Sen. Rebecca Saldaña Newsroom

  • Permalink Gallery

    Sen. Saldaña to play key role in housing affordability, transportation

Sen. Saldaña to play key role in housing affordability, transportation

RENTON – Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) said that she is looking forward to addressing housing affordability and transportation issues as one the Senate Democrats’ new deputy leaders.

Saldaña, who Senate Democrats chose to be part of the most diverse leadership team in the history of the Washington State Legislature, will join the newly created Senate Housing Stability & Affordability Committee when lawmakers return to Olympia in January for the 2019 legislative session.

She also will continue to serve as vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and as a member of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee.

“Addressing housing and transportation is core to quality of life and access to economic prosperity, not only to my district but across Washington State,” Saldaña said. “We can’t do well unless we all do well, and we can’t solve housing affordability without work at the regional and state levels to make sure that Washington works for everyone. I’m excited to serve on these committees and in a leadership role. It’s an honor to get to work to deliver solutions for Washington residents.”

December 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Sen. Saldaña Seeking 2019 Session Aides

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña is currently accepting applications for session aides for the 2019 legislative session, which begins in January.

Session aides provide a variety of support services to help senators and their legislative assistants successfully fulfill the obligations of the senators’ elected position.

We are looking for highly motivated individuals interested in public service who enjoy working in a fast-paced environment.

If you would like to serve as Sen. Saldaña’s session aide and you are committed to upholding the values of justice, dignity and inclusion for all, take a look at the job announcement for more information about the position and how to apply.

The Washington State Senate is an equal opportunity employer. We strive to create a working environment that includes and respects cultural, racial, ethnic, sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, persons over 40 years of age, disabled and Vietnam era veterans and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are encouraged to apply. Persons needing accommodation in the application process or this announcement in an alternative format may contact Sen. Saldaña’s office at (360) 786-7688.

November 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Sen. Saldaña Legislative Update

Sen. Saldaña Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

We had a historically productive and progressive session this year. We passed a package of legislation to make voting easier and fairer in our state, setting a national example for other states to follow. We also passed several bills that put people first and which will have an immediate impact on communities, including expanding access to financial aid for Dreamers, banning the cruel practice known as “conversion therapy” on LGBTQ youth, advancing equal pay and preventing gun violence.

The Senate passed 308 bills, 98 percent of which received bipartisan support, and finished its work in just 60 days – the first time since 2014 that the Legislature has ended session on time. That work included a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 72,000 teachers and public employees in the PERS and TRS Plan 1 retirement programs, the first since 2010, and a health care insurance subsidy for retired or disabled teachers and public employees.

This session’s achievements reflect the hard work, grit and determination of the people of Washington. Our work in Olympia depends on the input of advocates and constituents who bring their perspective and expertise to the table as we shape policies that affect everyone.

I hope you will continue to reach out to my office with questions, suggestions or ideas for next year. I look forward to hearing from you and continuing to work together to achieve progress for the 37th District and the State of Washington.

Rebecca Saldaña

Equal Pay

This year we took steps to end gender wage discrimination by passing House Bill 1506, which modifies the Equal Pay Act to provide a range of remedies addressing unfair pay disparity.

DREAM Act 2.0

We passed the “DREAM Act 2.0,” expanding state financial aid resources to undocumented students (“Dreamers”). It builds on the 2014 Real Hope Act, which widened access to the State Need Grant and enabled Dreamers to pay in-state tuition at our colleges and universities.

Initiative 940, De-Escalate Washington

We took a huge step forward in improving relationships between law enforcement and our communities with an agreement to meaningfully address police use of deadly force. Although a court challenge has left the status of the agreement unclear, I stand behind it and I am committed to working to ensure that it becomes law.

My Legislation

I sponsored a dozen bills this year, six of which became law; so did three House bills containing the same language as my bills:

  • Senate Bill 6002, the Washington Voting Rights Act, removes legal barriers to ensure fair representation in cities and local jurisdictions
  • Senate Bill 5683 rights a historic wrong by extending health care coverage to certain Pacific Islanders living in Washington
  • Senate Bill 6245 empowers spoken language interpreters
  • Senate Bill 6529 establishes a work group to find ways to address harmful “pesticide drift”
  • Senate Bill 6145 lets law enforcement and firefighting agencies hire any legal residents
  • Senate Bill 6126 helps create a regional workforce of quality electricians

Gun Responsibility

News stories about gun violence and mass shootings have inundated our communities, schools and homes. Enough is enough. As legislators, we have an obligation to keep our communities safe. This session, we passed bills that:

  • Ban bump stocks (Senate Bill 5992)
  • Let those experiencing extreme depression or stress waive their firearm rights (Senate Bill 5553)
  • Keep guns away from those convicted of domestic violence harassment (Senate Bill 6298)
  • Ensure that concealed pistol licenses are taken from people subject to protective orders for stalking and other crimes (House Bill 2519)
  • We also allocated $382,000 to clear the state’s backlog of 478,000 firearm transfer and sale records.

