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Rolfes earns Washington PTA’s highest honor

May 21st, 2018|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, received the Washington State Parent Teacher Association’s highest honor at the organization’s annual conference in Vancouver over the weekend.

Rolfes was the recipient of the 2018 Friend of Children Award, which recognizes an individual or organization for state-level dedication “to all children” in Washington State by supporting the whole child through advocacy, education, family and community engagement, health and well-being, and safety.

“This award is extremely meaningful for me as a Mom and a legislator, especially coming from an organization that supports crucial volunteer work at home and advocacy at the state level,” Rolfes said.

Rolfes has become a leading voice on education funding and reform over the past decade, working toward bipartisan solutions to improve outcomes for all public school students around the state. Rolfes is the vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and chairs the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Back home and connecting with community

May 18th, 2018|

Dear Neighbor,

It’s been a few months since the 2018 legislative session wrapped up and I’m thankful to be back home. I’m always impressed by the ability of people in Kitsap to take time out of their busy lives to engage in important civic affairs. I’ve been busy too – the recent Earth Day celebration in Bainbridge, a fun meeting with the Poulsbo Rotary, the Village Green breakfast in Kingston last week and a great visit with SWERV (pictured below) just a few days ago – I’ve enjoyed spending time with so many dedicated people who care about making our home a better place.

I had a chance to share a legislative update with SWERV, an informal network of women engaged in their communities.

Below you can find information about how to get involved helping our state on a variety of boards and commissions and a cool project involving peregrine falcons! Thanks for taking time to read this update and I hope to see you out in the community soon!

Warm Regards,

State offers new online Retirement Marketplace

Thanks to legislation recently passed in Olympia, Washington has launched a new tool for people to plan for retirement. The Retirement Marketplace offers small business owners and individuals a simple way to shop for state-verified, low-fee retirement savings plans. It’s estimated that about 2 million workers in our state don’t have access to a plan through their employers, while research shows people with access are 15 times more likely to save. I’m hoping this helps bridge the gap!

Exciting new changes to GET

I wanted to share some updates the Legislature made this year to Washington state’s prepaid college tuition program, GET (Guaranteed Education Tuition). Senate Bill 6087 lets participants who bought into the GET program before July 1, 2015, directly share in unanticipated investment gains that the program experienced in recent years. Beginning no earlier than June 15, GET account holders will have three months to redeem units for what they are actually worth and to roll that amount into Washington’s new DreamAhead College Investment Plan, which works like a 401(k) retirement-savings plan. Once the 90-day period closes, the GET Committee will look at the difference between actual and purchase value of remaining units and award remaining participants additional units accordingly. For more information see get.wa.gov. Also, a quick reminder that GET will close its 2018 enrollment on May 31.

News: Broadband, budget, women’s health, E-bikes

 

Here’s a roundup of some local coverage of legislative-related issues over the past several weeks:

New boxes for peregrine falcons

The habitat surrounding the Agate Pass Bridge is prime peregrine falcon nesting ground and new boxes installed by the state Department of Transportation during recent bridge maintenance should help the protected species. The boxes will also simplify cleanup when nesting season ends. Transportation officials report one other added bonus is that the presence of the falcons results in fewer pigeons on the bridge, who tend to leave behind their own unique mess.

A special honor from Washington PTA

One of the most important reasons I ran for office more than a decade ago was my commitment to quality public education and I have dedicated a lot of effort in the Legislature toward this goal, for my kids and all kids. That’s why I was extremely grateful to earn the 2018 Friend of Children Award from the Washington State Parent Teacher Association. The award recognizes an individual or organization for state-level dedication “to all children” in Washington state by supporting the whole child through advocacy, education, family and community engagement, health and well-being, and safety.

This means so much coming from the thousands of dedicated parents across the state. For more than a century, parents have helped guide our public school system, and the work must continue both in your own schools and at the Capitol in Olympia.

Repairs at Bainbridge ferry terminal

State ferry officials have discovered a broken pile at the Bainbridge terminal that will need to be fixed in the coming weeks. They will be reinforcing the overhead loading walkway to compensate for the bad pile. Next year, the state is planning a comprehensive restructuring of the walkway – learn more by clicking here.

