Monthly Archives: May 2019

Governor signs bill creating commission on LGBTQ inequities

May 24th, 2019|

The state’s newly created state LGBTQ Commission will meet Saturday with stakeholders to discuss the commission’s initial steps, Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn) said today.

Wilson’s Senate Bill 5356 was signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Jay Inslee, establishing a commission to identify concerns specific to LGBTQ individuals and apply those concerns to inform practices and policies at state agencies.

“Our state constitution promises to protect us against discrimination in its many forms, but not everyone receives those protections,” Wilson said. “Many people regularly experience discrimination and other challenges, including physical violence, based merely on their identity or someone else’s perception of their identity.”

The LGBTQ Commission will be responsible for ensuring that state policies reflect a balanced and diverse respect for race and ethnicity, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and occupation. To that end, Wilson said the makeup of the commission is crucial.

“It is essential that the governor appoint members who understand the varied challenges and inequities faced by others,” she said. “There are times when our state policies, however well-intended, fail to account for members of our community whose needs may not be as obvious or universally shared. At other times, policies intended to help and serve a particular community end up doing the opposite.”

Among other things, the commission will consult with state agencies about the effects of agency policies and practices on the unique problems and needs of LGBTQ people, and advise agencies on the development and implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies, plans and programs to address those needs.

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    Governor signs bill to improve educational opportunities in prisons

Governor signs bill to improve educational opportunities in prisons

May 24th, 2019|

The state will explore ways to improve educational opportunities for incarcerated Washingtonians, as a result of legislation signed into law this month by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“It’s critical that people receive the resources necessary for successful re-entry into the community once they have paid their debt,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the sponsor of SB 5433. “Leaving prison without a support network or a job, but with a criminal record, multiplies the difficulty of re-entry exponentially.”

Lacking training or education, those trying to re-enter society often have limited options beyond the criminal practices that got them incarcerated in the first place, Wilson said, so it makes sense to improve inmates’ skill sets.

“Re-entry into society is all about second chances and public safety,” she said. “Anyone who has paid their debt to society has earned a second chance, and successful re-entry is in everyone’s best interest. Successful re-entry equals lower recidivism. It’s that simple.”

Wilson’s legislation expands the types of educational programs accessible by the incarcerated to include postsecondary education and training programs, in addition to associate degrees, and directs state agencies to study implementation of secure internet access at correctional facilities to increase access to postsecondary education programs. 

“The choice before us is not whether someone who has committed a crime deserves assistance,” she said. “The question is whether we want to send someone back into society in a position to become productive and successful, or whether we want to send them back into society to commit more crimes.”

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    Bills expanding eligibility for early learning programs signed into law

Bills expanding eligibility for early learning programs signed into law

May 21st, 2019|

A pair of bills to expand access to early learning programs critical to student success were signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Senate Bill 5437, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), makes more students eligible for the state’s early childhood education and assistance program (ECEAP) by increasing the income-level of households from which students can qualify. The legislation also directs the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families to consult with tribes and develop recommendations for closing the ECEAP opportunity gap for tribal children.

“We know ECEAP works, and works very effectively, to help children of color and from low-income homes access the critical early learning skills they need to keep up with their more-advantaged peers,” said Wilson, who is the vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “We also know that a child whose family is a dollar above the 110 percent federal poverty limit is just as vulnerable as a child whose family is a dollar below it. This much-needed change will bring lasting change to the lives of children across our state.”

Senate Bill 5089, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), eliminates an eligibility gap for children who turn three years old during the school year. In past years, children who completed the state’s Early Support for Infants and Toddlers had to wait until age three to qualify for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance program. This bill eliminates that gap by extending eligibility to students who are not yet three years old when the school year begins.

“To improve outcomes for children with developmental delays or disabilities, it’s imperative that we give them continual access to quality early learning programs,” said Wellman, who chairs of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “These programs can make an enormous difference for these kids’ future success.”

The Legislature also prioritized early learning programs through budget investments. The biennial capital construction budget provides $28.5 million for early learning facility grants, while the operating budget invests $35 million to expand the ECEAP program. Inslee signed both of those budgets into law today as well.