Stay in touch!

Thank you for contacting us on what matters to you. Your participation is making a difference and helping to improve our communities! Follow my official Facebook page for updates and remember to stay in touch by calling or emailing my office.

May 11th, 2018|E-News, Uncategorized|

Legislative Update from Sen. Saldaña

The last several days have been a whirlwind! I can’t believe that it was just over a week ago that we hosted our town hall. We had a great turnout, and folks asked robust and thoughtful questions about carbon, the social safety net, gun responsibility and public safety, economic development, taxes, environment, and civil rights.

Sen. Saldaña with constituent AFSCME representatives at the 37th Legislative District town hall meeting on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

I love seeing constituents in Olympia who visit to advocate for their priorities. Last week residents of the 37th turned out in large numbers for the annual African-American Advocacy Day, Catholic, Jewish, and Interfaith Lobby Day, and Senior Lobby Day. Residents advocated on issues ranging from repealing I-200, to health care, to safe schools, to addressing homelessness.

Sen. Saldaña with constituents from the 37th Legislative District in her Olympia office on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

This week our three supplemental budgets were released and passed. Washington state budgets provide funding on a two-year (biennial) cycle.

Supplemental budgets are passed in even years and allow the Legislature to make mid-course corrections on the two-year budget. 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.

2018 supplemental budgets

Operating budget

This budget helps fund the day-to-day operations of state government such as schools and universities, state parks, teacher salaries and other state services and programs.

On Friday, the Senate passed the 2018 supplemental operating budget plan — a budget that will fully fund education and provide adequate support for those in our society who need mental health treatment.

This budget makes targeted investments in key areas, including:

  • Education: Brings the state into compliance with its constitutional obligation to amply fund our public schools. Includes an additional $1 billion to fully fund teacher and staff salaries as directed by the state Supreme Court.
  • Mental health: Invests nearly $300 million more over the next four years for state hospitals, mental health treatment and addressing the opioid crisis.

Capital budget

On Friday, the Senate also passed $334.7 million in new construction funding for Washington communities. The budget invests in public schools, higher education, behavioral health and local community infrastructure.

The proposal would provide an additional $66.2 million for K-12 school construction statewide. Of that sum, funding would be allocated as follows:

  • $51.3 million to the School Construction Assistance Program
  • $9 million for distressed schools
  • $6 million in rural school modernization grants

Transportation budget

As vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I was part of a team that negotiated the budget that passed on Friday. The transportation budget sees an increase of $826 million over the enacted 2017-19 transportation budget. Much of the increase is a result of re-appropriated funds to continue Connecting Washington projects passed in 2015 that include investments in ferries, environmental protections, and the Washington State Patrol.

Stay in touch!

Thank you for contacting us on what matters to you. Your participation is making a difference and helping to improve our communities! Follow my official Facebook page for updates and remember to stay in touch by calling or emailing my office.

February 27th, 2018|E-News, Uncategorized|

Legislative Update from Sen. Saldaña

We are more than halfway through the 2018 Legislative Session. In the Senate, we are still working in a bipartisan way to pass long-awaited priorities. Last week, we passed Senate Bill 5407, which would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants based on the source of their income. Homelessness is a crisis in Washington, and we have limited tools to solve this problem. One of those tools is housing assistance. But that only works if people are able to rent homes using that source of income. I was proud to support this legislation.

Join us for a town hall meeting!

I am co-hosting a town hall with Rep. Santos and Rep. Pettigrew. We hope you can join us! This will be good opportunity for us to hear directly from you and answer your questions. All are encouraged to attend. Childcare will be available. You can also find event details on my Facebook page.

WHAT: Town Hall Meeting

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018 from 10:00 – 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Ethiopian Community Center, Multipurpose room, 8323 Rainier Avenue S. Seattle, WA 98118

My recently passed legislation

Three of my bills passed recently, each with strong bipartisan support!

