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    Wilson strives to ‘open those doors’ for people who have felt ignored

Wilson strives to ‘open those doors’ for people who have felt ignored

June 19th, 2019|

In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington State Wire, Sen. Claire Wilson discussed everything from her career in education, to being a freshman in the Senate, to fighting for legislation on consent and healthy relationships, to making sure all Washingtonians have a chance to be heard. You can read the interview here.

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.

Wilson urges students to apply for youth advisory council

April 25th, 2019|

With applications now open for the 2019-2021 cycle of the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC), Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn) is encouraging students from the 30th Legislative District to apply.

Established in 2005, the council consists of 22 students who serve as the official voice of Washington youth to the Washington State Legislature.

“This is a rare and exciting opportunity to develop a valuable understanding of public policy issues and legislative strategy, and I highly recommend it,” Wilson said. “The councilors get to personally lobby legislators, testify before the Legislature, organize civic engagement events for peers throughout the state, and lots more.”

Each year, 11 new students are selected to serve a two-year term on the council, working with mentors who advise them on how to advocate for meaningful policy changes. The program is fully youth-led, overseen by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

Applicants must be 14 to 18 years old and in the 8th, 9th, or 10th grade. They must submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, coach, mentor or community leader along with a letter of application by June 3. For more information, visit the LYAC Website, email ryan.jackson@ltgov.wa.gov, or call the Office of the Lieutenant Governor at 360-786-7746.

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    Estevan Garcia, Alexis ‘Blu’ Warner serve as Senate pages

Estevan Garcia, Alexis ‘Blu’ Warner serve as Senate pages

April 25th, 2019|

Estevan Garcia and Alexis “Blu” Warner served as pages in the Washington State Senate during the first week of April.

Pages are sponsored by the senator from their legislative district. Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn) sponsored their week at the Legislature.

“Our office had a great time hosting Estevan and Blu for their week at the Capitol,” Wilson said. “I hope they enjoyed their time here. I know they saw and learned a lot.”

The page program offers a hands-on opportunity for students to find out how state government works. The educational experience is enhanced by guest speakers and includes classes with topics such as budget writing and how a bill becomes a law — which culminates in pages creating their own bills in a mock committee setting.

Garcia, 15, and Warner, 16, worked together on a bill aimed at increasing the orca population in Washington. The bill would provide more funding to salmon hatcheries to increase the population of salmon, and thereby increase the population of orcas that feed off the salmon. 

Both pages said they valued their interactions with senators and staff.

“I enjoyed talking to the security guards and hearing all their stories,” Garcia said. “I really liked watching the floor action and listening to senators talk about their bills.”

“It was go great to work with Sen. Wilson and have lunch with her,” Warner said. “She listened to my ideas and has helped me a lot this week to understand how a state government functions.”

Pages also have the opportunity to work on the Senate floor. Their maroon coats and credentials allow them access to all parts of the Capitol Campus.

Garcia is in the 9th grade at West Auburn High School. In his free time, he enjoys crafting and making things from scratch. Warner is a 10th grader at Decatur High School in Federal Way. In her free time, she works on short animation films. She produces and directs movies for film festivals and for school.

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    Legislature passes Wilson bill creating commission on LGBTQ inequities

Legislature passes Wilson bill creating commission on LGBTQ inequities

April 23rd, 2019|

Legislation to establish a state commission to identify concerns specific to LGBTQ individuals and apply those concerns to inform practices and policies at state agencies is on its way to the governor to be signed into law.

“Our state constitution promises to protect us against discrimination in its many forms, but not everyone receives those protections,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the sponsor of Senate Bill 5356. “Many people regularly experience discrimination and other challenges, including physical violence, based merely on their identity or someone else’s perception of their identity.”

Wilson’s legislation will establish a state LGBTQ Commission to ensure state policies reflect a balanced and diverse respect for race and ethnicity, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and occupation. After first passing the Senate, the bill was amended and passed by the House and had to be passed a final time today in its amended form by the Senate.

