modification device that allowed the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre to transform semi-automatic rifles into machine guns.
  • Senate Bill 5553, which would prevent suicides by allowing people who realize they are experiencing periods of extreme depression or stress to voluntarily waive their firearm rights.
  • Senate Bill 6298, which would keep guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence harassment.
    We know that we must do more and will keep working to make our people and communities safer.

Stay in touch

With only three weeks remaining in this session, we will now be racing through consideration of supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budgets and several hundred House bills. Our new majority is firmly committed to working with the House to complete our work and adjourn on time no later than March 8.

I hope to see you on Saturday for the town hall! Please contact me with any questions about issues before the Legislature this year.

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

February 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|
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    Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: Reducing gun violence and improving education

Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: Reducing gun violence and improving education

Dear friends and neighbors:

We have reached the midpoint of the 60-day legislative session. Our Democratic majority in the Senate continues to work closely with the House to advance bills and budget priorities that will improve the lives of people in our state. Over the next eight days, each chamber will consider several hundred bills before the February 14 deadline to pass bills to the other chamber.

Reducing class sizes

For the past several years, I have been working with our capital budget writers and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to increase state funding of 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 in Seattle Public Schools and many other districts around the state, the state needs to revise the formula for school construction funding.

Earlier this week, the Senate Ways & Means Committee passed SSB 6531, my bill to fix flaws in the school construction assistance program. I am working hard to get the bill passed this year.

Abolishing the death penalty

For the first time in state history, a legislative committee (the Senate Law & Justice Committee) has passed a bill to abolish the death penalty in Washington, SB 6052. Legislators have debated the death penalty for decades in Olympia and people of good faith have come to different conclusions. I think that King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg put it best, though, in saying that the death penalty is broken, cannot be fixed, and should be abolished.  It is unfairly administered; expensive, and unavailable in wide swaths of our state.  Those convicted of aggravated first-degree murder should die in prison with no hope of parole. The taxpayers do not need to spend millions of dollars to hasten that death.

Reducing gun violence

The Senate has taken action on several bills to reduce gun violence in our state. I was proud to see a unanimous vote in support of SB 5553, which allows people struggling with mental illness or crisis to place themselves on a firearms do-not-purchase list. We know 80 percent of gun deaths in Washington stem from suicide. This is a positive step toward prevention and public safety. The Senate also passed SB 5992, which bans bump stocks, devices that transform rifles into machine guns. The Las Vegas shooter’s use of a bump stock led to a dramatic increase in the number of victims.

Several other measures related to gun violence have passed out of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, including measures to restrict possession of firearms by people who have been convicted of domestic violence harassment or found incompetent to stand trial for a violent offense. I look forward to Senate action on those bills in the next week.

Protecting and improving women’s health

One of our top priorities this year is improving health care services for women and protecting access to affordable health care. Last week, the Senate passed three bills with bipartisan support to help achieve these goals.

  • The Reproductive Parity Act: Senate Bill 5554 ensures women have access to contraceptive drugs, products and services needed for reproductive health.
  • 3D mammography coverage: Senate Bill 5912 mandates insurance that carriers cover three-dimensional mammography so women have access to potentially life-saving information about their health.
  • Breast density notification: Senate Bill 5084 requires radiologists to include information about a woman’s breast density in a post-mammogram letter. This brings our state law in line with 27 other states that share this important information.

Reducing carbon pollution

Late last week, we saw another exciting milestone in our state’s progress toward cleaner air and a healthier environment. The Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee passed SB 6203, which will put a price on carbon pollution in our state. There are many hurdles yet to clear for this legislation, but it’s exciting progress for those of us concerned about the quality of the air we breathe and the future of our fragile ecosystems here in the Northwest.

Town hall coming up Feb. 17

I hope that you will join Speaker Frank Chopp, Rep. Nicole Macri, and me for our town hall meeting on Saturday, February 17, at 1:30 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church. In the meantime, I encourage you to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you have about matters before the legislature this session.

Best wishes,
Jamie

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

February 8th, 2018|Uncategorized|
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    Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: Early progress in Olympia

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

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

January 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update

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

To subscribe to Sen. Pedersen’s E-Newsletter, click here.

November 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update

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.

Capital budget

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

April 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|

Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update

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

March 9th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Town Hall coming up March 11

OLYMPIA – Legislators from the 43rd District will be hosting a Town Hall on March 11 at Seattle First Baptist Church. Sen. Jamie Pedersen will join House Speaker Frank Chopp and Rep. Nicole Macri to provide an update on the legislative session and take questions. The event runs from 1 p.m to 2:30 p.m.

March 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|