Senate Bill 5683Expanding access to health care for Pacific Islanders living in Washington State: The Senate passed legislation I was proud to introduce that creates a statewide premium assistance program for Washington residents from Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations. Under COFA, citizens of Palau, The Marshall Islands, and Micronesia are free to live and work in the United States. While they are eligible for federal tax credits through the Affordable Care Act, they do not qualify for Medicaid since the federal government revoked eligibility in the 1990s.  This bill fixes that. These residents work in our state and serve in our military, and they need the same access to health care. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 46-2.

Senate Bill 6245Empowering spoken language interpreters: This bill will streamline how the state procures interpreter services and give interpreters a voice in their work. I was proud to bring this bill forward because it will help our state work smarter while also giving an immigrant workforce the opportunity to have greater dignity and respect in their profession. It passed by a vote of 31-16.

Senate Bill 6529Protecting people from harmful pesticide drift:  Every year, people in Washington, especially agricultural workers, are exposed to harmful pesticides through something called “pesticide drift,” which is when the pesticides are blown beyond their targets. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reports those most harmed are workers on neighboring farms and children in nearby schools. This bill establishes a pesticide application safety workgroup to develop recommendations for improving the safety of pesticide applications. The workgroup will provide a report on their findings, recommendations, and draft legislation by this November. This bill will help us make informed decisions during next year’s legislative session to better protect our kids and public health. The bill does not prevent farmers from doing their work. It passed by a vote of 45-2.

Addressing health care

We also passed legislation to protect access to reproductive health care, require insurers to cover 3D mammograms, and direct physicians to report on breast density to better identify and treat breast cancer and more.

Access to Democracy

This weekend the Senate passed Senate Bill 6353, to implement Automatic Voter Registration at Washington state agencies starting in 2019. Automatic voter registration will increase the opportunity to register and vote without endangering the security of the election process.

In addition to automatic voter registration, the Senate passed legislation to strengthen campaign finance laws to clearly show who pays for political advertising on every ad. These bills are part of the Senate’s Access to Democracy package that also includes the Washington Voting Rights Act, Same Day Voter Registration, and the DISCLOSE Act.

February 13th, 2018|E-News, Uncategorized|

Legislative Update from Sen. Saldaña

Dear Neighbor,

In just the first few weeks of session, the Senate has taken action on major Democratic priorities that passed with strong bipartisan support. We passed a $4 billion capital budget with historic investments for school construction and $16 million in investments for the 37th Legislative District.

Early Action on Legislative Priorities

We worked to pass the Washington Voting Rights Act, which I introduced, Same Day Voter Registration and the DISCLOSE Act. Washington is leading the nation in expanding access to democracy, increasing opportunities for voting, and improving transparency in elections. We also passed legislation to expand opportunities for state financial aid to every student who wants to go to college, regardless of their immigration status.

Senator Rebecca Saldaña celebrating with OneAmerica advocates after the Senate passed legislation to expand eligibility of the College Bound Scholarship to Dreamers.

Meet our Olympia Office

From left: Dana Owens-Cheatham, session aide │ Allison Banks, intern │ Sen. Rebecca Saldaña │ Ayla Kadah, legislative assistant

Remember that my office is always open to you. I hope you will call, email or visit us in Olympia. You can find information about how to reach us on my website.

Senate Page Program

The Washington State Senate Page Program provides an excellent opportunity for young people to get firsthand professional experience in our state Capitol and learn about the legislative process. The program is open to students between the ages of 14 and 17.  I encourage you to share this opportunity with as many students in our district as possible.

January 24th, 2018|E-News, Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Spin Control: Inslee signs capital budget, water law quickly

Spin Control: Inslee signs capital budget, water law quickly

The Spokseman-Review / Jan. 21, 2018
By Jim Camden

Less than a day after legislative negotiators pushed them through the House and Senate on bipartisan votes, Gov. Jay Inslee signed key bills on state construction projects and a revision to water law.

It was so fast one had to wonder if the ink was dry yet from printing out the formal copies of the legislation.

A deal that eluded the Legislature for 193 days in the 2017 session came together in the middle of last week. Once an agreement was reached, lawmakers were either so happy to be shed of these troublesome issues or wary that if they delayed even a few hours, the deal would fall apart.

