18 12, 2014

Senate Democrats release full leadership and committee appointments

December 18th, 2014|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate Democratic caucus approved their full leadership and committee appointments on Thursday, for the upcoming 2015 legislative session.

Changes to leadership include Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, assuming the role of Caucus Deputy Leader; Sen. Elect Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, will serve as Democratic Whip with Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah as Assistant Whip; and Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, serving as Caucus Vice Chair.

Resuming leadership roles for 2015 are Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, as Democratic leader; Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, as Caucus Chair; Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, as Democratic Floor Leader and Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, as Assistant Democratic Floor Leader.

“This is going to be a tough year, but we have a great group of leaders in the Senate Democratic Caucus,” Nelson said on Thursday. “In addition to our veteran members, I am so pleased to welcome senators elect Pramila Jayapal and Cyrus Habib. Their expertise and experiences bring a welcome perspective, not only the Senate, but the Legislature at large.”

For a full list of committee appointments, please click here.

11 12, 2014

Senators call for full funding for higher education

December 11th, 2014|Uncategorized|

The Legislature should make every effort to fully fund the $198 million sought by Washington’s universities in order to hold tuition steady for the next two years and to maintain institutional quality, Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said today.

“Higher education is a public good that we must support as a community,” said Frockt, a member of the Higher Education and Ways and Means committees. “Low- and middle- income students continue to struggle to finance their education and yet we know that the lifetime earnings for those with a college degree will far outpace those without. College access is also the key to breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty. So this is the right public investment if we want to keep the gateway to the middle class open.”

“Since 1991, cuts in state spending have raised the students’ share of tuition costs by 356 percent,” said Kohl-Welles, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Higher Education Committee, Ways and Means Committee member, and vice-chair of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. “That’s a deal breaker for many middle-class families and students who face a choice between passing up on college or taking on crushing debt. This is not the recipe for a healthy middle class.”

The radical increase in tuition is the result of a dramatic flip in who pays the lion’s share of the cost of a college education at state institutions. In 1991, the state funded 82 percent of the cost and students paid 18 percent; by 2013, the state’s commitment had fallen to 34 percent and students’ had risen to 66 percent. The senators believe that the state policy should be to move back toward a 50/50 split over time.

“It’s easy to say we support education, but the true measure of our commitment will lie in what this Legislature does to balance the debilitating cuts that were made during the Great Recession,” Kohl-Welles said. “We made some hard choices to balance the budget during hard times, and now it’s time to move the pendulum back on the side of the households across this state whose success hinges on access to an affordable college education.”

“In addition, we must move aggressively to fully fund the State Need Grant program,” Frock said, “Right now, we are only meeting the needs of 70 percent of those who are eligible for the SNG, leaving 30,000 eligible but unserved – with no option other than to tack on more student loan debt as they seek a degree or more workforce skills. This lack of full funding also drives up costs in our College Bound Scholarship program since the two programs are linked. Full funding will also free up institutional aid for middle-income students just above the SNG cutoff line as a recent UW student report demonstrated. State policy should be to expand educational opportunity at every juncture, not curtail it.”

1 12, 2014

Retiring Sen. Adam Kline says farewell

December 1st, 2014|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats said farewell to retiring member Sen. Adam Kline, D-Southeast Seattle, during a gathering of colleagues, staff and friends. Kline served in the Legislature for 18 years, nine as chair of the Judiciary Committee.

Kline has a unique background and played an active role in our country’s history. He participated in 1963 in the March on Washington, where he heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I have a dream” speech. During the Freedom Summer of 1964, Kline volunteered with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee to help register African American voters for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Later, in Seattle, Kline worked for what is now Columbia Legal Services where he represented people who were indigent or disabled and in need of legal help. In his own private practice, Kline represented people injured in auto accidents, especially the victims of drunk drivers.

As a legislator, Kline’s list of accomplishments include creating more district court judge positions in King County; strengthening the state’s Hate Crime statute; strengthening penalties for negligent driving which results in bodily harm to vulnerable drivers; modernizing Washington’s policies for caring for people with developmental disabilities; and strengthening our state’s DUI laws, among other accomplishments.

Before leaving for final meetings during Committee Assembly days in late November, Kline had some remarks to share.

Advice for the 2015 Legislative Session:

Sen. Adam Kline: “Yeah. Somebody’s got to get their act together and we do need new revenue, and just about everybody in our caucus knows that. And, I would say that most people in the other caucus know that except that they are playing the same old game. Making us be the ones to do it… and when we do it, they’ll blame us for it and they all know it’s necessary.”

Fond memories in the Senate:

Sen. Adam Kline: “I guess the fondest memories I have are chairing the Judiciary committee and of making things happen in the field of judicial procedure, criminal sentencing and eventually marriage. Marriage equality was one of the best things that ever happened here and I’m happy to have had a small role in it – chairing the committee, making sure everything went through smoothly. And in my district it counts for a lot. I’ve been to several weddings and they’ve been the happiest weddings you’ve ever seen. Folks understanding, you know, in a real legal, tangible way that they are first class citizens in the State of Washington. It means a lot.”

Additional remarks:

Sen. Adam Kline: “This is something that occurred to me, um, some years ago, um. In 1963, Dr. King, Dr. Martin Luther King, said among many other things he said that afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial was a phrase that has been quoted a lot since. Not the usual phrase about how “I have a dream,” but rather this: “That the arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends toward justice.” He didn’t write that – that’s not original with him. It goes back to a preacher and an abolitionist in the 1840s.

“I had thought when I was 20 years old and my generation started militating about racial segregation, that somehow we had just invented the issue – ignorant of the fact that the fight for civil rights goes back to the abolitionists, to the reconstruction and post-reconstruction era, certainly the 1930s – the Depression, the 40s. The initial modern civil rights action in the 50s. Like any 20 year old, I thought in 1964 we were inventing this, right? And sure enough in 1964 – the Civil Rights Act, 1965 – the Voting Rights Act. No this was not any long arc of the moral universe – this is quick! This is the way it happens, right? Progress is linear, right? It just happens 1, 2, 3!

“Oh, no. No. No. Dr. King was right. It is… it tends toward justice, but there are steps backward. There are reverses. There are downright defeats. There are times when we become depressed and think that we’ve lost whatever little we’ve gained. And then somehow, we gain it back.

“Um, it’s not a straight line. It’s a zig-zag…it’s, it’s…it’s circular sometimes but it tends toward justice.”