 “The makeup of the commission will be key,” Wilson said. “It is critical that the governor appoint members who understand the varied challenges and inequities faced by others and make sure those challenges inform public policy.”

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.

“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,” Wilson said. “At other times, policies intended to help and serve a particular community end up doing the opposite. This commission will be a valuable resource to the public and to our state agencies that serve us.”

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    Senate passes House bill to provide healthier food for students

Senate passes House bill to provide healthier food for students

April 15th, 2019|

Students in households that struggle to afford fresh fruits and vegetables as part of their regular diet would benefit from a new state program, under legislation passed today by the Senate.

House Bill 1587 would direct the state Department of Health to develop and manage a Fruit and Vegetable Incentives Program in which eligible households may receive vouchers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at authorized farmers markets.

“When families can’t afford the cost of healthy foods, it affects performance in the classroom, on the job, and pretty much anything they do,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the vice chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “Access to healthier food improves family health and eating habits, and that improved health shows up in the classroom in the form of stronger academic performance.”

Wilson sponsored Senate Bill 5583, the Senate companion legislation to HB 1587, which passed the Senate on a near-unanimous, 47-1 vote. The legislation expands pilot programs that began with the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI), a federal grant created through the 2014 Farm Bill. Washington state is the recipient of the nation’s largest FINI grant, but it expires this year. HB 1587 would keep the programs funded by the FINI grant moving forward, regardless of what happens at the federal level.

The programs enable people who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase produce at farmer’s markets, receive additional funds for fruits and vegetables at authorized grocery stores, and get vouchers from providers at community health clinics good for fruit and vegetable purchases.

“It’s pretty simple,” Wilson said. “Healthier kids do better, including and especially in the classroom.”

Having been amended by the Senate, the legislation now goes back to the House for reconsideration.

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    House passes Wilson bill creating commission on LGBTQ inequities

House passes Wilson bill creating commission on LGBTQ inequities

April 13th, 2019|

Legislation passed late Friday by the House would establish a state commission to identify concerns specific to LGBTQ individuals and apply those concerns to inform practices and policies at state agencies.

“Many members of our community face an extreme and disproportionate risk of violence, discrimination and other challenges based merely on their identity,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the sponsor of Senate Bill 5356. “This action is needed to ensure that LGBTQ people receive the same consideration and protections against discrimination guaranteed all other Washingtonians under our state constitution.”

The legislation would create a state LGBTQ Commission whose membership, appointed by the governor, must provide for a balanced and diverse representation of race and ethnicity, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and occupation.

Among other things, the commission would 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.

“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,” Wilson said. “At other times, policies intended to help and serve a particular community end up doing the opposite. This commission will be a valuable resource to the public and to our state agencies that serve us.”

Acknowledging the skepticism of lawmakers who questioned the need for the commission, Wilson said their doubts illustrated the very need for the commission.

“If you’ve lived in a community with limited diversity, and your friends and acquaintances tend to look and talk like you, you may have no way of knowing the challenges and inequities faced by those outside your circle,” Wilson said. “This commission can make sure those challenges are known, understood, and addressed.”

Having been amended by the House, the bill now goes back to the Senate for reconsideration.

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    House passes Wilson bill to expand access to early learning programs

House passes Wilson bill to expand access to early learning programs

April 11th, 2019|

Legislation passed overwhelmingly today by the House would give more children access to early education programs that have been shown to help students perform better academically and succeed in school and throughout life.

“We know that children who struggle with learning deficits early are far more likely to lag behind their peers throughout school and into adulthood,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the bill’s sponsor. “These children will struggle to succeed academically, they will struggle to succeed professionally, and they will struggle to succeed economically. We have the ability and the opportunity to turn their struggles into success.”

Senate Bill 5437 would make 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, from 110 percent of the federal poverty limit to as much as 200 percent of the poverty level, within certain limitations. 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 and 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.”

Since the bill was amended by the House before passing on an 89-8 vote, it must now go back to the Senate for reconsideration.