They wasted no time in passing a $4.2 billion capital construction budget, a $2.7 billion general obligation bond bill to help pay for some of those projects, and a complicated set of rules that govern whether and how much water can be drawn from the aquifer in some rural and suburban areas.

“I’m really pleased at the really rapid progress this Legislature is making,” Inslee said.

He signed the capital budget and the bond bills in a standard ceremony in his conference room, serenaded by Senate pages who have formed a ukelele band. The song’s chorus, which lauds legislation with a chorus of “They change the world, one bill at a time” might be worth inscribing over the entrance to the Legislature, he said.

Although he said he wished the Legislature had passed the capital budget much earlier, the budget has projects all over the state, and will support thousands of jobs, he said.

The governor skipped a public signing ceremony for the water rights bill, known generally as the “Hirst fix,” after a state Supreme Court ruling. He signed that one without fanfare in his office earlier. Some of his allies in the environmental community, and many tribal leaders, have criticized it for not doing enough to protect the state’s water resources.

Unlike the capital budget bills, which had near unanimous support in both chambers of the Legislature, the vote on the Hirst fix was mixed, with some of the more liberal and conservative lawmakers voting no.

Signing it in private is just as effective, he said. Asked if there were things he didn’t like about the bill, Inslee replied that is “largely moot” because it’s now law.

It will have a positive effect on the state’s water resources, has more protections for in-stream flows and will spend some $300 million over the next 15 years to improve water supplies, he said.

Voting Rights, and wrongs

Although much attention was given last week to the Legislature’s lightning approval of the $4.2 billion capital construction budget and the change in state water law that freed the spending from the hostage status it was held in through 2017, the Senate also passed another of the Democrats’ Holy Grail bills, the Voting Rights Act.

It’s designed to give minority groups equal opportunity to participate in local elections in cities, counties or other government entities through such things as redistricting or dividing at-large districts into smaller sections of the electorate. If more than 5 percent of those residents speak a language other than English, it also would require those local governments to send out information in that language.

When they were in control of the Senate, Republicans blocked previous efforts. This year, they didn’t have the votes, but they did manage a parliamentary maneuver to stall it for a couple days.

Republicans failed in several efforts to amend it, saying it would lead to lawsuits and gerrymandering. Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, and others argued it would generate fewer lawsuits.

“I think we currently have right now, over the last census, gerrymandering throughout Washington state,” she said.

That brought a rebuke from Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville: “I want to correct the gerrymandering comment from the relatively new member of the body. In our state, all four caucuses appoint their negotiator. It is virtually impossible for us to gerrymander our state’s boundaries legislatively.”

Schoesler is right, to a point, but the state is not completely free of gerrymandering for legislative and congressional districts. The redistricting commission has four members appointed respectively by the majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate. But they come to the table trying to get the best deal for the folks who appoint them, and they’ve been known to shift precincts around to make a district safer for one party or the other and draw some pretty strange shapes.

And the bill doesn’t deal with legislative or congressional districts, but local governments.

After a series Republican amendments failed on roll call votes, Saldaña tried to bring it up for a vote without a one-day delay – a standard request that every senator has used at some time. Republicans objected, keeping the vote from happening right away.

Schoesler said Republicans had some members absent to attend the funeral for a Pierce County law enforcement officer and they might want to vote on the bill, too.

Two days later, the bill came to the floor and passed 29 to 19 with some GOP support.

January 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    State bills allowing same-day voter registration, local redistricting to empower minorities move ahead

State bills allowing same-day voter registration, local redistricting to empower minorities move ahead

Sequim Gazette / Jan. 20, 2018
By Josh Kelety

The state Senate passed several bills aimed at expanding access to voting and promoting minority representation in local governments through redistricting.

On the evening of Jan. 17, in a reconvened Senate floor vote session, the body passed SB 6021, which would allow voters to register for elections in-person up until 8 p.m. on the day of an election and eight days before if registering online or by mail.

The bill passed 29-20 and now goes to the House.

The Senate also passed the 2018 Voting Rights Act: a bill which allows local governments to restructure electoral districts to avoid gerrymandering that disenfranchises minority groups. The legislation also allows for for lawsuits to be filed against governments that refuse to restructure their electoral districts if disenfranchisement is identified.

Versions of the bill have passed the House five times over the past few years, but have always died in the then Republican-controlled Senate and have never made it to the floor for a vote.

“I’m really tickled that we’ve been able to get this long reworked bill to the floor for a vote,” said Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, prior to the Jan. 19 vote.