Volunteer on a state board or commission

The governor is looking for people with unique talents, skills and experience to serve the state by participating on boards and commissions. These groups take on a wide range of challenges dealing with natural resources, health care, transportation, criminal justice, technology — the list goes on. Anyone interested in being appointed will need to fill out this application. Please explore the Boards and Commissions Profiles if you are interested in learning more about the many opportunities to serve!

Community projects, property tax relief, and ferry upgrades

March 16th, 2018|

Dear Neighbor,

Last week, I shared some highlights of the 2018 supplemental operating budget that invests in education, mental health and jobs as well as the final piece of funding to satisfy the McCleary ruling, the states constitutional obligation to amply fund K-12 education.

In this newsletter, I will touch on the 2019 tax cut and the important community investments we made this year with the capital construction and transportation budgets.

Property tax reduction in 2019

I know many people are feeling the burden of increasing property taxes through a combination of rising home values and the new state property tax enacted in 2017 to help fund public education. This year Democrats passed legislation to provide $391 million in tax relief in 2019 through a one-time state property tax rate reduction of $0.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This equates to roughly the amount of unanticipated increased taxes collected by the state due to the strong economy in the Puget Sound region.

Its modest relief, but combined with future lower school levies, I hope it will ease the burdens that families felt this year. While there was a lot of rhetoric around adding this money to the rainy day fund rather than cutting taxes, it seemed fair to not collect it from taxpayers in the first place. Meanwhile, the states reserves are projected to stand at over $2.4 billion at the end of this fiscal year, the highest in state history.

Capital budget

In January, Democrats forged a compromise on the long-delayed capital construction budget [ http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetC ], which included $1 billion for public schools to help reduce K-3 class-size, among other goals. It also made key investments in public health, environmental cleanup, and funding for community parks and libraries.

Our supplemental capital budget, passed last week will add several additional projects to the list of community investments:

  •  $500,000 to help fund a new community/school theater in partnership between Central Kitsap School District and Central Stage Theater.
  • $460,000 to complete the pedestrian link at Poulsbo’s Fish Park.
  • $300,000 for Kitsap Humane Society animal shelter expansion in Silverdale.
  • $180,000 for Hawley Cove trail and beach access improvements to expand access for all park users, including the mobility impaired.
  •  $31,000 for the redevelopment of dock facilities at Port of Indianola.
  • $280,000 to study ways to keep Bremertons economic vitality strong as Harrison Medical Center transitions many services to the new Silverdale campus.

Transportation budget

This yearssupplemental transportation budget makes modest but critical investments in Washingtons ferry system, State Patrol and congestion relief.

Ferry investments include $600,000 to begin the process of converting three Jumbo Mark II class ferry vessels the Puyallup, Tacoma and Wenatchee from diesel to hybrid electric. The budget also invests $2 million in the M/V Hyak to maintain service and fleet capacity while the M/V Tokitae and M/V Samish are out of service for warrantied repairs.

An investment of $4.4 million is made in state trooper basic training, to help the State Patrol reach its authorized trooper staffing level of 672 by the end of next year.

Locally, the budget will provide $500,000 to create a plan to modernize State Route 303, the heavily-traveled 9-mile state highway connecting Bremerton to Silverdale. The highway is the primary transportation route for Bremerton shipyard workers. The plan will help the community and transportation officials identify projects that will reduce congestion and improve safety over the next two decades.

Thanks, Lillian!

Senator Rolfes with Page Lillian Leche.

I want to thank Lillian Leche, a sophomore at North Kitsap High School, for helping out around our office during the final stretch of the 2018 session.

Its always a privilege to host students who participate in the Legislatures page program. It offers a hands-on opportunity for students to find out how state government works.

Washington adopts new electric bicycle standards

March 13th, 2018|

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today signed new standards governing the use of electric-assisted bicycles into law.

The new rules create three classes of electric-assisted bicycles, adjusts the age requirements for the highest speed e-bikes, and require manufacturers to provide labels listing the classification number, top assisted speed, and motor wattage.

Photo courtesy of wabikes.org.

“We have seen a rise in e-bike ridership and these new standards create more clarity, allowing consumers to make informed choices as the industry grows,” said Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, prime sponsor of ESSB 6434. “E-bikes offer an alternative mode of transportation that’s fun and environmentally friendly. These new rules will improve safety and certainty when riders are on the road.”

