Monthly Archives: May 2019

2019 Session Recap Series: Issue 1

May 28th, 2019|

Issue 1: Protecting Our Environment from Climate Change

Olympia, May 28, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

Welcome to my summer e-newsletter series. Now that the 2019 legislative session has come to a close, I’ll give you an overview of some key policies we worked to get passed into law this year, spread over several segments in this series.

You can also find information about successful bills I sponsored this year in my April 19th Update from Olympia. I’m happy to report that all of the bills discussed there made the final passage deadline and will become law.

It has been an honor to serve you by representing the 37th Legislative District in the Senate. I’ll be reporting back to the district this Saturday, and you’re invited!

Green Transportation

House Bill 2042 facilitates the transition to vehicles with cleaner fuels with. It increases access to electric vehicle (EV) incentives, creates an EV car share program, and improves incentives for commercial fleet conversion, making it a more viable option. Importantly, this legislation makes incentives accessible even to lower-income drivers and riders.

We can’t make the transition to green transportation without addressing other modes of transportation, such as buses, trucks, ferries and ships. That’s why House Bill 1512 provides for assistance in the electrification of these vehicles and vessels, aiding the collaboration of ports with utilities to create the infrastructure necessary for the transition.

Moving forward, green transportation legislation should focus on relieving the harm caused by our existing system, such as salmon-blocking culverts under our roads and stormwater runoff pollution.

Reducing Emissions

Legislation we passed this year makes our state one of the first to commit broadly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity while adopting a precise action plan to do so. It will take innovation and cooperation from all sectors throughout Washington to make this transition possible.

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  • Sen. Rebecca Saldaña receives the Joaquin G. Avila award.
    Permalink Sen. Rebecca Saldaña receives the Joaquin G. Avila award.Gallery

    Saldaña receives Municipal League award for voting rights legislation

Saldaña receives Municipal League award for voting rights legislation

May 21st, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Today Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that will implement the 2018 Washington Voting Rights Act by requiring timely elections for governing body positions after districting plans are modified.

This comes shortly after the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), was awarded the King County Municipal League’s Joaquin G. Avila award, which honors those who have made significant contributions toward full and fair civic engagement.

Last year, Saldaña sponsored the 2018 Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA), which established rules to ensure the fairness of elections and removed barriers to fair representation by empowering local communities and their elected leaders to voluntarily change their election systems to ones that allow every community to be fairly represented in local government.

Today the governor signed into law Senate Bill 5266, also sponsored by Saldaña. This law will expedite implementation of the WVRA by requiring jurisdictions to hold timely elections for all positions under the new election system, rather than allowing those elected under the old system to serve out their entire terms.

“Voting rights should not wait for the convenience of those holding power,” said Saldaña. “These timely elections are needed to ensure local governments will represent every community. The new election systems under the WVRA will improve representation of our historically underrepresented communities. Fair representation is too important to wait for election schedules convenient to those in power.”

Saldaña received the Joaquin G. Avila award at the Municipal League’s 60th Annual Civic Awards, which recognize “elected officials, public employees, other citizen groups, the news media, and individual citizens who make outstanding contributions to the community and to better government.”

Over the course of his career as a civil rights attorney, Joaquin G. Avila, former president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, fought to protect voting rights from discrimination, participating in the litigation of over 70 voting rights cases.

Governor approves committee to ensure pesticide safety

May 10th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Yesterday Gov. Jay Inslee approved the creation of a committee to address safety in the application of pesticides in Washington.

Senate Bill 5550, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), will establish a Pesticide Application Safety Committee to examine how state agencies collect and track data related to the application of pesticides, and evaluate how the development of a shared database would improve the display of this data. The committee will also explore policy recommendations for related issues such as improving the safety of pesticide application and the communication of information to the agricultural community.

The committee established by this legislation will contain representatives from the Legislature, state agencies that oversee pesticide application, and agricultural experts from Washington State University and the University of Washington.

“This legislation is the result of a lot of hard work done during the interim by a bipartisan work group of stakeholders and legislators from both chambers,” said Saldaña. “This committee will help us to use new technology and farming methods to promote best practices and training to achieve as close to zero pesticide drift as possible, protecting workers and surrounding communities from exposure.”

The committee’s initial report to the Legislature will be submitted in January 2020, and it will subsequently submit yearly reports.