“We’re doing something that has not been done anywhere else in the country,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldana, D-Seattle, the primary sponsor of the bill. “We are creating a process where communities can give notice and work together with jurisdictions to find a solution that works for their city and district without a long drawn out process that causes division and bitterness.”

While the bill was passed on Jan. 19, it was originally brought up for a floor vote two days before. Senate Republicans attempted to add several amendments, which were all voted down, before they blocked an attempted early vote on the bill.

On the Senate floor, Senate Republicans argued that the bill, as written, will result in a torrent of lawsuits against local governments claiming that their electoral districting disenfranchise minority groups.

“This bill is actually the gerrymandering and litigation act,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said that the legislation is unnecessary due to longstanding federal law: “Where there is allegations of real discrimination, there is the Federal Voting Rights Act which was passed in 1965 and we have 50 years of interpretations.”

Senate Democrats countered that the bill designates legal action as a measure of last resort, and that the bill gives local governments the option to voluntarily redesign their districts.

“The primary purpose is to provide local decisions to local leaders and governments without ever having to go to court,” said Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia.

“There will be no court case unless a local government refuses to act and unless there has been a pattern proven of discrimination.”

“What you have before you, I believe, strikes a good balance,” said Sen. Saldana. “Good process and dialogue can prevent litigation.”

On Jan. 17, Hunt was impatient with his Republican colleagues’ attempts to amend the bill at the last minute before passage.

“We have been working on this bill for six years now,” Hunt said. “It is all worked out. It is a good solution.”

The bill passed with a wide margin of 29-19 with one excused absence.

January 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|
  • Permalink Gallery

    VICTORY! Washington Voting Rights Act wins approval in the state Senate for the first time

VICTORY! Washington Voting Rights Act wins approval in the state Senate for the first time

The Cascadia Advocate / Jan. 19, 2018

The United States Senate may be wracked by dysfunction and disagreement — especially this week — but here in Washington, our State Senate is on a roll, working diligently to advance the good of all the people under its new Democratic majority. After having passed the DISCLOSE Act, same-day voter registration, and the capital budget earlier this week, our Senate today voted for the first time to adopt the Washington Voting Rights Act (ESSB 6002), liberating a bill that had been stuck in the Senate Republicans’ graveyard of progress for years.

“This bill is a significant step forward in our ongoing effort to expand access to democracy in Washingtonian, and establish a truly representative government,” said Senator Rebecca Saldaña (D-37th District: Seattle).

“We saw a dramatic change in representation in cities like Yakima and Pasco after they implemented district-based elections. Washington needs a voting rights act so that every local jurisdiction has the opportunity to do this, and so that impacted communities can truly have a voice that counts.”

“Voting is a right, not a privilege,” agreed Senator Sam Hunt (D-22nd District).

“We don’t need barriers to voting, we need pathways. It is our most basic duty to make our democracy accessible to every single eligible voter. We won’t succeed by just by increasing opportunities for voting. We must also increase transparency in our elections by shining a light on hidden money. This package accomplishes those goals. Access to democracy is essential in having a strong government.”

“After years of hard work by committed community leaders and legislators, today the Washington Senate passed the Voting Rights Act,” said Rich Stolz, Chief Executive Officer of OneAmerica Votes. “This is a tremendous victory for communities of color striving for greater representation across our state, made possible by community members who campaigned to elect Senator Manka Dhingra in the 45th Legislative District.  Today, Dinghra is one of two women of color in the State Senate.  The other, Senator Rebecca Saldana (LD37), sponsored this legislation.”

“The Senate’s action today stands in stark contrast to the theatrics and threatening rhetoric emanating from the White House. Washington State is setting its own path toward greater equity, representation and a stronger democracy.”

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
ESSB 6002
Voting rights act
3rd Reading & Final Passage

Yeas: 29; Nays: 19; Excused: 1

Voting Yea: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Dhingra, Fain, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Sheldon, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman

Voting Nay: Senators Angel, Bailey, Becker, Braun, Brown, Ericksen, Fortunato, Honeyford, King, O`Ban, Padden, Rivers, Schoesler, Short, Wagoner, Walsh, Warnick, Wilson, Zeiger

Excused: Senator Baumgartner

Four Republicans crossed over to support the Voting Rights Act: Joe Fain, Brad Hawkins, Mark Miloscia, and Tim Sheldon. Senator Baumgartner did not vote on final passage. The remaining eighteen Republicans voted nay, while the entire Democratic caucus was unified in support of the legislation.