The new rules modify the definition of electric-assisted bicycles and provide a classification system:

• Class 1: Motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph.
• Class 2: Motor may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle but is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.
• Class 3: Motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling but ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 mph and is equipped with a speedometer.

Under the new rules, the minimum age required to operate a Class 3 e-bike will be 16 years old. There is no age limit for the slower e-bikes. The legislation also generally clarifies where different classes of e-bikes are allowed to be ridden on state property, in addition to existing e-bike rules adopted by local jurisdictions.

“For older adults and people with disabilities, e-bikes make it possible to ride again. I hope by bringing our e-bike standards up to a national level, we will see ridership increase across the state,” Rolfes said.

Progress as 2018 legislative session ends!

March 9th, 2018|

Dear friends and neighbors,

The 2018 legislative session wrapped up last night and I am happy to report we finished our work on schedule for the first time in four years. As the chair of the Ways & Means Committee for our new Democratic majority this year, I’m proud we were able to accomplish so many of the goals we mapped out just 60 days ago. In this newsletter, Ill share some of the highlights. Thanks for taking the time to read this update and, as always, please stay in touch.

State budget

The biggest element of our 2018 supplemental budget finally fulfills our states constitutional obligation to amply fund K-12 basic education. The Legislature has wrestled with this issue for close to a decade, so this is an important milestone. This budget makes sure the state is providing competitive salaries for our teachers who dedicate their lives to our children and communities. We heard from school districts who expressed the need for special education funding and our budget invests an additional $100 million. We also worked to improve the regionalization pay formula so districts are on a more level playing field when they try to recruit and retain top teachers.

Our budget also addresses serious challenges people face in their daily lives, including mental health issues or addiction. Everyone deserves compassionate care, and this budget provides nearly $300 million over the next four years to fulfill the states legal and moral obligations.

The budget touches peoples lives in many other ways:

The budget will fully fund the State Need Grant over the next four years, taking a big step to fulfilling a promise we made to expand opportunity and paths to higher education. We also make key investments in our community and technical colleges.

  • It funds grants for families in need, preventing parents and children from falling into homelessness.
  • It makes key investments in our foster youth, who just want a safe and loving place to call home. We also invest in our foster parents, who care for them.
  • It eliminates the rape kit testing backlog, bringing perpetrators to justice and supporting their victims.

While the economy is strong, we havent forgotten what our budgets looked like during the Great Recession. We want to make sure the state is on solid footing financially, with plenty of reserves, when we return. Our budget does that by leaving nearly $2.4 billion in reserves. I will have another update next week highlighting the great transportation and community infrastructure investments we made this year.

My bills this year

While a good portion of my time this year was spent crafting our state budget, I did work on several other measures that were passed by the Legislature. They include:

 SB 6034 , which will allow Kitsap Public Utility Distric tto retail broadband service.
SB 5084 , which will require radiologists to inform patients if they have high breast density, which can make it harder to detect early signs of cancer.
SB 6580 , which will normalize HIV testing so it has the same notification and consent requirements that apply to any other medical test.
SB 6549 , which will expand access to the baby and child dentistry program to serve children with disabilities.
SB 6434 , which updates our states electric bicycle laws with national standards. The bill will provide more clarity for e-bike users and local jurisdictions, while giving people more options if they decide to become an e-bike rider.

From voting rights to gun safety, our new Democratic majority also prioritized a number of other great bills I was proud to vote for this year. Click here to learn more.

It takes a team

Sen. Rolfes and Haylee.

I have a great team helping me every day in Olympia and I couldn’t do it without them.

Our intern Haylee Anderson is a senior at Western Washington University studying political science and psychology. Born and raised in Bremerton, Haylee brought another local perspective to our office and we will miss her when she heads back to Bellingham to finish her degree.

Misha Cherniske (pictured here with Attorney General Bob Ferguson)has worked in our office for the past three sessions. Misha was our intern in 2016 while finishing his senior year at The Evergreen State College. He was hired as the session aide for the following year, and joined us this year as Associate Legislative Assistant. He lives in Olympia.

I also want to thank my friend and executive assistant Linda Owens, who has been with me in the Legislature for six years now.