  • Governor Inslee Signs SB 5846
    Permalink Governor Inslee Signs SB 5846Gallery

    Governor signs Saldaña bill to clear barriers for international medical graduates

Governor signs Saldaña bill to clear barriers for international medical graduates

May 10th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Yesterday Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation establishing a work group that will develop recommendations for a program to aid international medical graduates in overcoming barriers to professional careers in Washington state.

The work group established by Senate Bill 5846 will recommend strategies to reduce barriers for graduates of medical programs at institutions outside the U.S. and Canada but then struggle to gain access to residency programs necessary for licensing in Washington.

“As we address health disparities, physician shortages, and a lack of access to culturally competent medical care, we need to eliminate the barriers for these providers,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle). “This workforce is an untapped resource that could provide more accessible, quality care to our vulnerable communities.”

The work group will bring together representatives from state medical schools as well as hospitals, international medical graduate organizations, migrant health centers, the state Department of Health, and others.

“This impacts the real lives of some of our community members who have dreamed of an equal opportunity to practice medicine in the professions they spent decades pursuing,” said Ahmed Ali, executive director of the Somali Health Board. “This bill gives them a window of hope to further their practice in medicine, and the implementation of a program for international medical graduates would significantly help in addressing health disparities in low income, underserved communities throughout the state.” 

The work group must report its recommendations to the governor and the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019.    

  • Governor Inslee Signs SB 5718
    Permalink Governor Inslee Signs SB 5718Gallery

    Governor approves measures to accelerate family reunification

Governor approves measures to accelerate family reunification

May 9th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – A law approved by Gov. Jay Inslee today establishes a child welfare housing assistance program to shorten the time that children remain in out-of-home care.

Senate Bill 5718, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), creates a Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) pilot program to provide housing assistance to parents whose lack of appropriate housing is the primary barrier to reunification with a child who has been removed from their care.  

“We heard of situations where children were staying in foster care for months because their parents lacked appropriate housing,” said Laurie Lippold, Public Policy Director at Partners for Our Children.  “This adds to the trauma children have already experienced and places an unnecessary financial burden on the state.  We need to do everything we can to safely reunify children with their parents and minimize the negative impact being separated can have.”

“We know that, whenever possible, keeping families together is best for kids,” said Saldaña. “But when they have to be separated, safely reuniting kids with their families becomes the top priority. Doing this sooner cuts down on the adverse impacts of separation on children’s health.”

It is not uncommon, however, for parents to lose their housing assistance when their children are removed. That can lead to unstable housing situations and in some cases, homelessness. In far too many cases, parents who have addressed the issues necessary to have their children returned home are then unable to find appropriate, affordable housing. The result is lengthier stays for children in out-of-home care.

DCYF will consult with a stakeholder group made up of parent allies, parent attorneys and social workers, housing organizations, behavioral health providers and others to determine the pilot program’s details, such as eligibility requirements and equitable distribution.

  • Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill 5035
    Permalink Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill 5035Gallery

    Governor signs law to crack down on prevailing wage violations

Governor signs law to crack down on prevailing wage violations

May 7th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law today a bill applying stricter penalties to public works contractors who violate prevailing wage laws.

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) sponsored Senate Bill 5035 at the request of the state attorney general to combat wage theft and delay by contractors on public works contracts, all of whom are required by state law to pay workers prevailing wages. To ensure that workers receive fair wages, the Department of Labor and Industries establishes prevailing wages for each county based on the hourly wage, usual benefits, and overtime paid in that county’s largest city to the majority of workers.

This legislation increases penalties for failing to pay prevailing wages, plus interest. Notably, this is the first increase for these penalties since 1985, according to the attorney general’s office.

The new law also extends the time period for filing prevailing wage complaints, and closes a loophole that previously allowed employers to avoid penalties by returning wages prior to any action by the state.

“Wage theft and delay of pay cause real harm to workers and their families, who are often struggling to make ends meet,” said Saldaña. “This bill will protect workers, ensure a level playing field for businesses that play by the rules and pay quality wages to workers on time, and hold accountable the bad actors who fail to do so.”

Saldaña partnered with House companion bill sponsor Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett), Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and industry stakeholders to move this legislation forward.

“This bill is about holding those responsible for wage theft accountable,” said Sells. “We give too many violators an escape route. This beefs up the enforcement, so people can expect to get the pay for which they worked.”

“This bill ensures that employers who cheat their workers out of hard-earned pay will face consequences, the same as you or I would face if we stole something,” said Ferguson.