Passage of the Voting Rights Act is one of NPI’s legislative priorities for 2018. We’re thrilled to see today’s action on the floor of the Senate. The approval of the WVRA is fantastic news for the people of the State of Washington.

ESSB 6002 now goes to the House, which has previously voted several times to pass previous versions of the Washington Voting Rights Act.

January 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|

State Senate passes voting rights

SeattlePI / Jan. 19, 2018
By Joel Connelly

The Washington State Senate, unlike a gridlocked Congress in the “other” Washington, has powered ahead on multiple fronts this week, culminating Friday with passage of the long-delayed Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA).

The Senate cleared up a six-month impasse, late Thursday night, by passing a $4.2 billion state capital construction budget.

The capital budget, left hanging when the Legislature adjourned last June, funds 1,400 projects across the state, creates 19,000 jobs and protects Blanchard Mountain south of Bellingham. A compromise on water rights cleared the way for its passage.

“What a week!” said State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. “We’ve been able to bring to the table (things) that have been flattened for the past five years . . . There is a powerful desire here to make government work.”

Democrats retook control of the Legislature’s upper chamber last November, after being under Republican control since 2013.

The WVRA passed on a bipartisan 29-19 vote. It has repeatedly passed the state House of Representatives in recent years, but stalled when Republican Senate leaders refused to bring it to a vote.

But on Friday, it passed with the blessing of Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, and the votes of such front-rank GOP legislators as State Sens. Joe Fain, R-King County and Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way.

The act removes barriers in state law and allows counties, cities school boards and other elected bodies to change their election systems. It is designed the facilitate creation of district-based elections, notably in Eastern Washington counties where at-large voting has excluded large Latino populations from pubic office.

“It will encourage people to run for office, it will boost turnout by voters long neglected, and it will make people running for office go into parts of communities they have ignored,” said Rich Stolz of OneAmerica, the immigrant rights group.

Using their one-vote Senate majority, Democrats have already pushed through a package of voting legislation — including provision for same-day voter registration.

“We don’t need barriers to voting, we need pathways: It is our basic duty to make our democracy accessible to every single eligible voter,” said Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who chairs the Senate’s state government committee.

Want to know the need for WVRA? Yakima proved Exhibit A. The city, more than 40 percent Latino, had never elected a Latino city council member or school board member with at-large voting.

When the American Civil Liberties Union brought suit, the city ran up legal fees in the seven figures fighting to maintain its all-Anglo government. A federal judge found evidence overwhelming, ruling for the plaintiffs without a trial. The Yakima City Council has two Latina members elected by district.

The WVA will produce “truly representative government,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldana, D-Seattle, WVRA sponsor. “We saw a dramatic change in representation in cities like Yakima and Pasco after they implemented district-based elections.”

The state capital budget was dammed up last spring in a dispute over water rights. The State Supreme Court, with its Hirst decision, left some rural property owners unable to drill wells on their own land.

The divided Legislature plowed through three special sessions, did pass a budget at the 11th hour, but adjourned with Republicans holding up the capital budget and insisting on a fix of the Hirst decision. Democrats engaged in broad-scale blaming and grandstanding over projects put on hold.

The dam was breached this week. A bipartisan compromise, reached in short order, eased regulations on small wells and committed $300 million to water conservation projects.

Both the water bill and capital budget passed with overwhelming majorities, cleared the House, and were on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk by Friday afternoon.

The highs and lows of the capital budget can be seen in the northwest corner of the state, the district of State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. The budget permanently protects Blanchard Mountain south of Bellingham, the state’s premier takeoff point for hang gliding. It renovates buildings and upgrades labs at Western Washington University. It invests in the Skagit Valley Family WMCA.

The partisan rancor is not gone from Olympia.

“It is extremely unfortunate and, frankly, irresponsible that for nearly a year Republicans stalled these projects and refused to vote on the $4.2 billion capital budget,” Gov. Inslee tweeted as he prepared to sign the budget.

The Senate has ventured into social policy as well. On Friday afternoon, it passed bills to ban so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ children, and to prevent bullying in schools.

If the Trump administration and Congress seem intent on making the federal government look dysfunctional, the Washington Legislature seems intent on showing an innovative, activist state government.

A lot of heavy lifting — e.g. gun safety legislation and Gov. Inslee’s proposed carbon tax — remains in the days ahead.

January 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|