Finally, I extend a special thanks to local artist Diane Walker, who loaned her artwork to grace our office in Olympia this legislative session.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Senate passes budget to fully fund education, invest in mental health

Senate passes budget to fully fund education, invest in mental health

February 23rd, 2018|

OLYMPIA – The 2018 supplemental operating budget (SSB 6032) passed today by the Senate directs additional funding to make critical investments in education and mental health.

“Supplemental budgets were intended to make modest updates to our two-year state budget, but this is not an ordinary supplemental budget,” said Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and chief budget writer. “With this budget, we take care of two of the biggest challenges our state faces—ample funding for education and adequate support for mental and behavioral health.”

The 2018 budget would invest nearly $1 billion into education and bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to amply fund our public schools. The new state money would mostly go to fully fund teacher and staff salaries, as directed by the state Supreme Court, in addition to other targeted investments.

“I see this a major milestone in our ongoing effort to provide a seamless system of education from cradle to career,” said Rolfes. “It’s time to finish McCleary and focus on other enhancements in our classrooms, and other needs in our state.”

The budget also invests nearly $294 million more over the next four years to improve mental health treatment in state hospitals, including funds to address the Supreme Court’s Trueblood ruling, and to address the opioid crisis.

Other investments include 2,500 additional State Need Grant slots, funding to support foster youth, restoration of TANF grants to pre-recession levels, increases in pediatric care, and money to improve school safety.

The budget is concurrent with Senate Bill 6614, which would cut property taxes by 13 percent, tapping the state’s extraordinary revenue growth to shield households from the Republican Property Tax of 2017, the largest property tax increase in state history. The Senate is expected to vote on SB 6614 in the coming days.

“These investments will touch every corner of our state and improve the lives of all Washingtonians,” said Rolfes. “From extra money in their pockets to better classrooms for their kids, this is a budget that puts the people of Washington state first.”

The budget passed on a 25-23 vote and now heads to the House for consideration.

About the Supplemental Budget
Supplemental budgets are passed in even years and allow the state to make mid-course corrections on the two-year budget passed in odd years. It gives the state the opportunity to make critical new investments that keep families safe, provide high-quality teachers, and address other emergent needs like mental health care.

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    Senate Democrats call for property tax cuts, education funding in budget

Senate Democrats call for property tax cuts, education funding in budget

February 19th, 2018|

OLYMPIA – Senate Democrats unveiled their 2018 supplemental operating budget plan on Monday—a budget that will cut property taxes by $403 million while still meeting the critical needs of our state with significant investments in education and mental health.

“This budget represents a responsible and thoughtful approach in spending our state’s resources,” said Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and chief budget writer. “We have seen substantial gains in our economy, but we also recognize the growing needs of Washington’s 7.5 million residents. I’m proud this budget makes targeted investments without any new taxes. It’s a document based on a vision of healthy families, safer communities and an economy that works for everyone across the state.”

The 2018 Supplemental Budget Proposal will make key investments in following areas:

  • Tax relief ($403 million): The extraordinary growth of our economy gives the state an opportunity to reduce the property tax burden on communities across the state. This budget cuts state property taxes by 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2019, from $2.70 to $2.39.
  • Education: This budget will at long last bring the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to amply fund our public schools. An additional $1 billion would fully fund teacher and staff salaries as directed by the state Supreme Court, in addition to other targeted investments.
  • Mental health: The 2018 budget fulfills our moral and legal responsibility to provide adequate support for those in our society who need mental health treatment. The budget invests nearly $300 million more over the next four years for state hospitals and the opioid crisis.

Other investments: The 2018 budget makes a number of other key investments:

  • 2,500 additional State Need Grant slots
    Funding to support foster youth
    TANF grant is restored to pre-recession levels
    Funding increases for pediatric care
    Funding for improved school safety

“These investments will touch every corner of our state and improve the lives of all Washingtonians,” said Rolfes. “From extra money in their pockets to better classrooms for their kids, this is a budget that puts the people of Washington state first.”

About the Supplemental Budget
Supplemental budgets are passed in even years and allow us to make mid-course corrections on the two-year budget passed in odd years. It gives the state the opportunity to make critical new investments that keep families safe, provide high-quality teachers, and address other emergent needs like mental health care.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Rolfes: Extraordinary revenue growth opens door to property tax relief

Rolfes: Extraordinary revenue growth opens door to property tax relief

February 15th, 2018|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, released the following statement on the February revenue forecast:

“The extraordinary revenue growth will allow us to meet our legal and moral obligation to our public schools and to mental health care. It also will allow us to reduce the property tax burden imposed by Senate Republicans last year.

“With this information in hand, I am confident that the House and Senate can deliver a balanced budget — one that does not rely on new taxes — on time and set the state on solid ground entering the 2019-20 biennium.

“This news is a testament to the talented workers in our state who continue to innovate and grow Washington’s economy at a historic pace.”

Legislative update: Progress in Olympia

February 10th, 2018|

Dear friends and neighbors:

We have reached the midpoint of the 60-day legislative session. Our new Democratic majority in the Senate continues to make progress and work closely with the House to prioritize legislation that will make a difference to people around the state. The pace will remain busy over the next eight days as each chamber will consider several hundred bills before the February 14 deadline to pass bills to the other chamber.

Protecting and improving health care

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 two of my bills (SB 5084, SB 6580) with bipartisan support to help achieve these goals. This past fall, King 5 interviewed me for a story on breast density notification – you can watch it here.

  • 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 that helps with early detection of cancer.
  • HIV testing: Senate Bill 6580 would normalize HIV testing so it has the same notification and consent requirements that apply to any other medical test.
  • 3D mammography coverage: Senate Bill 5912 mandates that carriers cover three-dimensional mammography so women have access to potentially life-saving information through early detection of cancer.
  • Prescription drug transparency: Senate Bill 5995 would protect consumers from excessive increases in generic prescription drug prices.

Budget work continues

As the Senate’s lead budget writer, I’ve been busy chairing marathon hearings in the Senate Ways & Means Committee this week. We’ve heard dozens of important bills over the last few days as we faced a deadline to advance bills out of committee. I’m also working with staff to finish crafting the 2018 supplemental budget, which will make key investments in education and mental health. I’ll share more details on this in our next newsletter.

Reducing carbon pollution

Late last week, we saw another encouraging 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. This is an incremental but exciting step for those of us concerned about the quality of the air we breathe and natural resources we enjoy.

Message received

Last week I had a special delivery from some impressive Seattle University students. They dropped off a grand total of 545 postcards from students, staff and faculty of Seattle University who are rightly concerned about homelessness and affordable housing in our region. I thank Madison, Katie and Tess for the energy and passion they are dedicating to this issue. I share their concern and will continue to search for ways the Legislature can best use our state resources for housing solutions in the Puget Sound.

Traffic alert: Agate Pass Bridge cleaning

Crews from the Washington State Department of Transportation will perform an annual cleaning of the State Route 305 Agate Pass Bridge next week. WSDOT will reduce traffic on the bridge to a single lane during these hours:
• Monday through Thursday, Feb. 12-15, from 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Every day from Tuesday, Feb. 20, through Friday, March 2
• 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays
• 7:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, and Sunday, Feb. 25
• No work will occur over the President’s Day weekend, Feb. 16-19

Town hall meeting coming up February 17

I hope that you will join Rep. Sherry Appleton, Rep. Drew Hansen and me for one of our town hall meetings on Saturday, Feb. 17. 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.

Warm regards,

Christine Rolfes

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    Senate passes Rolfes bill to mandate dense breast notification

Senate passes Rolfes bill to mandate dense breast notification

January 31st, 2018|

OLYMPIA – The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation that would require radiologists to include information about a woman’s breast density in a post-mammogram letter.

Sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, Senate Bill 5084 would align Washington law with 27 other states that require physicians to share breast density information with patients.

“This legislation simply allows a woman access to the same breast health information as her doctor,” Rolfes said. “Knowledge is power, and this legislation will give patients the tools to make smart decisions and ask better questions about their own health.”

Dense breast tissue can reduce the effectiveness of mammography, leading to a greater chance breast cancer could go undetected. Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women in Washington and the second leading cause of death from cancer statewide.

“We want women to be informed about their breast density,” Rolfes said. “It’s wrong to withhold information that’s included on every mammography report.”